Back in the late 1980’s, I often took a road trip from Utah to visit California; my old stomping grounds. Traveling through the barren desert of Nevada, just outside of the mountain range exiting the Utah/Arizona Border, there was an extraordinary place someone once told me about with such excitement, that I had to stop and see it for myself. So, on one such trip, I finally did it. I exited the freeway at Homestead Road and found my way across the other side of the freeway to an area where this supposed “really cool place” existed like a paradisiacal mirage in the desert.
I parked my car on a dirt parking lot and walked toward the cliff that led down to the river that ran under the freeway overpass, to see what I could see. I saw it! Right before my eyes, it was as if this part of desert landscape, in this small desolate town, out of nowhere, turned into some sort of Garden of Eden!
A hot spring ran down the hill through the area where hot pots formed deep enough for bathers to soak themselves in the mineral rich water flowing freely out of Mother Earth. With the warm water, green terrain sprang up everywhere close to these hot spring pools that graced this otherwise, very ordinary desert hill and dirt landscape. It was magnificent! And the view? Oh my goodness! It was a beautiful oasis with a desert view for miles, over-looking the river far below as it freely flowed by.
So impressed by it, I too told people about this place with such excitement, hoping that they would someday stop to enter this unknown territory of amazing paradisiacal splendor.
Flash forward- nearly 20 years later. I was traveling back from California with my family when I got this great idea to show them this amazing little spot in the middle of the barren desert. I had made that trip back and forth many times throughout the years, but would accidentally pass it. Not wanting to spend the time turning around at the next turn-off, because it was just too far away… I would skip it and ride on to my destination. “Besides,” I thought, “It would always be there next time.”
But this time returning to Utah, I remembered! I found the turn-off, and I even recalled exactly where it was. As we parked on that same dirt parking lot, which was still there, and approached the cliff, I was so excited! The green oasis, the hot springs, the hot pots to soak in, the river flowing by and the vast desert view from the hill. What would it look like now? Even better? I could hardly wait to show them what I had been telling people about for 20 years!
As we peered over the cliff, can you imagine what we saw? We saw the river flowing by under the freeway overpass and the view of the vast desert expanse, but where was my beautiful paradise that was supposed to last forever?
It was long gone!!!! Apparently, I missed it by years.
I hiked down the hill desperately searching for it, only to find that it was all dried up. There were no more hot springs, no more green tropical plants, no more hot pots deep enough to soak in. What was left in its place were remnants of trash people had left behind on the hard rock and clay soil, along with the few desert plants that could withstand the harsh desert sun. A desert oasis turned trash graveyard existed now where something amazingly beautiful and so full of life once existed before.
The balance of our drive home was a sad one. I was clearly in a state of disbelief as the grief process set in. The implications were telling. In that moment, I could clearly see the “writing on the wall.” You see, for some reason, I always thought that my little piece of paradise would always be waiting there for me, whenever I remembered to stop by next. But it wasn’t. This led to a very sad thought. What else had I taken for granted? What else had I thought would always be there waiting for me?
Things change. And sometimes… they change rather quickly! What we once thought would always be there forever… no longer isn’t, at least not in this realm. You know the saying, “The only constant… is change.” Well, for people who like some sense of stability and security in their lives, this shifting reality can be rather unsettling, to say the least.
Recently, this old experience sprang to mind, and I knew there was something for me to realize. So, after all these years, I began to think about all of the changes that have occurred since that time, namely… the people, places and things of my life. But whether these changing landscapes could be noticed in the physical world or only in my own private inner world, just about everything had changed.
There were the ever-changing situations and circumstances of life. There were the places I’ve spent my time, the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve acquired, each of these, meaningful or not. This was a landscape where my children grew up from children to adult without my permission. And, throughout the years, my finances and health fluctuated… right along with my weight. But never my age. Nope. Although I might have looked better or healthier on some days, rather than others, still… without my permission, my youth began to fade with each passing day. Rude!
There were the relationships in my life that began and/or ended. Those who blessed my life for the better… and those I thought hadn’t… but who really had. There were those people who have stayed awhile, and those who left or even passed away and left me, nonetheless. Even, my first grandchild was birthed into this world this year! And through all of it, there was the complicated and ever-changing mix of emotions experienced along the spectrum between joy and heartache. But then again… in the midst of all of this… there were the things I learned along the way.
Earlier in this post I mentioned that within my experience of the disappearing paradisiacal oasis, there was something for me to see… and this is it. Life offers its beauty to us in every NOW. While we might be able to revisit something of our past, and maybe or maybe not it is still there, what is to be noticed and appreciated is always right before our eyes. And because life doesn’t stop for any of us, life hopes we will not miss out on it because we were waiting around for another time for us to enjoy it.
In every moment, life is inviting us to be present and aware to the life happening all around us. By recognizing and appreciating the people, places and things in our lives, right NOW, we will not have the regrets of having missed out because of the inevitable changes that life will bring our way.
In a nutshell… Don’t wait for another time to appreciate someone or something in your life now. Because… like the hot spring that once flourished, then dried up, without notice… life can change rather quickly and time can run out too.