Thursday, May 13, 2010

No griping

It was a fantastic February day to hike to the desert stream. Springtime in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is an unusual taste of heaven to some, but heaven it is. Yellow brittlebush daisies, red ocotillo tips, lavender larkspur, golden poppies, white something-that-resembles-Queen-Anne’s-lace, and sage-green everything else (trees, grasses, saguaro and cholla cacti) combine with the Picasso-blue sky to create a feast for the eyes. The granite gravel, called desert pavement, crunches underfoot, the air is herbal-scented with creosote oil, and the temperature is in the high 60s, so it’s not too hot, even with exertion. The desert finches and doves send their praise hymns upward.

But although my eyes and ears are healthy, I had had a disabling injury to my leg about five years before, which left me with some knee instability and ankle/foot paralysis. If I so much as look up from the path a few inches in front of me, I could slide on gravel, trip on a root or rock, and injure myself severely. But by this time, I was resigned to my slight disability, and just grateful that I could usually keep pace with my fellow hikers. Well, walkers, really.

My acquaintances and friends were Christian singles from the Tucson area, who assembled at the trailhead at the top of a high hill on a Saturday morning. Our plan was to hike down the switchback trail to a seasonal stream, have a worship time with music and the spoken word, and then lunch before the hike back uphill.

The group consisted of adults from their 20s (like me) to their 60s, plus a few pre-teen kids. Carla, one of the young adults, was vision-impaired, and I admired her courage in negotiating a trail solely on the arm and voice direction of a friend. It was about a mile to the stream, over a rocky canyon trail. I needed every bit of concentration to stay upright with my disability, so I didn’t say much as we walked. To enjoy the vista, I would stop and take photos, then hurry on the flat places to keep up.

We reached the canyon floor, and sat on the giant boulders to sing and enjoy the pastor’s homily as the sun rose to its zenith, and the water played about us. (Unless you’ve lived for awhile in the desert, you don’t know the joy of finding free-range water!) After we’d prayed together, we prepared our picnic lunch—which was when I forgot to watch my step. I slipped on a tiny bit of sand on the boulder, and sat down hard—on my tailbone. Crunch.

Although there is an expression about getting your “behind” in a sling, there isn’t much one can do for a broken coccyx. The only sling that would have given comfort in the Sonoran Desert would have been the one dangling from a med-evac helicopter. But these were the Olden Days when mobile phones were the size of cats, and only for rich people, and besides, we were down a rocky canyon. (I don’t understand why my friends didn’t fashion a travois litter for me and drag me out.) The only solution was to walk out, and all uphill!

In times of pain, it is a relief to let off steam with bad words. One of my favorites is “Oaxaca,” a city in Mexico. It’s not a profane or vulgar word, but it sounds bad! But here I was, a singles ministry leader, in the company of people who expected better of me. And there was Carla, who, despite her blindness and a few minor stumbles on the path, was having the time of her life. Carla was smiling and singing and gazing wide-eyed at the sky, looking for all the world like Stevie Wonder at his keyboard. I was ashamed to even say Oaxaca.

So every step, every breath, was a pain in the rear. Literally. But I made it to the canyon rim without too many moans, said goodbye to my friends, and lowered myself into my low-slung Firebird (ow-ow-ow) for the two-hour drive home to Phoenix. The car was not built for comfort like a Mercedes or Caddy—I felt every pebble in the aggregate pavement, for the entire 120 miles, in my derriere.

But Carla was “feelin’ no pain.” What a glorious day she had because her friends included her in fellowship. She could smell the flowers and sky, she could feel the desert vastness on the breeze. The ground beneath her feet told her how to tread, and the arm of her friends communicated love. “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down.” Psalm 146:8 NASB.

Even when you’re bowed down, remember that the Lord raises you up. If not at this moment, then eventually. But He is faithful. So no griping!

Article first published (online and print) in Connected, August 30, 2006 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, it's Eric! I enjoyed this story a lot, simply because I enjoy hiking a lot. It can be great comfort, knowing that someone, like Christy, enjoyed hiking through the Sonoran Desert.

    Eric Calhoun


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