Desolate Beauty

121° without shade.

I gaze across the miles of wind-blown volcanic rocks, smoothed over the centuries, sporadically layering the surface of the fine volcanic desert soil, interspersed with drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs.  To the south, I see the handful of dead volcanoes which rise out of this rocky plain.  Stretching out to the west are the rolling desert hills, dotted with small acacia trees, flowing into the Arta mountains.  The Gulf of Aden sits in the north.  Beauty.  Of its own kind.

My perception of beauty requires recalibration due to the landscapes I am accustomed to in the U.S.  I too lazily expect beauty to meet me on my terms, but that’s not how true beauty reveals itself.  How deeply can I value the varied beauty of Florida, if I discount that which surrounds me here?

I don’t believe God created any part of this world to be discarded, discounted, or disregarded due to comparison.  The beauty and wonder of this planet is in its diversity.

Heaven forbid if humans sculpted the earth into endless manicured lawns, golf courses, playgrounds and sports fields.  The earth’s first and best playgrounds and ‘resorts’ were sculpted long before the footprints of humanity.  How I fear we’ve become poor stewards of this earth, having long abandoned a life of shared rhythm with the soil from which we came; no longer cohabitors, but mere consumers.

This unique place where I stand was formed millennia ago when Pangea split and the continents drifted to their current, albeit temporary, places of rest.  The volcanoes here were once active, belching ash and lava into the waters which would form the gulf and seas which border this nation today.  The volcanic rocks strewn across the sandy tundra are unavoidable …and ageless.

This place is beautiful.  Part of the human experience is found here, actually begins here.  It’s a part which can only can be found here.  It reminds us that there is beauty in the desolate… in the discomfort… in the inhospitable.

God reminds me that God is here.  God created and loves these people and this place as deeply as any and all others.  God is here…and is with us in the deserts, the desolate spaces, the discomfort, and inhospitable circumstances of the world.  But, am I looking?

Beauty.  Yes.

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