I love the desert in springtime. Indian paintbrush blushes alongside the trails and desert birds flit about overhead, diligently building nests, whistling while they work. Somehow the aridity and dust has an incomparable way of washing my soul clean, and the wild quietness of the landscape allows solitary thoughts to linger long enough in my mind to find meaning in their appearance.
Spring has sprung and the desert has been beckoning us for an adventure.
After a quick breakfast of champions, we stopped to pick up our friend, geological wizard and prospector extraordinare Bob Ross, and we were off. Goose knew we were heading for the desert but the spot was a surprise. That morning, over doughnuts and vanilla milk, I’d promised her a trip to a sandstone fairytale land, where mysterious rock formations could be anything she imagined them to be. To a place where dinosaurs had once roamed the earth and the weight of ancient water had compressed the seabed into a sandstone path, laden with fossilized reminders of a time long gone 70 million years ago.
“We are going to explore the Bisti Badlands,” I told her.
“Sounds like a trip to timeout land. I’m not going anywhere bad,” she announced, adjusting her faux halo in the rearview mirror.
I assured her that we’d find something good in the badlands and, after much convincing, we wiped the powdered sugar evidence off our fingers and were off.
Just beyond the trailhead, we were greeted by a geological wonderland. Within minutes, Goose had already found a dinosaur bone, photographed and confirmed authentic by Bob himself, and amassed enough petrified wood to nearly reassemble an entire tree.
“This place isn’t so bad after all,” she said, dropping to the desert floor to make an impromptu sand angel. I knelt down in the cool sand next to her angelic outline and we watched as clouds drifted across the horizon.
“How far away is that mama, the place where the sky touches the earth,” Goose asked.
I thought for a moment on how to explain the horizon to a precocious 4-year-old, and then it hit me in one of those moments that the quiet of the desert allows to linger long enough to find meaning in.
“The horizon is right in front of you,” I told her. “The sky is touching the earth right in front of us, just the same as it is far away.”
I wanted her to understand the horizon is where the edge of the earth meets the edge of the sky, and when you reach the edge of something you have found yourself facing opportunity. Goose climbed the highest point she could find, and I watched from below as she scooped up some soil and let it fall back to the earth from the hill above.
I wanted her to question, does the sky have the opportunity to experience the earth and the earth the opportunity to experience the sky?
“When the wind blows the sand from the surface, they find a way to experience each other,” I told her from below.
You can’t take an opportunity if you aren’t willing to take some risk and initiative. You have to be willing to find the edge and then reach over to the other side. The horizon is Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that, to attain things, we have to keep moving forward. The edge is not its endpoint. It’s simply where opportunity begins.
While in reality you could walk and never physically reach the horizon, we all have a personal horizon in front of us where our sky touches our earth, where our dreams touch our reality. If we can find the strength to take a chance and move from the edge of one to the other, then that is where we find personal opportunity.
I want to set an example for Goose to be the sand on the surface that gets to experience the sky, I want her to be the seed that takes a trip from the ground in the breeze and crosses the horizon.
“If the dandelion seed never left the ground and journeyed past where the earth and air met, it would miss out on the adventure to grow somewhere new,” I told her.
“And it would miss the opportunity for someone to find it and blow it to make wishes mama,” Goose said to complete my thought.
Walking back to the car, the horizon surrounded us in every direction as far as the eye could see and, with her little hand in mine, I couldn’t help but smile and feel the breeze on my face.
We are indeed surrounded by opportunity, and it is beautiful that we get to reach for it together.
Jenny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org