I was told it was going to be cold in the mountains of New Mexico.
I was built for sun, for heat of any kind—the hotter, the stickier, the thicker, the meltier—that’s my jam.
I don’t like the cold much, which makes it all the more ironic that I live in Chicago, where we have a five-month winter. Suffice it to say, I take every opportunity I can to get out of the cold.
I was also told it was going to be a two mile hike to the San Antonio hot springs in the Jemez mountains.
I was proven wrong by all of this.
The air was crisp but we had the sun for companionship.
The hike was gorgeous and full of singing and laughter and frequent stops to spy on squirrels, but it was six miles long.
By the time we reached the sign that reads, “Good job, go for it! You’re almost there, champ!” (in not so many words), we had almost finished a box of wine and our lungs were pumped so full of mountain air that we were buzzed and ecstatic and already feeling like we had just won some prize that was never advertised but worth more than all of Oprah’s giveaways.
And then…then I found God.
I’ve experienced God before—I’ve experienced God in various meditations, I’ve experienced God in conversation and love-making and bath-taking, but this was the first time I surrendered to God in nature.
The feeling of God for me is not that of a separate entity guiding my life-path and judging my actions accordingly; for me, God is the feeling of having nothing left to do—if I were to die right now, I would say, take me, I am yours as I have always been, I am in wanting of nothing.
I stripped myself bare in nature and I stepped into warm mountain water that was perfectly contrasted with the temperature of the air to send off steam and fog and shawl.
I stepped into a pool that was lined with floor vacillating between the stages of rock and sand—already storied far beyond any wisdom I think I have, and only partly done.
There were shades of stone and shades of leaves and shades of sun that I had never seen before. And although I was completely fascinated and silenced by all of this, those miraculous shades did not care whether or not I marveled at them. They do not exist to be beautiful, they exist for the sake of existing.
People began to join us, and not once did I question my nakedness because I was not naked, I was simply myself—I was the Earth’s and the Earth was mine.
My nakedness was completely stripped of all cultural meaning—it was not sexy, it was not attractive or unattractive, it was not a ploy to get what I want.
My nakedness was simply a house for bones and a house for blood and a house for a pair of lungs that receives and gives, receives and gives, receives and gives…
We met an older man who lived among these mountains and drank from this spring often. He carried his Jim Beam and made ramen from the mountain water. When someone mentioned offhandedly what a poor job the government is doing, he looked down through his handle-bar mustache and said quietly, “well…they’ve got a lot on their plate.”
He knows of a peace I hope to know.
We met a couple, both of which were strikingly beautiful. He was young and built only for chopping wood and climbing boulders and hand-standing on the beach. She was perhaps 15 years his senior and had blue eyes that were gifted to her from the sky.
When he walked away to grab some water from his bag, I turned to her and asked, “What do you love about each other?”
She smiled and paused and smiled and paused and smiled and paused, and then she said, “we play together.”
We play together.
And so I began to play. I took my turn laying on a rock and I looked up at the sky and I played with the clouds. I played with breath and air and water and rock. I played with thoughts and feelings. I played with all the people who were tumbling around inside of me—friends and lovers and family—and sent them love.
May we each learn how to play.
And this Earth that I became a part of this day—this was not the Earth that is resigned to trash piles the size of Texas in the Pacific; this is not the Earth that is being stripped bare of its resources; this is not the Earth that houses seven billion folks who’d rather fight than love.
This Earth was completely unassuming in its beauty—without trying, without feeling the need to justify or prove herself to anyone, this Earth was both the most striking in her beauty, and the most common in her beauty.
I thanked her for being a part of me, and she thanked me for being a part of her.
I often lose track of time (that is usually the marker of a good time for me), and this day was absolutely no exception. We had intended an hour, maybe two, and yet eventually we begrudgingly had to peel ourselves away from rock and back into clothes to make the two-hour hike back.
It felt as if every single moment of life that I had reduced down to minutes and hours and days had been thrown out, and the Earth gave me opportunity to live anew—to just live.
Live in my breath and my bones and my skin and my smile.
And these bones and this blood and this billowing chest were not mine for keeping, they were mine for borrowing only, and in the borrowing may I learn to grow generous and kind and share myself.
I gathered my peace and I gathered my play and I gathered my God.
We still don’t know how much time we spent there.