The desert is sparkling with bouquets of wildflowers in shades of salmon and sunshine, striking violet, soft white, and rich velvety red. Each day I notice a different kind of flower stretching toward the vast open sky, flourishing in the warmth of the sun with a flash of ephemeral beauty. It’s miraculous to witness these blooms springing out of the dusty, dry soil.
I’ve been in southern UT for the past week, camping in and near Capitol Reef National Park. It’s a remarkable place filled with formations of rock and earth that defy imagination. Never before have I seen so many geologic layers, stripes, swirls, waves, ripples, and pockmarks in such a variety of colors. It’s a holy place born of time and elements which I find to be calm and reassuring. Dramatic changes on the face of the earth are evident here in plain view, and as I think about our planet’s future, I am reminded of how small a part humans play in the great pantheon of time and space.
I have been thinking a lot about our culture’s relationship to land – how it is viewed as a commodity, an asset, something to be developed, something to be exploited, or something to be preserved. I’ve been filled with a sense of mourning as I think about all the living things that have perished on the land so that we can live our modern lives.
On the drive to the park from Salt Lake City, I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of butterflies sweeping across the landscape. It was impossible not to hit some of them with the car. Seeing them hit the windshield filled me with such an awful feeling, and I was acutely aware of the loss of each precious life. Throughout the park, the remains of butterflies were smeared across every vehicle, and it struck me as so so ironic that these gentle beings should be senselessly sacrificed so that we may enjoy our pilgrimage to rejoice in the beauty of nature.
And yet here we are, drawn to our homeland, our blessed earth, to marvel at all she has to offer. Gazing across a canyon today, I found myself asking, “What do I have to offer?” I couldn’t think of anything other than placing my hands on the earth and pouring loving care through my body and into the soil. I guess it wasn’t much, but it was something. It was connection. Isn’t that what we are all searching for? Our hearts and souls long to be part of something larger and to be filled with a sense of community and belonging,
This makes me think of a quote I saw in the Captiol Reef visitor’s center, which was so beautifully said:
“We abuse the land because we view it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” – Aldo Leopold