For many years I have worked for a more balanced life in order to be as fully alive as possible. Intellectual work, manual work,artistic work,friendships, works of mercy or activism for change,they are all needed for animus and anima to grow together harmoniously. But, for a few decades I had been deprived of another need,the close contact with the natural world which was part of my youth. Now I live in Las Vegas, where the population growth is insane,and pushes away the limits of the desert. Luckily,however,within a 20 minutes drive from home I can enjoy a wildlife area. A few times a month,I go there to be re-juvenated, re-created.

The desert can be frightening. Immensity,sun,rocks,wind, dryness and thorny bushes,create a rough environment not so pleasant at first contact. "Where are the snakes hidden? When will the scorpions bite?" were my first questions.But half an hour from the most artificial city built on illusions and sophisticated lies--"a city up-side-down"-- where the sufferings are many and so shockingly side by side with easy money, what a benediction to have the truth of this natural world!

I do not go there only to be in a more natural context, in the midst of the truth of Mother Earth. I go there to experience once more and more deeply,if possible, that I am just part of the created world.I go there to touch in some way the fraternal relationship with these non-human beings.I attempt to open all my senses to their messages. Messages of the sun,the sunrising and the sunsetting, the warmth of the sun on the whole body.Messages of the breeze, of the changing sky, of the clouds. I like to touch, smell the rocks, the sand, the plants and listen to their whisperings.I like to lie down on the ground, feeling the earth. I let the colors enter into me, be they from the rocks, the haze, the plants or the clouds. How many amazing animals have something to tell me! poor frightened snakes and scorpions!How many plants ,cactus, yuccas,Joshua trees, bushes of different kinds, but also tiny marvelous flowers close to the ground.

When you are tired or worried it is not so easy to receive the blessings from these brothers and sisters,to be vulnerable to them,without material defense or rationalization. They are ever ready to gift me from our common so generous Creator,but openess needs an effort in order to benefit from such a munificence.

I go into the desert also to experience the truth of my human condition,my smallness in the middle of such a gorgeous festival coming from the creativity of the Source of all beings, and at the same time to experience what a privilege it is for a human being to have in that world the mission of sharing in God's love for all these created beings.What a blessing to continue this loving relationship of a Creator who does not want to dominate but to bring to fullness through the warmth of love.

What an awakening of all the senses in that nature relatively preserved,not too polluted by so many useless things! What a cleansing of so many superfluous needs and thinkings! Re-created,strengthened by a rebuilt relationship with the cosmos,healed by the blessings of the natural elements and the creatures, then from a hill or mountain,I can bless the city and all its inhabitants, calling upon them the true blessing of the gracious Creator,and of the creatures which surround me.

During longer vacations, in whatever place I can reach, it is for a similar experience that I search:along an ocean,a lake,or a river,or immersed in their water,hidden in a cave in the womb of Mother Earth,walking on glaciers or on snow,soaking in a hot spring, or almost lost in a forest. In each circumstance I search for the same openess which only can refresh,recreate me: open to the blessing coming from our sisters and brothers of the natural world, and making that blessing available for the rest of Creation and the people I am called to minister with.

Alain Richard,ofm May 1993