(Re)Finding your Desert

Last year during the Christmas holiday, I wrote a post that was so good, I have to share it again. I’ve updated it slightly, but the message is essentially the same. Enjoy!

Earlier this month, I spent three days in Death Valley. I typically go there in February, but I’m not sure my schedule will allow it in 2019, so this visit, however brief, was an insurance policy in case it doesn’t work out. A year without a visit to Death Valley…well, I simply did not want to ponder that possibility.

The night sky was gorgeous before the sunrise each day I was there. The Milky Way is not visible this time of year, but the stars were incredible nonetheless. As I always do this time of year, I searched the skies for signs of Santa Claus, but my quest was in vain. It was probably too early to look for him anyway. I searched in vain also over the last couple of nights here in Knoxville. Maybe next year it will finally happen!

I returned home to a mailbox with several Christmas cards from friends and family. I added them to the ones I’d already received knowing that soon I would sit down to open them. Over the years, this has turned into a tradition for me – I collect all the cards I receive and open them at once. If you have never done this, I highly recommend it. I prefer this approach instead of opening them one-by-one as they arrive. It is like reading a complete story all at once instead of each sentence in the story over a period of weeks.

This year, I opted to read them on Christmas Eve between failed batches of divinity. I made a cappuccino, lit a fire, and played Charlie Brown Christmas music. It was a lovely sunny December day here in East Tennessee, so it was the perfect setting for reading my cards. In the past, I have written about the fact that I like to experience at least one emotionally significant moment each day. Well, let me tell you that reading your Christmas cards all at once is a good way to experience numerous emotionally significant moments all at one time! And that is what happened. Wow. Christmas cards are a very underrated tradition! I loved hearing from my family and friends. Loses and successes. New family members and new places visited. It was amazing to see the transformations that have occurred over the years! I loved seeing the pictures that people include in their cards, their families, their adventures, their stories. That’s a HUGE benefit of digital photography: Christmas cards have become intensely personal!

It is easy to think of Christmas as the only tradition out there at this time of year. It is certainly the only one I grew up with! However, as I’ve grown older and traveled and experienced different beliefs and cultures, I realize that many traditions (or even the lack of them!) lead to the same result. We’re all human on this planet and the various beliefs and traditions that define the various cultures are rooted in the same principles: family, friends, peace, and prosperity. That’s really all anyone wants. Shelter, food, governments, and religions only exist to serve those needs. It is a lesson and a story that has been told infinite times no matter where you are or what you believe. And we always benefit from being reminded of those lessons. My brief time in the desert reminded me yet again of that. That’s why go to the desert.

So, whatever beliefs and traditions matter to you – wherever you find your desert – my hope for you is that you have peace, prosperity, and time now and always with loved ones!

I’m glad I had many emotionally significant moments yesterday. Who knows? There may be another waiting just around the corner! This image is from my first day in Death Valley. I woke up in Knoxville in the morning and created this image at sunset in Badwater Basin in Death Valley. Pretty cool.

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