What you learn standing in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.

The thing about a desert is that it is significantly quieter than an urban metropolis tends to be. Obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the disparate landscapes; not so obvious to someone who has never really ventured beyond the confines of her city dwelling.

Now I’ve seen desert (what up, southern Israel!), but I haven’t ever truly let myself experience it. I haven’t stood at the top of a canyon magically placed in the midst of it and pondered my existence in the wider world. Or, I hadn’t until last weekend, when I found myself on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, soaking in the Sonoran Desert rays.

And though I was adorned in all the Orthodox Jew trimmings one has in mind when hiking through the desert– long black dress; thick tights; and a wool scarf– I was able to enjoy the beauty of nature in its purest state. And minus the paved path my darling Ginger and I took to reach the highest point in the canyon, I really had an earthy experience.

I was one with the mountain lions, bobcats, and my personal favorite– javelinas. My fear of hibernating rattlesnakes disappeared, and I embraced a world in which sand and rock and carnivorous cats could all live happily ever together. I listened to the silence, and for the first time since moving back to New York, I didn’t pray for the sound of sirens to interrupt it.

Which is to say that while standing at a peak of Sabino Canyon, I had a realization of major implications. I could embrace a world without concrete and the occasional tree. I could bask in the beauty of my thoughts. And I could be alone without being lonely.

I’ve been a city slicker since I was in diapers, but I’ve never been comfortable being alone. Though I pride myself on being a self-sufficient, wholly independent lady, I have always yearned for companionship– be it in friendship or romance. And nights spent alone, pining after a fictional deputy chief of staff on The West Wing, have never truly satisfied my need to connect with others.

But in the three minutes I stood at the top of the canyon I realized that I could be perfectly content standing there another three minutes without inspecting my phone or checking my watch. I could do what one friend made me think was impossible– remain silent and actually be totally and completely fine with it. Or, at least kind of ok with it.

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