An Experience in Late Spring Desert Soothing

An Experience in Late Spring Desert Soothing

Hello Everyone and Happy Thursday! I just returned home from a slightly extended, (and much needed), trip to one of my favorite places to visit in Southern California – Joshua Tree National Park.

It was exciting, relaxing and wonderful as usual – this was my third time visiting this national park.

I missed not going last year, tremendously, because I was deep in the throes of overcoming grief, and I didn’t realize exactly just how much I missed the desert until I was finally able to once again step foot onto the coppery, tawny hued hot sand and dirt of the very beautiful Mojave-Colorado desert inspired landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. You really have to visit this part of the earth to truly appreciate just how welcoming it is.

To back track a little bit, I didn’t go last year because it just didn’t feel right. I even made reservations twice last year, and cancelled them just as soon as I made them. So, I know deep down I wanted to go badly, but my need to hibernate at home and learn how to live without my youngest child was so much stronger. Sometimes I think that my son may have even had a hand in my not going because I was no where near ready to enjoy myself – as one should when on vacation.

My last visit was just a few months before my son’s death, so as you can probably imagine, this trip brought back so many memories of when he was still physically in my life.

This year though, I was more prepared for the adventures and physical exertion required for such a trip; as well as the opportunity to release some really heavy internal turmoil and manifest a hint of personally relevant rehabilitation. The desert offers many opportunities for reflection and healing and my heart and mind are now in a good place – a place of equanimity.

This trip was quite different from my previous trips to Joshua Tree National Park in that it was less about reaching a specific peak, enduring a strenuous trail, or taking a lot of pictures so that I could post them to Instagram. In fact, for the first time ever while traveling, I gave extra attention to avoiding my smartphone while away. I wanted to make sure that I would be fully immersed in my trip, and that required me to be fully present in every moment so that I could obtain the most from my experience with nature, and the culture of the area, while there. Trust me, it was by no means easy, and I was tempted to get on my phone a few times to post photos on social media and to create a post here on Salubrity and Soul, but I didn’t and I am glad that I was able to keep my promise to myself and to ensuring that I would be able to have the best possible connection to my trip experience.

I did take a few photos eventually though, because I had to have something to remind me of my trip besides the Joshua Tree t-shirt that I bought. I just made sure that capturing photos from my trip just so that I could let everyone know what I was up to at the moment was not my main focus – or a focus at all.

This trip was was less about physical activity and more about becoming one with nature, more specifically, the desert – and and allowing it to teach me about surviving, overcoming, adjusting to harsh conditions and thriving while in that state.

I love being in the desert and I figured if anything was going to propel me to another level of healing in my bereavement it would be within the lessons learned from watching the example of resilience from the delicate but oh-so-mighty desert.

One of the first things that I noticed was the abundance of plant life and wildlife at Joshua Tree National Park this year. It was obviously more green and more bright with colors from a variety of plant species that were dormant during my last visits – (and my 2017 visit was pretty exciting as far as seeing color and running into fauna was concerned, so that should give you a little hint to the eye-catching changes that left me in awe.) I concluded that my increased sightings of lizards, birds, insects, desert rats and rabbits were the result of the increased plant life which undoubtedly was the result of the fact that the desert had received quite a bit of rain earlier this year. This part of my trip was something that I enjoyed witnessing as it made my trip even more pleasurable and in a lot of ways – more spiritual.

Joshua Tree National Park emits such a deep, raw energy within its boundaries that I would describe as being very cleansing. Maybe it has something to do with it being a high desert, or maybe it is because when you are out there it is almost as though you are visiting another planet, or because the desert holds a great deal of “fire energy”, or perhaps it is due to it being a vast land once inhabited by ancient natives and still feels like it.

Whatever the reason, many people, myself included, love to visit this desert public land for the visual aesthetics, the physical activity offerings and the spiritually stimulating opportunities.

Had I decided to go last year, I know that I would not have enjoyed myself as much. It would have been a very solemn and mentally draining trip and I don’t believe that I would have been able to even entertain the thought of going out for a hike each day; or try new restaurants in the area like I was able to while on this trip. It feels very good to be able to open up myself up to new experiences once again – and in a place that fills me with so much joy and peacefulness.

Have you ever gone on vacation only to return home feeling as though you now need a vacation from your vacation? I have, but that never happens to me after visiting Joshua Tree.

I am grateful for every moment of mindfulness along the trails that I hiked and every awe-inspiring view that captured my attention and my heart. The connection that I receive with every visit here never fails me. This time is no different. Right now I feel transformed, invigorated and inspired to share the lessons of resilience that I learned from the desert.

Thanks for reading!

Until the next time,

Take care + be well

Take Care + Be Well

Take Care + Be Well

Hello and “Happy Friday” everyone! Let’s talk about wellness today! The title of this post will be familiar to those of you who have been following Salubrity and Soul for a while. Those are the words that I usually end each post with because I wanted to remind you, my readers, to be gentle with yourselves when facing difficult times, and to remember to take care of yourselves every day since those are probably two of the many, different and best ways to live a happy and fulfilling life no matter what.

I am curious? What do you think of when you hear the word “wellness?” If you are like me, then you might instantly get an image in your mind like the one featured in the header picture of this post of someone in a yoga pose. Or, maybe you’ll imagine someone wearing a facial mask, or getting a massage. There are so many images that come to mind for me for the word “wellness”, truthfully, and my favorite of all time, (which may seem a little strange), is the word “balance.” – Yes, that is correct, I said the “word” balance – only in my mind the word balance is in great big bold type lettering. Strange, right?

I think the word “balance” became synonymous with wellness for me when I took a health and wellness course in college and learned that in order for wellness to take effect the whole body should be in a state of equilibrium. The body may be well, but what if the mind isn’t? And – vice verse? This also reminds me of how dieting is less effective when the focus is placed solely on eating the right foods, but not exercising. And – vice verse. Which leads me to ask the question, “can we consider ourselves well if we only focus on one area or type of health and wellness?

“Wellness is both the quality and state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. It is also an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating disease. ”

Interestingly enough though, it will never be enough to just drink our green juice and do yoga. Or getting our regular medical check ups and taking our vitamins and minerals; or getting enough sleep and following the latest series of wellness fads.

No matter what, the mind will always be another aspect of wellness if we want to work on being as completely well as possible. Those other things I mentioned in the previous paragraph are important, but what about conditions such as grief or depression? How is wellness connected to those types of conditions?

Well, it’s as simple as this… It’s all about being able to adapt. Even if we are not able to adapt right away or immediately. The important thing is to just be able to do it at all. Because without being able to apply adjusting to life challenges the likelihood for change becomes slim and can result in stagnation.

Life changes all of the time and throughout our lives. So too, must we adjust to those changes. It’s the inability to adapt that will set the foundation for illness instead of wellness.

This can be somewhat of a slippery slope though, because you don’t want to be someone who shuts down emotionally and simply flows with nonchalant ease through every one of life’s difficult and challenging moments without allowing yourself to fully process what you’re experiencing during those difficult moments. Can it really be healthy to just push our true feelings way down deep inside of us and then plant an everlasting, (but inauthentic), smile on our faces – for any reason? How can that be healthy? You still want to and need to acknowledge, feel for and care about the people and things that mean a lot to you. – Just remember to adapt – when it’s time to.

However, we should also want to be committed to our lifelong growth and development. We should also be striving for equilibrium between the body and the mind since that is probably the best way to prepare ourselves to be in a state that will support our ability to have both the mental and physical strength to handle anything. Taking care of our mental health as well as our physical health – that is what wellness is – and taking care of just our physical health will not always contribute positively to our mental health. They are not always synonymous. Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section.

Thank you for reading!

Until the next post…

Take care + Be well

How I Fell in Love with Hiking

How I Fell in Love with Hiking
My first hiking trip was taken on a whim.  It was an idea that arose from a discussion between my husband and myself regarding what we should do for our upcoming Anniversary.  My husband can be quite accommodating when it comes to letting me chose a locale for a trip or a night out, but the idea that I had in my mind at that time was one that I wasn’t sure that he would be willing to agree to. Yet, much to my delight, he agreed, albeit his agreement was not without some hesitation.
I wanted to visit the desert for a considerably long time.  It’s a landscape that I am often drawn to and have always had a fascination with. Although I would have also loved another quintessential night on the town, complete with a delectable dinner at a lavish restaurant, that option could not contend with a trip to the desert. More specifically, a trip to Joshua Tree National Park or the Mojave Desert – Not this time. I guess you could say that the desert was calling me and I could not say no.
After further discussion about our choices, my husband expressed that his less than enthusiastic response to my request, (at first), was because of his disinterest in desert landscapes. This just happened to also be when I learned that he’s more of a forest kind of guy. We laughed at a few of his jokes about there being absolutely nothing in the desert to do or see and I begged to differ.  He acquiesced,  I smiled and then we proceeded to make our trip reservations for Joshua Tree National Park.
I think people thought that we must have lost our minds when we told them what we planned to do for our Anniversary that year, and maybe for a second, we too, began wondering whether we were making the right decision. Who wants to jeopardize spoiling their Anniversary? We had never been hiking before. Nor had we ever done anything outdoorsy for any special occasion, so this was something that was unusual, but I really wanted to do something different and my husband agreed that maybe it was time for us to start trying things that were different. We were definitely up to the challenge and looking forward to discovering what the desert had to offer.  Little did we know at the time that we had just made one of the best decisions that we have ever made during our many years together as a married couple.
We conducted a bit of research on the park and learned that Joshua Tree National Park is considered to be a highly spiritual place. We were skeptical, but still very curious to know if this held any truth.  That element alone played a big part in making this trip exciting.
We went during the spring, so the weather was hot, being that it was the desert, but it was also moderate and not as hot as it would have been had we went during the summer. This made for a comfortable visit. Going during the springtime also made the desert seem more like a desert oasis because we got to see a lot of wildflowers, the bright colors of the flowers on the cacti and the landscape was a lot more verdant that we expected due to the previous season’s rains. My husband was surprised to see that it did not seem like the typical desert he had in his mind and I was amazed at how beautiful everything was. It could not have been more perfect.
The first trail that we ventured to was the Split Rock Loop Trail. I was in awe of the rock climbers and we were both so fascinated with their skill and bravado that we had to stop and watch them for a while. Moments later we decided to try the 2 mile loop trail there which was very invigorating. That was the moment that we began feeling like we were suddenly hikers.
Next we visited two popular spots known as Skull Rock and Elephant Rock. Skull Rock is exactly what it sounds like. The trails here are relatively easy to hike, but they are filled with large boulder like rocks that we spent a lot of time climbing to the top of to enjoy the many gorgeous views of this area, especially during  a sunrise or sunset.   These became one of our favorite spots and we revisited this area several times that weekend. Not just because of the views and attractions, but it was one area that we felt the most spiritual energy. The energy here was magical.
I love nature, so I had to stop at the Arch Rock Nature Trail.  This trail has one of the most unique rock formations in the park. The namesake Arch Rock is a slab of rock shaped like an arch or a bridge. This is also another popular spot in the park and is often quite crowded most of the time. We weren’t able to get a good view of Arch Rock during that visit but we did get to enjoy the other sights of other odd rock formations as well as the .5 mile hiking trail.
The last trail that we ventured through was the Cap Rock Trail.  This was a short .4 mile trail loop with extensive views of Joshua Trees. It was quite picturesque during the twilight time during the spring, and it presented us with more stunning views of wildlife and wildflowers.
As you can see, we chose to hike short, easy trails during our first hiking trip. We did this because of our inexperience and because we wanted to take it easy until we were able to learn more about hiking and hiking safety.  Initially, we had the impression that hiking is very much like walking, but it isn’t.  Especially when you are exposed to the elements and wildlife that you would not ordinarily be exposed to on an average walk. We also, at the time, were not prepared with enough supplies should we had made the mistake of wandering too far out into the desert and lost our way back to where our car was parked.  That would have been devastating, not to mention irresponsible on our part. Safety is key when hiking.
Still, that trip back in 2016 inspired us so much that hiking has become a favorite pastime for us.  It is a way that we’re able to spend quality time together and stay healthy as we grow old together.  It has also been a very helpful outlet for us during our bereavement, so we are both very glad that we took on this hobby before losing our son.
What I love the most about hiking is the way that it makes me feel. I love how it centers me. I love the way that it reminds me of how connected we all are to everything. It is exercise for the mind, body, heart and soul. It’s also the only exercise that I can think of that is mentally, spiritually, visually, audibly and kinesthetically stimulating while also being relaxing at the same time.  If you’re looking for a way to stay healthy that doesn’t feel completely like exercise and that allows you to also enjoy all the beauty of nature and life, I recommend that you try hiking. Get out in the open, enjoy the fresh air and discover all the ways that this form of adventure can excite and inspire you.
Until the next post.

Blessings,
Take Care + Be Well,
Carol xo