As I approached Petrified Forest National Park, I started playing one of the Star Wars soundtracks. I was half expecting to find an Imperial craft flying above me, a Lothal cat roaming the landscape, or an inquisitor with a bright red lightsaber emerging onto the scene. When I had seen pictures of this park, it reminded me entirely of the planet Lothal from Star Wars Rebels. Lothal is the home planet of Ezra Bridger, and a unique landscape with a combination of prairie and desert with striped and rounded rock formations standing solidarily in fields.
When I am planning my National Park adventures I do plan for the music that is going to accompany my arrival at each park. Last year I chose the Planes: Fire and Rescue soundtrack for driving into Yosemite, because I learned the creators of the movie were inspired by the park. The soundtrack accompanied the park just perfectly, and now when I play the music from Planes: Fire and Rescue, images and memories of Yosemite come back to me very vividly. Music in very powerful and a place in which to store memories.
Before arriving at the Petrified Forest, I traveled from Saguaro National Park and was captivated by the scenic drive to get there. I arrived via highways 77 and 60 which passed through the Tonto National Forest (“tonto” is the Spanish word for stupid -maybe not the best word choice). I also passed through the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache Tribe Reservations. I pulled over maybe five times to snap pictures and take it all in. The roads were curving around the edge of striking canyons and over majestic mountains. The views were just so stunning that at one particular spot I pulled my car over to the side of the road, stepped outside to the embracing heat, and just sat on the edge of the canyon overlooking the bend of a river and wept.
I cried. I cried in response to the beauty of it all. I had probably seen more beautiful vistas, but not for a long while, so this cut deep inside me. I also felt a sense of accomplishment in being able to arrive at such a beautiful and new vista. Being able to take these adventures is not easy. It follows a year of hard work. It follows a year of trying to take six-hundred students from point A to point B in the classroom. It follows a semester of grad school when I’m expected to work more hours than what exists. It follows my annual battle with my health insurance company which would rather have me dead. My summer vacation marks the end of all of these things. It’s a checkpoint and an opportunity to look and back and see that I survived. It’s a moment to really stop and take in the finish-line and release all the emotions that have been suppressed to stay afloat. It’s a moment to realize I don’t have any responsibilities, except to breath deeply.
It’s also in these beautiful vistas that I see a reflection. I see a reflection of God. I don’t see happenstance and chaos that create a beautiful vista, but I see something carefully designed, placed, and molded with time and weather by the Creator. And in such moments as this one, when I stop to really take in the beauty, it’s as if I lock eyes with the Creator. God is showing me something incredible he has created. As I am captivated in awe by the work of art around me, I realize the very same artist who constructs these amazing views with great depths, great heights, and abundant detail, is the same one who created and molded me. I’m overcome with thankfulness and humility as I am reminded where I come from. I come from the very same hands which crafted the beauty of this world.
As I connect with God in this moment, I also connect to the land, realizing I am but another piece on it’s beautiful canvas. Nothing is strange, nothing is too different nor invasive. The land and everything that grows and roams around on it is sourced by the very same artist. It’s such an incredible feeling to come to this understanding and truly embrace it. To me it’s part of what I would consider “becoming one with nature.”
Gaining my composure, and feeling one with the Force (or nature) I continued on my 275 mile drive to Petrified Forest National Park. I arrived with my Star Wars music playing loudly. I rolled into the visitor center, like pulling up to the Rebel base. First order of business- securing a wilderness permit.
Read the next entry “National Park Girl Steals My Heart” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/national-park-girl-steals-my-heart-2/
Read the previous entry “Saguaro National Park: Land of Killer Bees,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/saguaro-national-park-land-of-killer-bees/