Do You See It?
Most often, when I head out on an afternoon run in the desert, it is my intention to run alone. A couple of mornings a week I run with Mark, occasionally with others, but more often than not it’s me and creation. That was my intent earlier this week on a day when the wind was howling, the parking lot was empty and I did not expect to see anyone else. Less than half a mile from the car there they were, a young couple standing in the trail. Well, he was standing in the trail. She was deeply engaged with her camera and an unseen item of interest, invisible to me, and on the side, in a pile of cactus and other debris. As I walked around them she stood up, grabbed my elbow and with unbridled enthusiasm pulled me to her side and said,
“Look at this! Do you see it?”
I looked as directed and thought I saw it. Except that I didn’t know what it was.
“Do you see it?” she implored.
“I think I do,” I hesitantly replied, not wanting to disappoint her if I saw the wrong thing.
I saw a face in the cactus. Holes dug out by rodents and birds left two eyes, eye brows, a nose and mouth; even a chin. It was pretty distinct and she was delighted to share her discovery.
I was amazed that she saw this as they walked by. How observant! When I commented on that the man spoke for the first time.
“She sees everything,” he said. “It takes us forever to go anywhere with her.”
“Wow, you are lucky to have such an observant companion.”
They laughed, she hugged me, we all went on our way. They to their car, holding hands and giggling at an inside joke and I newly committed to opening my eyes the rest of the afternoon. Can I become as observant as my unknown friend? I hope so. And I do try.
When I run in the desert I look for things that seem to be out of place. I see much more that way. Something too smooth, too patterned is often a rattle snake. Colors too bright for the trail may be a gila monster. Big rocks, conspicuously dark, that surprise me when they move signal javelina, disturbed by the smell of my presence. On two occasions light gray and greenish eyes signal a mountain lion, watching me with bored authority. In some of the more remote places I visit broken limbs, the smell of an abandoned campfire, a bit of garbage in a bag, torn sheets of plastic, may indicate a camp repeatedly used by folks attempting to cross the border unnoticed. In all of these cases we are strangers to each other and I do my best to slip by unnoticed.
On this day I imagine immigrant gnomes, hiding in the downed cactus and observing my clumsy passing. I look across a wide draw and on the ridge above something moves, then another, and another. They are deer. I’m running downhill on technical terrain, watching the deer, feeling happy, lighthearted and free when I see my trekking pole fly by. I have stubbed my toe and once again I am flying forward, momentarily freed from the bonds of the trail while immediately pulled back into its embrace and sliding down it on my elbow and knee. When I look up the deer are gone. I’m not hurt but my scrapped knee is bleeding. If I encounter anyone else it will look dramatic. I finish my run alone.
Later that night I will head to my shift in the basement of the church for The Inn Project. The folks here did not sneak across the border, or at least not our border. They may have had to move unnoticed from El Salvador, through Guatemala, Belize and Mexico before they arrived in Nogales, Sonora, walked to the border guards, stretched out upturned palms and surrendered, seeking asylum in the land of the free.
As we welcome them to our temporary shelter I am reminded that we have been asked to open another one in Yuma. The border there is becoming more crowded all the time.
People often visibly flinch when asked for money. It’s ok, you are alone in your room. Flinch all you like. You are invisible. After you flinch know that these projects are not free. Loving these folks comes at a price…time, food, clothes, backpacks, bus tickets…money. I’ll give you a link below. If you make a donation 100% of it will go to this project. No really, all of it. We are small, simple, focused and to date my asking you is the biggest fund raising push of our short history.
When you for a walk open your eyes. Observe the abundance that surrounds us. Fall down watching something beautiful, love your neighbor as yourself and point it out to a stranger on your trail.