As we drove out of Las Vegas and into the Nevada desert, my hiking companions oohed and aahed over the beauty of the landscape.
To me? It looked rather dead and colorless.
I know, I know. I’m sorry. On our drive to Redrock, I wished fervently to be a bigger fan of the desert, but arid land has never been the scenery that most appeals to me.
Ocean beaches own my soul; whether I’m watching the pounding gray turmoil of the Oregon coast waves or the sapphire blue that gently touches Indonesia’s white sand shores, water tugs at the loose threads of my heart and then uses those strings to tie me closer to God. Water grounds me even as it buoys me. Water reminds me that I am small. And water soothes me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Of all the things we planned in Las Vegas, I was second-most excited about hiking Redrock. Truth be told, I was first–most excited about 80’s night at Aria’s Gold Lounge, but I’m pretty sure you can’t blame me for that because there are some essential life truths in 80’s music that deserve periodic revisiting. For example, Billy Jean is not my lover, and I needed to express that through dance, you know?
But hiking was right up there at the top of my list, and, despite the desert, I was eager to spend some quality time with the sun and my girlfriends, to breathe invisible air, and to move my body in a way that was not at all reminiscent of my pathetic excuse for a moonwalk.
So we took off down a worn, rocky trail toward the base of the mountains in a muted, pastel color palette heavy with scrub brush.
And then a funny thing happened almost two miles into our hike when we crested a hill, sand in our shoes, toes thoroughly exfoliated.
We came upon what we couldn’t see from the road or the trail.
We reached the wilderness boundary.
You guys, at the wilderness boundary, everything changed.
At the wilderness boundary, the world came alive.
At the wilderness boundary, the colors rioted.
At the wilderness boundary, the main trail splintered into a dozen chaotic options, and the paths became instantly less obvious and more interesting. More risky and more beautiful.
And, at the wilderness boundary, I couldn’t help but think of the deserts in my life.
All of the times I felt barren and washed out and dried up.
All of the times I looked around, desperate for water.
All of the times when being married or being a mom or being a human felt desolate.
All of the times when I managed to put one foot in front of the other while wondering if I was really making any progress at all.
I thought about the life I had originally planned from the safety of the road. The life I had planned before I knew that there are deserts to traverse. The life I had in my imagination with two perfect kids and an effortless marriage. And I thought about what a long and thirsty walk it was to trade my plan – and myself – for something more raw, more wild, more real and more beautiful.
At the wilderness boundary, I thought about the joy of this unexpected life.
And I thought about how everything changes there.
Because, you know what?
Life isn’t even a little bit tame beyond the wilderness boundary.
No. Not at all.
Life beyond the wilderness boundary is breathtaking.