Seeking the Super Bloom

California Super Bloom WIldflowers in Purple and YelloWe drove back from Las Vegas the other day, intentionally going three hours out of our way to drive through the Anza Borrego Desert to see the Super Bloom. I had envisioned fields of bright flowers carpeting the desert floor, so I was underwhelmed by the scattering of pale flowering weeds that I could see from the car window as we drove through.  Was this the Super Bloom?

Sure, patches of flowers were scattered throughout the desert, and the patches I could see did seem to be different colors: purple, white, pink, yellow. But I was tired. And there was a lot of traffic. I was slightly depressed and didn’t feel like getting out and walking through the desert for a closer look.

Truthfully, my attitude to life at this moment was dulled from an argument I’d had with my husband. We’d just returned from a somewhat stressful trip to Las Vegas—where all the individual pieces were fun—seeing old friends, helping our daughter move into a new house, climbing at Red Rocks. But the overall accumulation of activity had drained us—had overwhelmed our nervous systems.

It had been a crazy mess of activity while we were there, hooking up appliances, making dinner for big groups, walking “the strip,” watching Cirque d’ Soleil, driving around looking for houses with our friends, and rock climbing.  I had gotten scared on one of the climbs and snapped at my husband.

I had also gotten a sudden bee in my bonnet to look at houses—maybe Las Vegas was a place our family could live together again, I dreamed. But the sea of Stepford-wives in planned communities deterred me.  I tried to find something off the beaten track closer to the canyon lands. When a beautiful house showed up in Zillow in a tiny community near the Red Rock Canyon a half hour drive away, I called the real estate agent to see if we could see it.  That was a mistake. I was just chasing a fantasy dream—something I wasn’t even sure I wanted—and dragging my husband along for the ride. He wasn’t expecting a real estate agent to be there and was embarrassed since he had no intention of moving.

“We wasted her time,” he said later. I hadn’t seen it that way, but perhaps I should have. Anyway, the house was great, but I didn’t like the area—too far from necessities, like a grocery store.

Then we drove home, planning to go out of our way to see the Super Bloom in the Anza Borrego Desert.  A forbidding silence—not the good kind—filled the car.  I began practicing what I had been taught in awareness training—to simply notice what was going on. I noticed I felt bad. I felt bad for snapping at him. I felt bad for looking at the house. I felt bad for taking extra time to drive home. I felt bad that the Super Bloom he and I had recently experienced in our relationship appeared to be waning.

I noticed that these negative thoughts filled my mind as we drove through the desert, coloring my appreciation. What was so great about this “Super Bloom” anyway?  Where are the carpets of flowers? Where is the abundance?

We drove home, never getting out of the car. The minute we got back to Alpine, a proliferation of rich, vibrant flowers greeted us—right in our own backyard.  Great swaths of dark orange-y yellow flowers lined the freeway. In our neighborhood, the bright magenta succulents were in full color, “carpeting” the road near our house. Our own orchard had burst into bloom, too.

Later, I talked with others who had driven out to the Anza Borrego Desert to see the Super Bloom, curious about their experience. Some were underwhelmed, as I had been, but others were overwhelmed with the abundance they found.  My hairdresser described the most magical day out there in the desert with her husband.  They had gotten out of their car and hiked into the palm oasis, where the flowers showed themselves readily amongst the cacti.  She said it was one of the best moments she and her husband had experienced together.  They wandered in the beauty, appreciated each other, found a secret watering hole. They themselves bloomed out there in the desert.

As I mulled over these observations in the weeks following, odd thoughts and comparisons came to mind.  I thought about 9/11.  I thought about the photos I saw in those initial days of the destruction, chaos, and terrorism.  I remembered that, despite the fear and sadness, I felt something else blooming within me as I saw at ground level people helping people—forgoing past prejudices, ignoring race and gender, overlooking economic status. I saw people reaching out to one another. I saw and felt a Super Bloom of compassion in those days following 9/11.

And today, in the wasteland of our current political climate, I feel something of the same thing. On the one hand, I look out and see a barren desert threatening to lay waste to things dear to me. I feel fear and negative thoughts reigning. But when I stop and look closer—when I get out of the car to walk into a palm oasis, when I notice the proliferation in my own backyard, when I override the feeling of being overwhelmed and the dull attitude taking hold of my heart—I see a Super Bloom unfolding.  Again, I see people supporting each other, rising up among the thorny cacti to offer love and compassion despite the climate—despite the polarity of views. I see people engaging with the “other” political side, asking questions of one another, striving to understand one another. I see people wildly increasing their donations to organizations they appreciate, people finding the time to volunteer, people speaking out against oppression, people holding the light.

I see myself pausing and wondering how I too can contribute—wondering what I, as a writer and awareness practitioner, can offer.

I think, too, of the conditions that lead to a Super Bloom—a long drought followed by a generous rain that encourages the long dormant seeds to shed their protective covering.

I see that as a writer and an awareness practitioner I have a choice. I have a choice of what to write about, what to notice, what to draw attention to.  I see that my first glance at something—out of a car window while harboring a dull attitude—may not be the juiciest one, the truest one. It might not be the message I want to share or the feeling I want to cultivate. It might take a little more perseverance. It might be something simple, like noticing what’s going on in my own mind instead of being consumed by it, or appreciating what’s in my own backyard instead of seeking it elsewhere. It might take wandering deeper into the desert for a closer look.  It might be remembering good things not bad, and appreciating the great patches of flowers popping up everywhere, despite everything.

And, if I am truly dried up, overwhelmed, and encased in a protective coating unable to flower, I can trust that abundance will flow again. I can remember that even the dormant stage is part of the process, and I can always notice and write about that.

Photo Credit: Marijke McCandless