(published March 20th through my newsletter)

It’s been a really interesting week in Joshua Tree. This area is usually a hub of travelers and visitors…

Groups of ladies with funky hats and feathered earrings roll through. Tough looking families seeking reprieve from the Riverside suburbs smile over local jewelry at the farmers market. Cool-faced couples with mirrored sunglasses in convertibles grab iced drinks from the organic cafe.

But this steady stream of characters is clearing out now.

Most of them are scenery to me. It’s neither here nor there whether I ever see them again.

But there is one traveler who left this week that I will miss.

We were on our laptops side-by side at the local coffeeshop a few weeks ago. He pulled off his headphones, turned to me, and asked if the temperature difference was really a full seven degrees between 29 Palms and Yucca Valley.

This became a 45-minute conversation.

He was traveling in a renovated Sprinter Van. Spending some warm weeks in the desert as a reprieve from the Washington state winter. Working remotely from his laptop.

A coffee-shop friendship ensued since we both frequented that place for the free WiFi and excellent people-watching.

By and by it turned into a breakfast and hiking date. Then another long hike together last Saturday.

We took a six-mile trail back into the wilderness, ultimately plateauing over panoramic views of Joshua Tree Park, Palm Desert, and the jagged hills and mesas to the north. It was a windy day and he wore his baseball cap backward to keep it from flying off.

I limited myself to hugging no more than three trees and pressing my cheek against at most four boulders during the hike. He took it in stride.

Upon arrival back at our vehicles, we were rosy and wind-blown. We sat in his van and ate oranges, discussing what to do next.

There was the option to go out to eat, but we figured it wouldn’t be wise given all the COVID precautions that were going strong by then. He asked what I wanted to do…

I said, “Lemme tune in,” and closed my eyes for a few moments. The image of us playing cards kept appearing in my mind.

This was strange. I haven’t played cards in years. But I opened my eyes and told him about it.

He spun around in the rotating passenger seat and pulled a deck of cards and cribbage board out of the glove compartment.

As the sun set over the valley, we sat upright on his platformed mattress and he taught me how to play cribbage. The game was laced with conversation about our pasts, or hopes, and our thoughts on a rainbow of topics.

The time went by swiftly. Suddenly it was 8pm and I was yawning and knew it was time to head back to Scampy.

He slid the van door open and we stepped out and had a sort of awkward hug in the night air.

Back in the 4Runner on the drive home I blasted the heat and felt the buzz of the time together gradually settle.

We made plans to see each other again soon… but a day later he reached out from the road near Las Vegas.

He was suddenly on his way back home to Washington after speaking to his mother who was concerned to have him so far as the COVID virus spread.

When I got this text, I sighed a heavy sigh. It was a sigh I’m not used to sighing. It felt old-fashioned – like a depression-era sigh. It was the sigh of a woman watching the flicker of potential love being engulfed by hard times and duty.

But here’s the beauty in it…

Yes, there was a spark between us, something glimmering. But we all know that sparks are not promises. And beneath that sigh, there was this knowing.

My path through this life is not something I’m doing. It’s something that’s being done.

As I pictured him driving away, his van getting tinier and tinier in the distance, the words “I can trust this” washed over me.

It’s not possible for me to “lose” anything. Least of all love!

There is no distance between myself and love. What’s the line from that Rumi poem? Ah yes, The movement of your finger is not separate from your finger.

And sure, in a few months time I might find myself having coffee at this man’s kitchen table in his little house by the ocean up north. It’s also possible that I will never see him again.

Either way, I feel destiny embracing me so strongly at this moment. I know it will not let me go. All I feel is trust.

Do you know what I mean?

It’s the sense that there’s nothing to grasp. There’s nothing to claim. All you’ve ever needed is right here.

The secondary delights of life are revealed in the story unfolding… and it’s not your job to control that story.

It’s only ever your job to show up.

Warmest wishes always,
Ariel

 

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