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Death Valley Days

     Returning from five days in Death Valley National Park gives me the opportunity to write a report which school children were once assigned every September: here is "What I Did On Vacation."

     What I did was to enjoy being warm and dry (the highest temperature was 99 F).  Tom and I hiked in some beautiful canyons (aptly described with names like Golden, Mosaic, and Willow). We also enjoyed evocative place names such as Funeral Mountains, Devil's Golf Course and Furnace Creek.  I walked across a sand dune (I'm told I looked funny doing that, as my feet sank with each step and I kept sliding backward each time I tried to move forward).  I stood on a salt flat which placed me at the lowest point  --  over 200 feet below sea level  --  in the entire continent.  I encountered a gigantic desert bug in the bathroom which not only crawled very fast but could also jump and hide.  I discovered what it's like to be cut off from dependable cell phone access, never see a newspaper, and lack any desire to check the internet.   

     The desert taught me some intriguing terms.  A landform they call 'badlands' is incredibly beautiful.  How can anyone call it bad??   A 'wash' is where a river was but isn't.  A 'dry fall' is where a waterfall isn't but could be.  Look in any direction within Death Valley and you will see geological creation in the making.  Learn the Valley's human history and you will meet tough, intrepid, occasionally foolish people who faced great odds and sometimes (but not always) prevailed.

     Did you wonder about wildflowers in the desert?  Yes, there were lots of those ... but not the splashy varieties we see in the Willamette Valley.  The desert wildflowers I saw were tiny jewels that seemed impossibly fragile, as well as brazenly blooming cacti which whispered 'come close' at the same time they warned 'stay away.' 

     I read only one book while I was on vacation, but it was delightful.  Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey is the fanciful, fictionalized story of Alexis de Tocqueville's journey to America and the writing of his famous report about democracy.  The book requires a little patience at the beginning but rewards that patience with many passages to provide chuckles and insight both about Revolutionary era France and our own pre Civil War nation.       

     Being in the desert appeals to me for its beauty, its rugged simplicity, its inherently uncompromising conditions, and its broad horizons.  Within the desert my spirit rests in God.  Now I look forward to the Gobi Desert where Tom and I will travel in July.   I will meet nomadic families, see an entirely different sort of desert landscape, and spend nights not in a national park lodge but rather in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt).   

     Will it be as warm as Death Valley?  I can only hope.

     It's good to be home. 

     Pastor Diane Dulin


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