Another Look: My Own Desert Places
They cannot scare me with their empty places
Between stars — on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
• Robert Frost, “Desert Places”
One temptation is to think the wilderness is without — a place, a geography, a circumstance. I’m in the wilderness, I say, and immediately I find myself off course. Yes, the place under my feet may be a desert and barren all around. But more likely I cannot see its fruit or the means it offers for my survival. It may well be that I can flourish in almost any setting. Only the aquifer must be found and I must sink a sturdy pipe through hard dry soil to reach it. That I struggle to do so consistently is the scary part and what makes me view the wilderness as the enemy. It demands from me more than I seem to be able to summons. The barren place without reveals my impotence and lack of creative imagination within.
Therefore, more often than not, I take an easier way made possible by this age of miracles. I go into debt to buy overpriced, mediocre quality groceries. I put the cost of a vacation at the nearest oasis on my credit card, and there I read brochures extolling greener pastures. I fall asleep, drunk on dreams. Then two weeks later I awaken and open my front door, and here I am again in the midst of a trackless wasteland. I squint against the blowing dust that slaps my face and feel myself beginning to sweat. The midday demon slowly chokes the breath out of me. I survive the afternoon, parched and overwhelmed with futility. I twist and turn in perspiration-soaked sheets through the night, both longing for and dreading the morning.
Not in a million years would I have thought, in these days, that my main vocation would be searching for water.
5 thoughts on “Another Look: My Own Desert Places”
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the
Shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Our souls He renews and He protects us
He knows our needs even before we do that
Is our confidence
” Yes, the place under my feet may be a desert and barren all around. But more likely I cannot see its fruit or the means it offers for my survival.”
“The figure of the crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.”
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics)
The sun reaches down
with his hot hands
wrapping jewels in the leaves
When I attend to it, the desert in my own heart reminds me that I am not meant or destined to be alone.
a lone cricket
chirps in the predawn
the stars fade