Yesterday my mother mentioned on the phone that she liked the new picture on my blog.
“The one with a moose in it.”
“Or is it an elk?”
At which point, I realized that blog header photo is pretty small, and could use some explanation. Those dark spots are not moose. Those are burros. They were not standing by the Canadian border up north, but at the Mexican border, all the way down south. Here’s a full version of the picture (click for a larger image).
I took this photo on a hike at Big Bend National Park in West Texas. We camped there for a long weekend in late 2009. The picture is from the American side of the border, but mama donkey and her colt were across the Rio Grande in Mexico. It seemed a good match for the tagline I added to the header: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the hill. It’s greener where you water it.” While I mentioned that saying specifically in the context of marriage here, it’s a pretty good reminder for any part of our life. We don’t have a choice where the Army makes us live, how long we have to work, or what chores need doing. Many friends hate the fort we’re posted to. But our life is a choice – succumb to whining about the weather, the seedy stores, the distance to “real cities”, the friends and family we miss – or cultivate a rich, joyful, worshipful life wherever we’re placed with the time we’re given. Take a look at this zoomed out photograph, showing not just the donkeys but the Mexican hills receding in the distance:
Big Bend National Park is in the middle of the desert. Just beyond the narrow patch of riverside grass, the land returns to rocky scrub. Water in the desert is an amazing thing.
Here’s another picture, taken before I climbed a hill for better shots. See the muddy little creek running along the bottom of the picture? That….*drumroll*….is our southern national border, the Rio Grande River. Yes. I too was underwhelmed. You could wade across here without getting your knees wet. National security in the Big Bend region doesn’t come from a secure border or guards, but from hundreds of miles of waterless desert on either side of the river. The Border Patrol checkpoint stands an hour up the road, because there is no other way out.
Big Bend National Park is an amazing place, and home to our favorite hike of all time. That one probably deserves a post of its own. It is not, however, a gentle or forgiving environment: crushing heat, endless deserts, steep mountains, marauding javelinas, lions, rattlesnakes, black bears, scorpions, and tarantulas as big as your hand (I almost stepped on this one):