Sunday, April 22, 2012


I spent this week unexpectedly wandering through the sagebrush-spotted desert of eastern Utah.  Jordan was called to work, so I went with him.  From the road I would have described the area as flat, and barren, almost gray in its muted tones; the silhouette of the landscape only altered by large pump-jacks, oil tanks, and sinuous overland pipes crisscrossing the earth.  It is an area I would normally sleep through on my way to a more scenic destination.  But instead of sleeping, we pulled off the road, and began working.  I followed survey stakes, along side my husband, as we searched for fossils and bone fragments. Jordan is a paleontological monitor.  His job to find evidence of past lives, recorded in the earth, before oil and gas companies dig and build.  He is patient enough to look carefully and find the smallest bones.  I am not so patient. 

We walked across dusty flats, up and down ravines, and through the endless continuation of sagebrush and tumbleweeds.  The heat of the sun and smell of petroleum radiated, and I anticipated a long tedious day.  But as we navigated the miles, I started to notice signs of life around me.  Small lizards scattered from my footsteps, hilltop prairie dogs chirped warnings, and delicate desert flowers bloomed with no hope of recognition.  My gaze shifted from the vast expanse ahead of us to the ground, to what lay just before me.  I began to look, to slow my steps, and to notice.  Then the beauty of the desert, hidden beneath the coarse repetitive brush, emerged 

I knelt with Jordan beside a large anthill scanning the piles of tiny pebbles mined by worker ants.  I watched him as he brought his face within inches of the mound, and searched the surface.  I followed his lead and began to see glistening red, gold, and olive green stones sprinkling the hill.  As I looked closer I saw pink cactus seeds, and minuscule white-washed bones.  Jordan picked up a dark piece from the hill and showed me the cell structure of the fossilized bone, buried for thousands of years, now carried to the surface by a tiny miner.   

As I gazed across the anthill, and saw its beauty, I thought of Jonah.  He noticed everything.  For the first 4 months of his life he couldn't hear, so instead he watched intently.  He got so much joy out of simple things; he loved colors and textures that I passed by as commonplace.  As I watched the red ants carry their pebbles, I thought about how Jonah taught me to slow down and really see life.  Now in the desert I watched his father, carefully and methodically combing the landscape. I watched the satisfaction on Jordan's face when he discovered even the smallest turtle shell fragments.  I realized how much these two boys have slowed me down.  I once sped through life from one acheivement to the next, from one task to the next, from one meeting to the next.  But Jordan and Jonah taught me about shifting the speed of life to a lower gear, and recognizing the beauty of each step.  They slowed me down so that I could see the glistening hill and the early morning blossoms. 

Even now that I am home I feel like I am still wandering the desert. Some days I feel inundated by the eroding forces of life.  I tend to look too far ahead, and to only see the vast expanse in front of me, and the incredible distance I am meant to travel.  But this week I have been reminded that even in the barren desert there are flowers at my feet.   

Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time. Georgia O'Keeffe


  1. It is wonderful how alike Jordan & Jonah are. Thank you for sharing this. I love it.

  2. You write so beautifully. I love this. I love thinking about you and Jordan out there together, and Jonah watching you both.