Deserts are known for being dry, barren and lifeless. Due to hostile conditions, there aren’t many plants or animals that can survive in such climate. However, there are some exceptions. In a recent visit to California, I became enthralled by the plants and animals that are able to live in harsh conditions because of what we can learn by watching them thrive in desert places.
I visited Joshua Tree National Park, a protected desert wilderness which boasts striking views at every turn: large boulders, crazy rock formations and gorgeous 360 views of Coachella Valley. Sections of the park teleport you to a scene from the Flinstones, while others resemble my imagined terrain of Mars.
The critters who survive in the desert do so by adapting to their terrain. They don’t fight the desert conditions, they learn to adjust. For example, they live in rock crevices underground and come out to eat early in the morning when the dew is still wet on plant leaves. Can you spot the tiny, classic glutton, with the chubby cheeks in the pic below?
As for the plants, many of them store their water, some deep underground by creating bulbs in their roots. When our hikes led us close to sources of water, we saw more variation in flora and fauna.
However, there is one plant that can be seen everywhere in this desert, the Joshua Tree. I marvel at how these unique species of plant flourish in a place where most things die. Like Dr. Malcolm said in Jurrasic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”
Joshua Tree Huggin’
No doubt, the most enchanting thing about this park is the abundance of its namesake. These beautiful trees hold their spindly arms to the heavens, a sight that can only be seen in the Mojave desert. Named after Joshua from the bible, these trees look like they are waving their limbs to God in prayer and exaltation.
These trees live on average 150 years and have many uses for both humans and desert critters. They serve as both food and fiber, its leaves and bark can be used for crafting clothing, baskets, sandals, ropes, mats etc. and the fruit and blossoms are edible.
Life in Desert Places
I also visited family who lives in the desert. I stayed with them in Apple Valley, where I was able to quietly reflect on what I observed about life in desert places. It’s fascinating watching things bloom in what appears to be hostile conditions.
I began considering desert places in my life: areas where I’ve wanted to see growth and abundance but it hasn’t quite manifested yet. I also thought about my past, on times when I went through seasons of life where I felt desolate.
Unbirthed dreams, or unexpected dry seasons in our lives, can be painful. The pain of the desert has taught me 3 important lessons:
Stay Close to the Water
Plants and animals that live close to a water source do not fear desert life. Staying prayerful, meditating, and taking time to stay connected to God puts the dry seasons into perspective. ‘ Blessed is the one who trusts God, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’ Jeremiah 17: 7-8
Learn to Adapt
The marvels of adaptation are evident in the desert and teach us to be flexible and resourceful. Life will sometimes catch us off guard, put a wrench in it, or just not turn out the way we imagine. In those moments we adapt, rather than fighting change, or not going with the flow of the season. ‘I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland’ Isaiah 43:19.
Be like the Joshua Tree
The tree digs deep roots and stores water many feet underground, which helps it stay nourished. It teaches us that roots provide safety and resources. In turn, the tree provides food and shelter for many animals. When we are rooted (despite the desert places), others can depend on us. The Joshua tree leaves a legacy, its fruitfulness has a domino effect. It does all this while waving its arms in exaltation to the heavens.
Speaking of Legacy…
Last week my wonderful grandmother passed away, at 93 years old. I watched her live out the lessons above on earth, as she cared for her husband, her 14 children and her many grand and great-grandchildren. She loved the Lord, her family and blessed the lives of countless other people. She has left a remarkable legacy, and wealth that surpasses the value of money, gold or diamonds. Love you, Mama Earle ❤