I was so distraught about the Syrian refugee crisis and the chemical weapon bombing that I wrote it HERE on Thursday morning.
Then threw a tent and a sleeping bag in the car and decided to drive to the desert to be alone and pray.
Decided to not bring food. Food is a hassle. You have to get a stove and pans AND shop and I didn’t want to lug a bung of stuff out of the car, get an ice chest, etc.
I just brought a thing of Arrowhead water and a bottle of wine.
The desert, water, wine. Sounded sufficient.
And, anyway, millions of people go without eating for a few days. And we all whine if we miss one meal and say we’re “starving.” (Gina did make me bring some Trader Joe’s trail mix. It had M&M’s in there. Not real M&M’s but chocolates that looked like them.)
Sometimes when I’m reflective, I take along my Nikon camera. Like writing, but in a different way, I find photography soothing.
I shot this yesterday. There were lots of them scattered around. I don’t know their proper name. It would be more impressive if I googled “Wildflowers Joshua Tree” and then wrote the proper name down and you might be impressed but I’m freewriting and don’t have the time to try and be impressive.
Something about how they stand tall and proud amidst lots of rugged and dry foliage. And something about the color purple, with those little violet blossoms.
After I took this shot I went back to my camping spot because I was thirsty.
I sat for a few minutes.
Stared at the sky. Hazy but clear.
I kept thinking of checking my iPhone but no service. Tried to read. Threw some rocks.
Listened to the German family that were camped in the next spot. Camping spaces weren’t too close so couldn’t really see them well. Kids seemed between 7 and 10. Cute accents.
I remembered my kids being here with me.
Went into the tent to try and take a nap. Couldn’t sleep.
Restless. Iphone detox I think.
I took my beach chair and climbed to the top of one of the thousands of towering boulders. This view is from right above my tent.
I read from my Kindle even though reading from a paper book would have felt far more appropriate, given the natural surroundings. But I didn’t want to lug my paper books up this steep rock.
I tried to read but couldn’t because that view kept me distracted.
I wonder how many miles it is from here to that far mountain range? Twenty, 50, 200? I have no idea.
I then realized that it was Friday. And that I had made a commitment to Friday Freewriting. No matter what — every single Friday.
But I had no computer.
I started to feel anxious — I came out here to pray and unwind and here I am reading on my slick Kindle PaperWhite stressing about how I have a deadline.
Do you ever give yourself time to relax, then stress the whole time about all the stuff you suddenly must do?
So I climbed back down the rock. Grabbed my Nikon again.
I walked for over an hour and took dozens of photos.
And I prayed that justice would be done in Syria. I prayed that children and mothers and fathers would find hope and healing and comfort.
I knew nothing about the air strikes yesterday because no cell reception.
I am not a pacifist. I believe in just war. I believe going to war with Germany was justified. We saved the lives of millions by entering WWII and taking out those Nazi bastards.
I prayed there would be a way we could end this senseless carnage in Syria. I don’t know if my prayers brought about the destruction of those runways. Maybe. Maybe not.
I found this flower bush. In the hours I walked around, I saw none other like it.
The afternoon pressed on and on. And walked on and on.
I was bored, restless, at peace, lonely, satisfied, hungry — all mixed together.
I wanted to go home.
I wanted to stay for a week.
This is one of my favorite pictures. When I look at those rock formations I realize just how little I know about geology.
Especially when I look at the mushroom shaped one on the left.
Then I had a thought to do something entirely strange. And I’m surprised I’m going to admit it here. But I decided that I would be honest in this blog.
I took all my clothes off.
Because I started to feel — boy this sounds granola — one with nature. The longer I walked, the longer I crawled on my stomach trying to get the perfect shot of these wildflowers, the anxiety started to strip away.
The smells of the earth and the new spring growth.
And even my body odor.
I realized I hadn’t had a shower in over two days.
I could feel the dust against my legs and in my hair.
But I didn’t care.
I realized I was wearing the exact same shoes and shorts and v-neck and jacket I had worn when I departed Costa Mesa on Thursday morning.
But I didn’t care.
In this moment and in the remoteness of this place, I longed to just strip myself of not just all those intrusive thoughts and worries but also, everything else.
I was miles away from anyone else.
I searched around for a rock formation that could have a southern facing barrier (since all the campers are to the north).
“Just in case.”
So here it goes.
Right in between that cluster of boulders, all far taller than me, I paced, sat, meditated, prayed and struck yoga postures.
In the nude.
Don’t know for how long.
At least 15 minutes, I’d guess.
As weird as this sounds…
It felt amazing and I felt close to God or nature or whatever.
It just felt free.
(When I decided to get dressed, man I did it quickly for some reason, and if you could only see my eyes darting in every possible direction for possible onlookers you’d be on the ground howling.)
If nakedness is natural why is it so unnatural?
The sun was starting to set.
I returned to camp. I wanted a picture of me and my austere site. So I put my camera on a rock and used the timer because I didn’t want to bother the German family.
When the sun set, I took one more short walk. This Joshua Tree says it all to me. I don’t know why.
It had a certain mood and that mood matched mine.
I brought a bottle of Pinot Noir. Opened that.
Wondered what I would write about for Friday Freewriting, so scribbled some notes to myself in the back of one of my paper books.
I like being alone.
I’m too sensitive to all the sounds I hear people from other campgrounds.
I hear the sounds of lots of younger families. Younger children. The joys and giggles and how it’s all new and adventurous and how teenagers prefer being with friends versus camping with their dad.
Then I spent about an hour thinking my three children.
The memories in this same spot.
Thought of one of those photos we took almost exactly 10 years earlier to the day.
Life has changed since then.
Then I thought about the Syrian children again.
Then the joys and burden of loving your own children.
We all think we have problems.
I crawled into my tent.
I was hungry, but out of Trader Joe’s trail mix.
Hungry, yet satisfied, I fell asleep to the giggle of German children.
Woke. Packed. Driving out. Had to take just one more.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it on Paulosophia.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident.
Writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well. I hope you will, too.