From my journal, 11/4:
Everything in the desert is trying to kill you. That’s what I’m surmising. Spiny, thorny everythings that jump out at you, almost with their own sense of malice, some sort of surprise vendetta play, reasons known only to them. Venomous insects and snakes: stingers and teeth. They’re all out there, trying to take you down every time you put boot to trail.
Or so we would think. But the desert, like all the natural world, is majestically impersonal. We are shown that these things are not trying to hurt or kill, but to survive. The living things in the desert have produced though hides, sharp edges, and the ability to melt into the background, all so they can keep on living. Some, like the Saguaros of Southern Arizona, age gracefully, flowering only past 50 years. Those thorns are one of the most essential pieces to their long life. The thorns keep animals from drinking the lifeblood that flows through their fibrous cells.
We’re the same way. We are just as fragile and we live in a harsh world full of attack. We develop defense mechanisms to ward off the violence and trauma. We prepare ourselves for it every day, and some of us develop spines, venomous bites, and offer them to anyone who gets close to us. We are trying to protect ourselves, trying to prevent any catastrophic damage.
It’s a misnomer that we need to do this. We don’t need to take advice from the desert here; in fact, we should do the exact opposite. Where we have instinct to push people away with our needles and teeth gnashing we should instead act to pull them closer, allowing them to help us move through life and survive.
Somewhere along the way we have collectively been damaged. It’s not just those of us who have been damaged directly; it’s everyone. For the past 150 years much of the world has had access to the most horrid tales of history, and the tales continue to be written day after day, and endless onslaught of secondary trauma. We are so afraid, and it is so disheartening. We seem to be seeing an uptick of these horrid tales, and why should we be surprised? It’s long been known that damaged people can easily damage others with those spines and thorns and teeth.
The desert is full of surprises. One of the scariest looking creatures, the tarantula, is also the one of the meekest. It trundles across the road like a furry, eight-legged turtle. The formidable cactus can surprise us, too: get past the thorns and teeth and there is life and sweet fruit inside. More lessons from the desert.