We were in Tucson over the New Year, and the scenery there is very dramatic. In addition to its striking landscape, an unusual cold snap brought morning frost and a dusting of snow in the mountains to enhance the effect. There is great beauty in the sky, in the San Xavier Mission, in cactus varieties, and in the sun and cloud play on the foothills. I liked it.
While there, I spent some time contemplating passages as we entered into 2019. We had two new family relationships to celebrate in 2018 (Tim & Corky, Ariel & Nate), and many wonderful moments, but the year was also marked by changes and losses, as is always the case. “Enjoy the best and leave the rest” remains good advice for moving forward, and I hope the new year settles into a productive experience of expanding enrichments, with less drama than we’ve witnessed around the world this past year. When the need for excitement arises, Mother Nature’s theatrics come with an awe-inspiring effect well worth pursuing as an alternative.
We chose Palm Springs, CA from which to visit Joshua Tree National Park, some 50 miles away. From palm trees, dynamic skies and lush water filled landscapes in the desert of resorts, the Mojave Desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park offered cactus larger than men, gigantic boulder formations which hid cattle rustlers of the past, and the strange Joshua trees, which aren’t really trees, but a species of yucca which can grow over 40 feet tall. The Park has been a protected area since 1936 and looked starkly beautiful on an overcast December day; I’m certain it’s an entirely different experience in the blistering heat of summer.
Driving southwest from the desert to San Diego on long switch back roads led us through other alien lands and varied weather, from palm trees mixed with snow-capped mountains, to sun filled valleys nestled in vast barren rocky plains. It was a good adventure, secondary only to the primary purpose we had for being there at all: a visit with family from whom separated much too long.
Derived from Latin, Advent means “coming” in the Christian tradition, observed as a time of waiting for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, as well as His expectant return. As the first season of the Christian church year, Advent includes four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Many traditions have been developed over the centuries that Advent has been observed, including the use of purple or blue as the liturgical color, the lighting of one Advent candle each week, and special seasonal music including Lessons and Carols, Handel’s “Messiah” Oratorio, and my favorite Advent hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel”.
It is a busy time in our lives, both festive and frenetic. I know how quickly irritations can invade my interactions, and how easily I forget the underlying purpose of the season in myopic preparations. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian who died at the hands of the Nazi regime, left this quote to remind me to honor and celebrate the world I live in as I await the one I hope for.
I spoke much too soon about finding it difficult to see colorful foliage in Texas; Fall showed up over the weekend to give me many more reasons to be thankful.