Joy in the Desert

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Rain is always a gift here in the desert.  I hope I will never complain about rain again after having experienced droughts regularly lasting most of a year.  We had four days of rain in row last week–and I don’t mean the kind of sudden dumping of buckets of rain that lasts 15 minutes and is gone, the hallmark of monsoon season in the desert.  These were gray days filled with oceans of clouds and rain lasting most of the day.  It was very strange and wonderful.  My favorite kind of day.

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Where I lived in Michigan, rain smelled of worms–an earthy, fermented, sweet-gone-sour– a warning to anyone thinking of walking barefoot in the rain to watch where you placed your foot.

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Rain in the desert, though?  The epitome of fresh– cleanly sweet, as though the rain were falling for the very first time.  It washes the dust out of the air, pulls the heat from the xeriscaped yard, shimmers down the windows, bounces the rock walls and slicks the streets.  We never think to do a rain dance in all the dry weeks beforehand, only after it comes, as celebration.  I can’t help clapping and exclaiming with the kids, “Look!  Rain!”

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But there’s always a part of me that slips out of the moment, either to lament the inevitable return of arid days or simply to be discontent and wish the rain would last for a week.   I don’t fully inhabit this joy, relaxing into the moment, the way my children know how to.

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They know how to receive, how to let the gift fall into their hands.  They naturally look up, thankful.  They seem to intuit that every good and perfect gift comes from above, and accept such grace with unbounded pleasure and delight.

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Photography as meditation

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The camera has given me a new way to see, even as I close one eye and narrow my vision to that which fits in the viewfinder: an opportunity to focus on the small, the unobtrusive in my life.  My eyes rest on a still life they’ve glanced over a hundred times.  I experiment with holding my breath to steady my hands.  Inhale, click, exhale. Inhale, exhale, click.

As a novice, I have to slow down, observe the light quality and any shadows, focus the lens with attention, consider how I want to frame the image.  This is not second nature, and it’s an opportunity to be patient, first of all with myself.

It’s helping me notice the small graces of the imperfectly folded stack of clean dish cloths my four-year-old offered,  a mother dove nested safely in our palm tree, the sunlight blooming in my baby’s hair, wild curls that mimic mine, their wonder at watching street construction.

The everyday extraordinary.

This is grace: there is no need to perform, just the gift of eyes being opened to see and give thanks.

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