I can only hear my own breath, and the crunch of rock under my shoes. The sun, now falling in the sky, retraces its steps from the day before and throws shadows on the ridge like an artist casting light instead of paint. Pastels of green, pink, yellow and blue turn the horizon into a priceless view, the vision of which transforms this moment into a treasured gift.
I hike out here under the canopy of sky and clouds, grateful to be here now, in the natural world…beyond the boundaries of Vegas, beyond the glitzy neon of false promises and seduction, where dice and cards and slots threaten to empty bank accounts without warning…out here beyond an interior landscape of machines and shows and no clocks where the sun never rises, a place of blurry memories of last chances and regret.
Out here beyond the boundaries of Vegas lies the beauty of indigo bush, beaver tail cactus and red sandstone, and outcroppings more stunning than any casino faÃ§ade.
Please take me here when my inspiration wanes.
These four days, returning to a place not seen in a quarter century, make a statement about who I am, about who I have become, as time has passed.
Then…only 24, just out of college, beginning a career, young and ambitious, single and wide-eyed, quick to strike out and explore something new, the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip, the rush of winning a $40 hand of blackjack, and a repeat win on a dollar slot machine on successive forays to our breakfast buffet. Even the airline flight home offers a final thrill.
Now…suddenly 49, more than two decades in my chosen field of work, no longer working for someone else but business owner, married for 14 years, a step-father whose young charge is not young anymore, but 21. More importantly, I am no longer enamored by noisy places itching to draw me in close so they can rob me blind.
Please take me where the streets have no name.
My soul whispers that in my ear as I stand here, on the tenth floor balcony overlooking Tropicana Avenue, taking pictures of the scene in front of me. I focus on faraway hills behind the hotels, wondering how long it takes to get to the top and what the desert looks like from on high.
And then, I am there, standing on a platform overlooking a slab of open rock where the ancient ones left a story for us to read, of their day under the sun, perhaps hunting a nimble goat, perhaps gathering plants to eat, perhaps enjoying the red rock vistas that I now glance at overhead.
Standing in virtually the same space as these ancient storytellers, but in a different time, I sense the echoes of the past telling me that while so much has changed, much is still the same. While humankind continues to complicate life with more elaborate distractions, and create tools that make survival all that much easier, we still ponder the meaning of life as we take our first breath each day. We still go to sleep at night thinking of our loved ones, thankful for the good that has come to us this day. And, like the ancient ones whose footprints we continue to walk in today, we still have the choice in each moment of which path to take.
The path that brings me joy is being here now, under the setting sun, awake to all that brings me closer to inner harmony, when my emotions and my mind and my body and my soul are at peace.
Know that you can choose to be here, too.