Finding Nourishment in an Overwhelming Time

This morning I am out in the desert sitting among the prickly pear cacti and saguaros. I am here to contemplate divining new life/work paths, to give my heart a break from the flood of pain on social media/real-life and for much-needed nourishment.

This is an overwhelming time. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed both by the injustice I have been witnessing on social media and in the communities and lives of my friends and family. Politicians have been openly racist, homophobic, and ablest as they attempt to run for political office. (As if, there’s only one type of voter and one kind of person who matters.) On this bigger national level, it feels like everything is both surging and numbing out – all at once. I am so aware of the pain which we as a collective are feeling.

I’ve been trying to hold my ground both as an artist and as someone who deeply cares about this world. Trying to hold close the intention of simple, doable ways to practice self-care, which makes me grateful for this land, this place. This desert, where my body feels the sunlight on my skin every day, is also what I brace myself against in these overwhelming times.
Ironwood tree in tan soil. Trunk divided close to ground, multiple trunk limbs with small green leaves. Jojoba bush and smaller prickly pear cacti growing underneath the tree. Bright blue sky and hill in the background.

Whenever I get overwhelmed, I try to focus on what is in front of my face. Often silent, usually subtle, nourishment lives all around us. Today I am sitting in front of an Ironwood tree. This tree stretches up and outwards, some of its limbs heavy with leaves, other limbs mostly bare, with a few sprouts of leafy growth. Ironwood trees can live over 500 years and I contemplate the wisdom of a tree that can live for centuries. The trunk splits into many trunks close to the ground. Each trunk solid and sacred as it opens itself up towards the sky. The Ironwood tree has tiny thorns which run the length of each limb, stem and trunk.

I contemplate the wisdom of living in many directions at once. Of allowing some limbs to die while others grow taller and bolder with each new rain. A jojoba bush, sheltered from the extreme heat by the shade of the tree, grows full and several cacti thrive in the tree’s perimeter of shade. I feel the wisdom of this tree’s years in my body as I hold its form in my appreciation.

Wisdom in front of my face.  

I can witness the brutality and hatred of this time I am living in. Perhaps this witnessing is a small trunk. One with many thorns of protection and covered with a thick layer of tightly grown leaves, representing the ways I respond to and disrupt what I can. Maybe one of my thicker tree trunks grows from art, the writing, painting, and poetry I am compelled to create and offer the world. Another tree trunk is the energy I invest in friends, family, neighborhood and the community I live in.

I think about all the trunks and growth of my life while so aware of the roots. This dirt I sit on allows my roots to grow deep. Even in the hottest, driest periods where rain has been absent for months, the lizards still burrow at my feet. The birds, ants, ground squirrels and mountain lions shift, dig, and figure out ways to survive. We all figure out ways to survive because we know eventually, the rains will come.

Nourishment for me is sometimes just allowing my head to not be the only place I live. When I am in the desert and in my body, my mind becomes focused enough for me to pay attention with my whole body to what is in front of my face. Then, all I have to do is listen. Quiet my mind and listen.

All of us know in our hearts what is right for us to do in this moment and the world needs what is right for us to give. In order to follow through, we need self-care and the energy to sustain our efforts.

Nourishment is always there for us. What is right in front of your face?

Cacti such as prickly pear and saguaros, along with bushes and desert trees growing in desert landscape. In the background are blue mountains and sky.