Searching for Clarity on the Tumbled Rock Trail

Trail ©2015 Bo Mackison

… that is what learning is.
You suddenly understand
something you’ve understood all your life,
but in a new way.  ~ Doris Lessing

Searching for Understanding

Tumbled Rocks Trail, a meandering mile long trail through a lower bluffs talus field of gray, purple and pale green quartz, offers niches for studying tiny grottoes of splendor and lake views to the consider the expansive glacial landscapes. The trail is only a few feet above lake level, perfect for an intimate shoreline experience, always a thin place where land meets water.

Step by step, I slowly wander the rocky path, then find a spot to sit in this jumble of quartzite boulders. The lake, a  spring fed lake created by the damming of the valley in the last Glacial period, turns cold in autumn. I set up my temporary work space amidst the ancient boulders – a place where I can write, photograph, sketch, day-dream.

As I do most days, I draw a card from my deck of Desert Wisdom Cards  which I created while living in southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. (Each of 52 cards offers a desert photograph and a single word for reflection.)

Today’s card is CLARITY.

Desert Wisdom Card - Clarity Notice how your clarity helps you see others more clearly. Notice how that clarity feels within you and how you respond (or don't). ©2014 Bo Mackison

Desert Wisdom Card – Clarity  ©2014 Bo Mackison

While sitting on glacial boulders in Wisconsin, I pull a card that depicts granite and sandstone boulders in the desert, a sacred place which holds ancient wisdom. Coincidence? Maybe not..

Contemplating Desert Wisdom

Deep in a desert canyon, the cliff walls and boulders are etched with petroglyphs — a wilderness gallery of primitive art. The symbols – pecked into the black varnish of many desert boulders and canyon cliffs? Perhaps they are astronomical markers. Tribal symbols of belonging. The art of a story-teller.

Wisdom in the constancy of the heavens,
wisdom in community,
wisdom in the telling of the story.

I scribble a few notes, then wander through the rocks, take photos, explore a crevice filled with mosses and lichens. Daydream, stand in awe of the beauty that surrounds me, reflect on “clarity” and settle in to write.

A timed, free write on clarity:

It is impossible to find clarity in what is to come. There is only clarity in the here and now. Working from shadows to light. Reflections in light. A primitive understanding. There is a slow loosening, I am becoming more understanding, more content to be who I am. As I feel stronger, I gain more clarity and I can see my wondrous life-path unfolding in deep and mysterious ways. Yes. There will be delicious discoveries, painful heartaches, unexpected change, the ups and downs of living a life, fully aware. Clarity.

Much writing, thinking, and art  — all as guides to find ways of re-seeing and redefining the terms of old beliefs. Messages of “it’s all your fault”, “not good enough” and “you’re so sensitive” have played on an unending loop for too long. How to deal with the anger that surfaces — knowing that feeling is necessary and healthy and messy and time-consuming. All a big messy soup of raw emotions, memories and thoughts. Straining through this soup will take time and it will also add much clarity.

A quote and questions…

Anger can bring clarity and strength. When we let ourselves feel the full force of our anger, the clarity we receive can be amazing. When we recognize, “this is what ticks me off, this is why, and this is how I need things to be different!” we can experience the relief that such clarity can bring. A good relationship with our angry feelings can give us the determination to forge ahead, the strength to “stand our own ground,” the energy and focus to let the world around us know what is and is not okay.

~ From Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, Ph.D.

  • How does increased clarity about myself, my plans, my dreams, my relationships affect my day-to-day…?
  • What does clarity on an issue bring to my life, to my work, dreams, hopes, to my relationships with others?
  • How will I choose to respond to new awareness?

What messages and further reflections on clarity might I take from symbols in my daily life?

  • things are not always as they seem
  • in the mystery of the slowly unfolding question lies the unexpected, a course of action, perhaps even an answer
  • symbols? incorporate symbols and metaphors as meaning in my life, clarity appears in bursts of connections.

There are always more questions than answers. Always more to explore, consider, assimilate.


My mantra:  “I believe nature offers opportunities for connection, the arts offer opportunities for self-expression, and life offers continual opportunities for growth and self-discovery.”  ~ Bo Mackison


About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Very stimulating thoughts and observations.

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