Gravel crunched under my tires as I backed into a parking spot at the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in southern New Mexico. I grabbed my backpack and jacket from the passenger’s seat and stepped out into a brisk breeze. I had been camping nine miles up a dirt road from the petroglyph site and was excited to finally see some of the 21,000 glyphs scattered over 50 acres.
“How ya doing?” asked a grey-haired gentleman walking in my direction. “Nice evening for a hike.” The sun hung low over the mountains behind him and I knew I had just enough time for a walk to the hilltop. The man offered me a pamphlet.
“Thank you, and it is!” I said.
We stood by my truck while he talked and talked and talked. He was a volunteer living on site in his RV. I listened to stories about his travels as the sun sunk closer to jagged mountaintops. There was a moment when I gave up and thought, Well, I guess I’m just going to talk to this friendly fella instead of seeing the petroglyphs today.
By the time he wished me well, I knew it was too late to see everything, but I grabbed my super bright tactical headlamp and set off to see what I could. The walk began at the desert floor and meandered up a rocky hill sprinkled with boulders etched with 1000-plus year-old art. The sky was already coated in vibrant pastels.
The further I walked, the more in awe I became. My speedy pace settled into a lazy saunter. The hill was a lone large mound surrounded by miles of flat, dusty desert and shrubs. In the distance, in every direction, there were dark silhouettes of mountain ridges. I stopped to sip it all in. It was as if I were in the center of a soup bowl of western delight, ringed with black peaks backlit by dazzling, dusky purples mixed with rusty oranges, reds, and glowing pinks. The ground was a gallery of ancient rock art, and each piece held a story: animals, star bursts, humans, birds, fish, geometric shapes and arrows.
This was in March 2018, early in my full-timing journey. I had been on the road solo for four months and was very lonely. If I could have pushed a button that magically brought back my house and my old job and plopped me back into my old life . . . in a heartbeat, I would have pushed the button. I thought I’d made the worst decision of my life.
So there I was, in the midst of this awful, lonely spell, wandering through one of the most picturesque scenes I’d ever seen. Near the top, at a cliff’s edge, I sat on a large, flat boulder that was perched facing due west. To my back, left and right were more tall boulders decorated with ancient graffiti. It was as if I were in nature’s skybox watching a light show while surrounded on all sides by thousand-year-old photo albums as stars twinkled in the new night’s sky.
That’s when I noticed him: a petroglyph of a man over my left shoulder. I thought, Oh, I’m not alone. This little guy is watching the show with me. He’d watched hundreds of thousands of different renditions of this show — looking west, as each day slips into night. Then I realized whoever etched him 1000-plus years ago sat right where I was sitting.
A cascade began to drop. I thought about the people who drew all the art surrounding us. I felt their presence, all of our presence. I wondered how many people sat right here in nature’s skybox and watched the sunset. I felt a deep connection to the little guy, to the person who drew the little guy, to all the other people that shared this view, and it kept going. It was almost as If I could hear “boom-boom-boom . . .” as the feeling of connection grew and grew into a wholeness with everyone. I watched the most magnificent sunset with tears flowing down my face, feeling how completely un-alone I ever am.
As I soaked in the peaceful oneness, oodles of gratitude welled up for the man in the parking lot. If he wouldn’t have stopped me, I would have hiked up and back down before dark. I might not have sat on this rock and seen the little guy and realized all of this.
Then it happened all over again, the boom- boom-boom of a cascade of realizing: If that man hadn’t talked to me, I wouldn’t have sat here . . . Wait, if everything that happened today hadn’t happened exactly as it did, I might not have sat here. Oh, it’s bigger than that . . . I remembered all the hard times in my last year and realized each instance led up to this. Every instance of my life brought me to this specific rock. No, it was even bigger, since before I was born . . . If the Romans hadn’t had the war back in the 7th century BC . . .
The cascade kept falling until: Oh my goodness, EVERYTHING is always a part of the perfect unfolding of life, even when it doesn’t seem perfect in the moment.
“Everything” being the good, the bad, the hard times, the amazing times, the easy times—every single moment of it. Everything from before birth through our entire lives and beyond. There were many things I worked really hard for and there were even more things that “just happened” miraculously, like this moment.
There I was, with everything all at once — surrounded with love, beauty and connection.
I walked down the hill under a velvety black sky and millions of stars. Stones crunched with each step while a chorus of cricket chirps and whistling wind filled the air. My headlamp captured petroglyphs in its circle of light every which way I looked.
This nomadic journey has changed me. Even back then, I was already slowing down, becoming more reflective, opening up to ideas, people and presence. The old me might not have gone out to the desert, or the old me might have interrupted the man and rushed to the top and back down before the sunset. Or the old me might have gone back to my trailer when the man finished talking. Things that are beyond our imagination happen when we are really OK with what is, when we enjoy our moments and take the walk. Or take the drive.
After all, isn’t that what we are all about? I could have bought any old RV to live in, but something called me to an Airstream. I had no idea what I was diving into . . . and all of the wonderful people and experiences that come as a package deal with this shiny home on wheels.
Now it rings true that we are always surrounded by love, beauty, and connection, no skybox in the desert needed.