A Desert Journey

Tucson_Fountain Joy in Work

Today is the summer solstice, and I am glad of the peaking energy of the bright sun here in the northern hemisphere, while still feeling the shadow of what we begin turning to at the moment of greatest light. There is something so deceptively ordinary about this day, business as usual, while the great cosmic changes whirl around us.

Earlier in June, I visited the desert. Now at summer solstice, the feel of the desert heat comes easily to me as I face south for my morning devotion to fire, just as I envision the mountain when I face north for earth. These past weeks I’ve had reason to go to the mountain, the sea and the desert. I always knew I loved the first two, and moved north to have them both. It has been fourteen years since I discovered, much to my surprise, that the extremity of the desert also answered something in me. I had never thought I would love it so.

For me, the very best part of the trip was the sweet guesthouse we stayed at in southern Arizona, and its lovely gardens. To wake in the mornings and hear water song and bird chorus was deeply nourishing.  This fountain had lovely sayings on all four sides, spelled out in blue tile. Since I have always found work to be a balm and a calm to me, I love this: “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”

Tucson_Guesthouse Shrine Early Morning

There were two fountains in the gardens, and this second one was just opposite our guesthouse door. When the day is going to be scorching, the early morning hour is the most precious.

Tucson_Guesthouse Shrine on a Shed

Each of the four ovals was a mosaic dedicated to one of the four sacred elements; this is the water one, with all its lovely shells.

Tucson_Guesthouse Water Mosaic

This was a perfect place for my morning devotions, a living altar created with love.

Tucson_San Xaxier del Bad

Our time was very limited but we have made a habit of visiting this place whenever we go. I have written about San Xavier del Bac after a previous visit.

Tucson_San Xavier del Bac Mary Grotto

I wanted to visit the Mary grotto up on the great hill, to pray for healing in my family and in our land.

Tucson_San Xavier del Bac Holy Water

Nothing is more precious than water in a desert, or, for that matter, on any spiritual path. The utilitarian nature of this vessel does nothing to diminish the gladness of receiving the water of life, and highlights it better than any precious silver chased chalice.

Tucson_Joe Pagac Mural

The ride through downtown Tucson was enlivened by enchanting mural art, this one by Joe Pagac. Worth a detour to catch a photo, to remember this. The rodeo rider, and the woman’s dress streaming out behind her to become the desert landscape, and those three critters, the javelina, the tortoise and the jackalope – just, wow.

On the thousand-mile trip home, we stopped at a few places along the way.

Barstow_Casa del Desierto

Passing through Barstow, we stopped off to see the work of architect Mary Colter, here at the Barstow train depot, home of the one of best preserved Harvey Houses.

Barstow_old depot sign

My lettering eye was so pleased with these early 20th century letter forms. The depot was dedicated in 1911.

Barstow_Casa del Desierto Breezeway

The architecture accommodates the climate, with a shady breezeway.

Desert Saguaros

The saguaro cactuses in Wikieup, who appear to be saluting and also holding hands, said, come back soon.

Bakerfield_River Walk Twilight

Our last night on the road, we discovered in Bakersfield a beautiful river walk at twilight, along Mill Creek. The evening star said, you’ll be home soon.

Living in Californio as I do, and being down near our southern border on this trip, it’s been heartbreaking to feel and sense the cold-heartedness abroad in our land. I don’t know what to do about it. I know that sometimes it is necessary to engage with the shadow. It is not easy work. Staying true to hope and goodness is so much better than giving in to despair, which is the fondest desire of tyrants.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • John Cutrone 06/21/2018, 9:49 pm

    Continuing as a beacon in dark times is, I think, potent magic––which is something I just finished writing about in the Convivio Book of Days for tonight’s chapter on Midsummer. The arrival of your new chapter, just published, was a valued punctuation to my own writing tonight. Plus the photos are pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, friend!

  • Prano 06/21/2018, 10:40 pm

    Lovely, Cari. Thank you for sharing about your trip. Because of your love of turquoise, I have always associated you with liking the southwest. It is interesting that it is a new love. Happy Solstice!

  • Bee Smith 06/22/2018, 1:32 am

    And the light descends. Shadow work. Final paragraph has a one, two punch.

  • Laurie Doctor 06/22/2018, 6:58 am

    Thank you Cari- I have also just returned from the desert, in New Mexico. I remember the presence of the saguaro cactus around Tucson- how they live over a hundred years, and exist nowhere else in the world. I love that you bring us the desert for solstice, it can look and feel so bleak at first, and then something unexpected and beautiful comes into view. I appreciate this metaphor today.

  • Sarah Stockton 06/22/2018, 8:08 am

    Such a lovely reflection, thank you. The desert is indeed magical.

  • Roseanne 06/22/2018, 9:36 am

    Ahh Cari….reading your missives always brings me back to my self. Thank you for that. Your trip sounded so restorative. Can you share the name of the guesthouse you stayed in? My husband and I are hoping to make it to the southwest within the next year or so, and hopefully earlier.
    Happy Solstice.

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