July 10, 2011

Overlooking the Badlands

When we reached the top of Font's Point on our 4WD excursion through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park before arriving to our campsite for the night, we paused before reaching the top of the overlook, the highest point above the Badlands.

"So there's a procedure to walking up to the top to get the biggest impact of the view," our tour director, Joe, said. "Are you ready for it?"

Joe had already taught us how to smell a creosote bush by cupping our hands around its leaves and breathing into it. After that, it was easy enough to say "Sure, why not?"

"OK line up just about here," he said, "And now close your eyes."

I was in front. I've fumbled around blindly through life - both literally and figuratively - plenty of times, so I was more than willing to let my lids drop over my contact lenses, and to follow the sound of Joe's voice.

"OK start walking, a little farther, a little more..."

I was taking baby steps, the crunch of the desert beneath my sneakers, the whistle of the wind through my earrings.

"OK stop."

I stopped, eyes closed.

"Now open your eyes."

Gasp. The Badlands.

I don't know what I expected to see when I opened my eyes, but not this prehistoric expanse of geologic mystery, basically untouched since Juan Bautista de Anza first reached this summit on his way to Monterey.

It was almost too much, to take it in all at once, vertigo setting in, wind intensifying.

How often have I trudged ahead blindly in life, having no idea of what was ahead of me, no inkling or clue, no glimpse into the future, only for everything to be revealed to me all at once?

How often have I trudged ahead blindly, unable to see even where I was in that moment, or what I'd been through?

On our way to Font's Point, after driving through the Badlands, Joe had paused the Jeep for a moment and said, "Look, that's where we were. You'll get a better view of it up at Font's Point."

Unlike in life, at Font's Point, I had Joe's voice guiding me, telling me when to continue and when to stop, and - most importantly - when to open my eyes. Joe didn't bring the Badlands to me, Joe brought me to the Badlands, and showed me what has been there all along: something I could not see, even when we were driving through it. Something bigger, older, and more unmovable than myself.

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