Going to the desert

Jeff with our sons near Palm Springs, California, January 1990

Jeff with our sons near Palm Springs, California, January 1990

“Modern life is becoming so full that we need our own ways of going to the desert to be relieved of our plenty.”Thomas Moore

The first time we ever drove across the United States en route to our new home in California, we thought we were making pretty good time when we arrived in Texarkana, on the border between Texas and Arkansas.  Two days later we were still in Texas, after driving what seemed like forever through the parched landscapes on the way to El Paso.  Then through New Mexico, Arizona and California, the desert went on and on.  Jeff said “It’s kind of hard to worry about over-population after making this drive.”

Amid the traffic and crowds of the cities where we had lived and traveled, we had no real idea how much barren and unpopulated land still exists in America.  Of course we knew it was there, but the vast extent of it was something we couldn’t imagine until we journeyed through it.

In the same way, contemporary life tricks us into believing there is no escape from the noise, rush and demands of every day.  Routines our grandparents would have thought bizarre, such as being on call for dozens of people all our waking hours via cell phones and texting, have come to seem not only normal to us, but inescapable.  But there are still places of refuge from such urgency, and I suspect they are more plentiful than we think they are until we have learned to visit them.

As I write this, I’m feeling very overwhelmed by all the tasks I did not get done yesterday, or a week ago, or even father back than that.  My head spins as I try to sort out my thoughts and prioritize what must be done first.  Yet I can’t escape the nagging feeling that I might be more efficient if I could somehow clear everything away for an hour or two and just breathe deeply without thinking much about anything.  I’m not sure I could achieve that even if I tried.

But, I can do a few things today that might help.  I can allow myself to work on one task at a time, and not allow interruptions to de-rail me.  I can prioritize clearing away visual clutter to keep my eyes from contributing to the sensory overload.  Most importantly, I can turn down that inner voice that continually chastises me for being so far behind in the first place.  I can spend some time in quiet reading, prayer or gratitude, and “just say no” to self-imposed pressure.

What are some of your favorite ways of going to the desert?

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Chris

    Julia, great post, and picture. This is a nice follow on to yesterday’s post on “No Time”. As you surmise, prioritizing is a required skill in a busy life. I agree; there are probably many ways of figuratively going to the desert, for R &R. Literally, though, the drive across Texas and the other states going to CA is an experience. Although it’s been since 1983 for me, I would hope the experience could be as remarkable for travelers today.
    I can’t remember when, but I had commented about our family’s driving from NC to Los Angeles when I was a child. Six of us in a station wagon. Watching today some of the “home movies” of that trip is quite entertaining. But the trip for my wife and me, and our son, in 1983, was similar to yours in 1990. The highlight of that journey was finally pulling into the hotel, in Monterey, CA, and getting settled. This country boy had never been in the Northwest, and we had just travelled from Lawton, OK, where the daily temperature was in the 90’s. I had just finished unpacking the car, hauling luggage, and various other physical tasks. I was tired and HOT, although the temperature in Monterey that day was quite mild. So, I called the front desk and asked, “where’s the AC” in this room? We looked for 10 minutes, turning every button we could find. To my chagrin, as I heard the front desk clerk tell who knows there in the lobby, “hey, this guy in room 301 wants to know where the air conditioning is”, I heard a rousing laughter in the background. I learned that there was no AC; you just opened a window. What did I know? We came to love the area, and thoroughly enjoyed living in Pacific Grove for a year. I’m sure it has changed much over the years, but that place would certainly provide refuge from the desert! 😊

    • I wonder whether they still have no A/C? The reason I say that is, when we moved to Hawaii, most of the smaller buildings and most of base housing, including the lovely homes for high ranking officers, had NO A/C. Many of us opted for the much cheaper, less charming townhomes built for enlisted men, which were newer and therefore had air conditioning. The schools did not have A/C nor even windows; instead, there were shutters and screens, to close against rain or open for cool breezes. Our church was the same, with all screen “walls.” This was in the early 1990’s. I believe all the base housing has A/C now. I’m not sure whether that’s because the temperatures are warmer, or our expectations are higher. Probably more of the latter than the former!

  2. Susan

    Julia, even though you wrote this seven years ago, somehow it is still just the right message that I need for today! Thank you for always sharing your thoughts so articulately!

    • Susan, you’re welcome! I’m honored that you found the post helpful.

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