Nature Church Sedona Mar17

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Nature Church Sedona

Oh Patience. You’re such a beautiful virtue. I marvel at your tolerance, how you shrug off irritations with a genuine smile, and embrace time like it’s unending. But right now you’re a little like those bunnies that are hopping around the desert out behind our RV, an adorable little skittery thing that keeps dodging our advances. We’re not even really expecting to hold you or pet you yet, we just want to be close enough to SEE your softness. So stop jumping behind the cactus and sit still dammit, we don’t have all day!

Zen Snatchers. That’s that we call them now, the things that test our patience or sense of well-being. I’ve written a lot about the driving which is still of course the Big Daddy of Zen Snatchers, a major culprit for stress and anxiety in this otherwise meant-to-be-idyllic life. But there’s actually a tribe of small toddler Snatchers living in the RV with us that we’re trying to tame.

One of them is the super special locking lid Tupperware that Ali put the flour in. Granted it probably wasn’t tested specifically for flying around an RV cabinet at speeds of 55 mph on mountain roads, but still, its advertising carried plenty of reassurances about its fitness for the job. It failed on a scale so big it might as well have been a bowling ball advertised as a cotton ball.

Snow storm inside the cabinet.

Snow storm inside the cabinet.

Ali was able to scoop most of the flour back into its box, as she removed every item in the cabinet to bathe it. The box of flour now lives jammed tightly in between 2 other boxes on the BOTTOM of the cabinet. Zero elevation. Zero wiggle. And I think she even taped the lid shut. That box is being punished.

There are also a handful of super sharp edges that bite us, things that hang out at stealthy camouflaged angles, hidden places that pinch or poke. We joke that we need a hundred or so tiny orange cones to tape around the house to mark the danger zones (I think candy corns would work). It is a really tight space, only 230 sq feet, so I know we’re bound to bump into stuff and each other. It’s so bad though, that Ali invented a new nightly game for us that we play during our little happy hour. We point out a new scratch or bruise on the other person and they have to tell the story of how it happened – if you can’t remember how you got the injury you lose a point. I think Ali is taking notes on her iPhone throughout the day. I ALWAYS lose the game.

But whenever we realize our zen has been snatched, we head to nature as soon as we can. We take a walk or do something outside to remind us of our true place and the bigger picture. Even the quickest bike ride in a circle around the campground can suffice. (I have a big crush on my bike right now.) Nature is where we go to center ourselves, to get filled up with peace and gratitude and to commune with God. Nature is our church and there are few natural cathedrals as breathtaking as the red rock mountains of Sedona.

We arrived in Sedona during a snow storm, which was not so serious at that elevation (4200 ft), but an hour before at 7000 ft as we drove through Flagstaff, the snow was 3 or 4 inches deep and sticking to the roads. When we got to our campground, we had to do the 15 minutes of outdoor tasks to set up the RV in the freezing cold wetness, and our Kitty was very sick. If ever we needed Nature Church it was then.

Sedona dressed in white.

Sedona dressed in white.

The snowy cold weather stayed around for a couple days. We still managed to get outside a little bit, but we had to make the very hard decision about putting our Kitty down, so there was a lot of time spent at the Vet. It was the 3rd day of our stay, when the sun busted out first thing in the morning, melted all the snow, warmed the air to a balmy 66 degrees and shouted at us with open arms. “Hey, you two in the tin can with wheels! I’m here, let’s play.” (I know. The rocks at Joshua Tree shouted at me too. Nature and I are just excited about each other, like new best friends.)

Only a half mile up the road from our RV park – Schnebly Road, named for the first post master of Sedona – there was a very unassuming trail head that led out into miles and miles and miles of gorgeousness. Just as we got started, we met up with a woman coming back out of the trails and we asked her how her hike was. Her answer: “It’s a little like skating on butter, a little muddy in places, but wonderful.”

Sedona

Sedona

We scrambled over creeks and rocks, passed every kind of cactus; prickly pear, saguaro, barrel, palm and skated on red butter mud. It was a well-maintained trail, but the kind you have to keep your eyes on to avoid a stumble.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

I found myself wishing that my feet had their own set of eyeballs to watch the path for themselves, so that the one’s attached to my brain could keep looking up at the beauty all around me.

In nature church Ali and I give the sermon to each other as we walk. This day the message was about Happiness. We each tried to define that state of being with words and through a couple iterations we finally ended up with something like, “when you don’t need or wish that anything was different.” We went through the exercise of recalling the “happiest times in our lives” and described them to each other trying to pin point what it was about those times that created our sense of happiness – was it a relationship, a friend, a job, a city, an activity, a spirituality, an accomplishment, a weight. We found all kinds of variables that contribute to our happiness and some significant common threads that we took note of as priorities.

Sedona

Sedona

We also agreed that we were absolutely happy right then and there in Nature Church Sedona.

Sedona

Sedona

There are some very high expectations of this trip, for us to be happy in our souls. But with Ali’s mom passing at Thanksgiving and then our Kitty we are very aware of the challenges of mood. Is happiness JUST as happy when it’s somewhat short or fleeting, or book-ended by sadness? Are we letting the frustrations and impatience take over too often? Are we “earning” the privilege of this trip with enough happiness? Is happiness really the thing we should be setting as the goal? Will we ever stop being obsessed with goals and accomplishments and lower the damn bar? Ugh – sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

Ali feels strongly that our drive and ambition are our golden qualities, that without them we would be lazy. I guess I agree, though I’m sort of fighting them right now. I feel like we are in our own private battle, out here in the world, exposing ourselves to a multitude of inconveniences and even some dangers, big changes in career and finances, in the search for that ultimate sense of fulfillment. It’s a battle for balance, of trying to right ourselves against the massive current of shifting values that we’ve set sail against. I just have to remind myself that we can’t get there in a straight line, we will have to tack and jibe.