Discovering Deep Secrets in the New Year

The Crosscut and Massacre Grounds trailhead usually has only a few cars parked in the dirt lot on the side of the First Water turnoff, but today we struggle to find a parking spot in the rows and rows of vehicles. The trailhead is named after a group of miners who lost their lives here in the 1800s, purportedly by a group of Apaches. Jacob Waltz, a Dutchman, claimed to have found that mine, but took the secret location to his grave, adding one more story to the legends and lore that surround these mountains.

We are not joining the thousands who have gone searching for the gold hidden in the area, but have taken the 45-minute drive from our home because we are looking for a different type of treasure.

Snow in the desert.

We cross the creek bed several times before climbing a gentle slope to a saddle. A dusting of snow covers the surrounding cholla and brittlebush, but our destination lies before us. The Superstitions are clothed in white.

Mollie, our rust-colored mutt, does not know what to think of her first frozen adventure. She stays on the trail, but as we stop to take photos of saguaros and prickly pear with their uncommon winter hats, Mollie forgets her fear and bounds after birds and other creatures, her tail a curled flag behind her.

The snow deepens as we dip into a narrow basin, the trail hedged by mesquite and hop sage bushes, the pink flowers peeking out of their white blanket.

 

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“It’s like Narnia,” my husband comments as we step around boughs weighted with snow, referring to a scene from the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The children in the story find themselves accidentally entering the world of Narnia through a wardrobe or closet.

As they step further in, pushing their way through the winter coats, the children are surprised by how much room is inside. Fur coats give way to pine boughs. Wooden floors give way to snow-covered paths.

Although it had first appeared small and confining, the wardrobe actually was a doorway to great adventure. The lives of the children would never be the same.

Cheryl Sacks and Arlyn Lawrence write in their book, Prayer-Saturated Kids, “[The children] discovered when they stepped into the wardrobe, the inside was larger than the outside” and “that the further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets.”

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NLT) states, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.”

God’s deep secrets. I long for that here on the trail, in the desert. The thought intrigues me. Speaks to something inside me. More than secret gold lost in these hills, I desire to discover God’s deep secrets here in the new year. In my life. In my writing.  

What a treasure!

As the sun warms the mountain, we stop and listen. After quieting our breathing, we experience something I have never heard before: the sound of the desert melting.

 

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Sometimes new sounds … deep secrets … can only be heard in the standing still. The stillness beckons me to leave my ordinary world and discover Narnia.

Is it time for you to enter into that place? To quiet your life and meet God? To step further in and discover how much bigger everything gets as you open the door to prayer and enter the world of God’s secrets?

Perhaps if you are quiet enough, you will experience your own melting and you will find yourself walking on snow-covered paths that lead you to adventure.

 

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Against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, Lynne Hartke writes stories of courage, beauty and belonging–belonging to family, to community and to a loving God. Her book, Under a Desert Sky, was released in May 2017 with Revell/Baker Publishing. You can find Lynne on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This post originally appeared on her blog at www.lynnehartke.com when it snowed on New Year’s Day 2015.

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Is That a Rattlesnake? – Writing From A Sense of Place

Welcome to my neighborhood. I live in a city, but I like to hike in the surrounding mountains in the Sonoran Desert.

Will you walk with me? 

a pair of cholla

prickly pear

Before we go, I recommend packing the following things:

  1. A small journal and two pens for writing simple notes that can be tidied later. One fast pen. And one slow pen. Just in case.
  2. A phone and a pocket-size camera for taking photos of things to remember, including plants, lizards, insects, and birds that need identifying. And occasionally rattlesnakes.
  3. Water. Plenty of water.
  4. A snack. Writing and walking is always better with something delicious. I recommend a bagel with cream cheese, an orange, and a package of fruit snacks. Shaped like dinosaurs.

I like to leave early in the morning for a hike in South Mountain. We will walk until we find a flat rock with an unobstructed view in the middle of a cholla forest. We wait here for the dawning.

What sentences will you use to describe the horizon? What colors do you see? Orange? Yellow? How can you write about those colors without using those words?

I scribble in my journal:

I look for the planets that are visible this month in the pre-rising light, but only a fingernail moon shines down. The eastern sky is anthemed by the birds as peach caresses the low layer of clouds, veiling the sun until it bursts in a single golden shot. 

A nearby ant hill is a scurry of activity, the residents in a hurry to harvest food before the rising of the molten heat.

A lime green bandaid emblazoned with super heroes lies in the dust.

What is blooming? What is distinct about this season? How will your reader know it is spring without you having to tell them?

The hillside flowers are monochromatic in hue. Lemon-gold poppies. The ditzy-blonde brittlebush that arrives early and stays late. The five-petaled blossoms on the creosote bush are no larger than a penny. No buds adorn the head of the gentleman saguaro, the giant cactus that waits to bloom last every year.

Who shares the morning? What do you hear?

A pack of coyotes join the morning bird song with yips and howls. I smile at the Sonoran Desert chorus but my rust-colored mutt unfurls her tail as she listens, warily, close to my legs.

A dad with three young sons shuffle by.

“How far are ya goin’?” we ask.

“As far as we can get,” the dad answers. They pass us full of adventure and youth-filled zeal, a single water bottle between them.

What do you touch?

A layer of dust coats my shoes. My hands. My khakis. My dog is a four-legged dust mop as she flops at my feet.

To our left is a vein of pink quartz that juts up from time to time throughout the mountain like the backbone of a dinosaur skeleton.

The fruit snacks!! Would you like a red one?

red dinosaur fruit snacks

As I pull out the fruit snacks, I place my foot on a medium-sized boulder. A six-inch black tail disappears under the stone below my shoe. I jump back. A lizard? A snake? I feel no need to investigate.

What would I see in your neighborhood? What is unique about the place where you live? How would you set the scene with a strong sense of place?

Can I walk with you?

 

Lynne Hartke is under contract with Revell for a 2017 release of a nonfiction book about her experience with cancer. The Sonoran Desert in Arizona serves as a background for much of her writing.