There is something about the vastness of the Colorado Plateau that, when seen from a lofty perch, invites contemplation.
Standing atop the rim of the Barringer Crater, first my son and then the rest of us turned our eyes away from the extraterrestrial wonder below and looked across the Plateau toward Humphries Peak. The quiet was profound, the only sounds we heard were our hearts and the wind. Clouds scudded low overhead, and the high desert beneath us seemed to breathe of its own accord.
Caught in that state where there is no longer a divide between what is inside you and what is outside you, we were no more immune than the Anasazi, whose ghosts still walk this land, had been; or the Navajo, who still catch dreams here.
The moment reminded me of something John Muir wrote in his 1912 classic Yosemite, when he said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
Not everybody finds inspiration in the desert, anymore than everyone finds succor in the mountains. Each state we traversed, starting with Arizona, offered its own selection of places like this. It made us realize that what makes California special is not that it is the only state with breathtaking deserts, life-filled forests, enticing coasts, or fertile plains. California’s gift to the dreamers and the damaged alike is that somewhere in its unparalleled variety we can each find a place from where we can draw that strength from nature’s storehouse of life.