One of the first things I did upon my return to the desert…was climb a mountain.
Not just any mountain but my favorite sanctuary of solitude and comfort. It’s my granite tabernacle for reflection and contemplation. A slab of rock that warms my bottom as well as my soul. An escape for quiet soul-searching amid the shadows of Indian lore and homes of the rich and invisible.
As mentioned before in another blog, it’s my VisionQuest. Only this year it’s different. Hopefully I’m a little wiser if not a bit older. Reflections seem to trip forth easier with age.
The Coachella Valley is shouldered by several mountain chains which have imbued this area with numerous opportunities to seek solace, quiet reflection, exercise and release from the routine of our daily lives.
Something magical; no almost spiritual, can happen during a mountain hike. It’s a physical as well as mental challenge. At face value, it can be an afternoon of hiking, climbing or finger-probing the rough crags and fissures of the mountain face. On a more spiritual level, it’s an assent into the vaulted realm of oxygen deprivation, aching muscles, sweat-drenched clothing and overall mental exhilaration…all to put your head in the right place.
There’s a culture here among a small group of old goats who work and hike these mountains year round. They care for the trails as an elder does the tribe. They endure scorching summer heat and windy overcast winter days. Most are rail-thin. Their skin looks like weathered copper or dried up old parchment. Most of them are lithe as an antelope. They’re the desert rats of the higher altitudes.
Following that elite group of desert denizens come another eccentric group of trail runners and new age meditators. They frequent the mountains like others hang out at Starbucks. Finally come the tourists, snowbirds and occasional weekend explorer (many with families in tow.)
In the spring, the trail is accented with blooming yellow brittlebush and flowering cacti…and at times an abundance of rattlesnakes. These rattlesnakes are usually very difficult to see since their coloration blends in perfectly with the rocks and gravel on the trail. One bite and it’s off to the hospital for several vials of antivenin serum. It’s an expensive proposition at several thousand dollars per vial.
There are picnic tables at the top which are perfect for casual reflection without worrying about some rattlesnake biting you on the butt. Scenic vistas go on forever in a field of quiet that is almost deafening. Along with dreams and meandering what-ifs, it’s a perfect place to escape within your head and do some exploring there. But it still doesn’t compare to my tabernacle.
I’ve tried yoga, marathons and long trail runs. Collectively they punish the body and sometimes sooth the soul. My tabernacle is no different. It just takes a long climb to get there.