It’s amazing what comes to light when you think you’re going to die.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I hear your skeptical voices.
But you weren’t THERE, okay? And before you judge, let me explain my crazy.
I was house sitting out in Red Rock Canyon in a beautiful community that backs up to iron-filled mountains on the west side of the valley.
Typically, spending time on the outskirts of the city surrounded by hints of nature, a giant moon, and tiny dogs makes me feel at peace. But this time that was not to be.
We’d put down my dog only hours prior to my moving over to watch dachshunds. And regardless of their wiggling and slobbering enthusiasm, I didn’t want their cuddles. They didn’t snore like my beagle did. They didn’t beg for treats by reciting a tome of tricks. And they didn’t fill my heart with the happiness she had.
Putting down gal’s best friend sucks major balls.
I spent most of the day toiling around the house. I tried to work. I organized pens and drank coffee. I watched a few episodes of Nashville. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t quiet my mind.
I decided to go for a run before the sun sank behind the mountains. So I took off with just the house key in my pocket, choosing a trail I’d never taken. Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good” played in my mind.
Clouds gathered ominously as I made my way on a path around the golf course. I hugged the side of the mountains, keeping a lookout for any lurking mountain lions or bobcats (they were known to make frequent appearances in the area). I watched rabbits and quail scatter, searching for a hiding place. In the distance I heard thunder rumble.
I breathed in the air’s moisture (one of my favorite smells) and tried pushing out thoughts with every step. But my feet just kept time for the split-screen sadness rolling in my head.
I was shaken out of my mental movie when a raindrop hit my cheek. The blanket of clouds had caught up with me. It started to sprinkle.
I never minded the rain. I curved with the path, expecting to see a turn-off to head back to surburbia. The rain started coming down harder.
I frowned as I realized my path had led me to another twisting descent, followed by another curve into the horizon. Maybe behind the bend was the turn-off? I was too far to go back anyway. So I kept going.
I slowed to a walk as I made my way down the steep path. It was slick. My clothes were soaked through. I saw cracks of lighting strike nearby. Something smelled like it was burning. The sun was escaping me faster than I thought.
It was time to go home. And quickly.
The rain poured down in sheets. I’d made it to the bottom of the curve and around the bend. But when I finally saw where the path led I whimpered at the sight. At least two miles of winding trail lie in front of me.
Rivers of water cut through the desert landscape. All the critters had disappeared. There was no shelter to take, no person in sight. There was no escape.
I had no choice but to keep moving. I tried to push the headlines out of my head. HOUSE SITTER GOES MISSING IN RAIN STORM. Or would it read TWENTY-SOMETHING KILLED IN ONCE-A-YEAR VEGAS STORM? Or possibly, LONE STUPID HIKER BECOMES CASUALTY IN RED ROCK FLOODING.
Now I was panicking. I had no phone on me, no-one knew I was out here, and darkness was fast approaching. My clothes now hung limply against my body, dripping. The sheets of rain made it difficult to see.
I broke into a run again. I needed to get back. I needed to make it away from the lightning.
There have been few times in my life where I’ve been afraid of something happening to me.
For the most part I always feel protected by the Universe.
But this was definitely one of those times I felt danger.
I ran until breathing made me ache. I don’t remember having any logical thoughts besides, Calm down. Breathe. You’re almost there. I ran until I finally found a road to a nearby neighborhood. It felt like hours.
Naturally, this was when the rain let up. My shoes squished, my clothes dripped, and my hair hung like a wet mop in its frizzy ponytail. Cars passed me by, splashing water on me, unaware of my close encounter with the elements.
All I could think over and over was why? Why had this happened? Rain was one of my favorite things to experience. But it had felt so dangerous and deadly. Why did it turn on me in such a way?
I finally recognized my surroundings. And as I reached the apex of the hill, I stopped at the sight.
The sun bloomed in colors of sherbert against the mountains, sun beams bursting through clouds. The rays made the mountains glow. I couldn’t help but exhale in awe.
And then I realized, this must be it: Sometimes, there needs to be danger, destruction, and struggle to appreciate the beauty Nature also has to offer.
As I wrung out my hair and poured water out of my shoes, I couldn’t help but appreciate the lesson..
… But that still doesn’t mean I wish I could have just read it in a book somewhere.