The Feel of the Path – A Desert Pilgrimage

Palo Verde

The Feel of the Path – A Desert Pilgrimage

I walk
Through thorn scrub and desert foothills
follow a winding arroyo into high canyon country.

I memorize my foot fall, draw a map, illusion of being in control,
glimpse lizards skittering into rocky crevices,
hold silent conversations with the crone saguaro.

Canyon boulders balance with precision,
boulders shoulder boulders, a giant’s cairn guiding my way.


Road to Nowhere

Tree skeletons loom above the grasses choked dry. Scant rainfall.
Agave, flowers spent, seed heads brittle brown
they remain standing tall, rooted in the ruts of an abandoned mine road.
Dust swirls. Land obscured. It does not require eyesight
to know one’s place. Vision will do.

A rattlesnake coils, rises from the earth,
iridescent eyes level with my belt.
A warning flicker, rattle dry like bamboo chimes,
then he disappears in the thick grasses of the arroyo.

I stand on the edge, breathless. Desert encounters.
Precipices. Edges. Stay in the moment.



This is a rough land, it fits my temperament.

Her wilderness is comfort,
her unexpected lushness is gift,
her relentless demands insist on awareness,
her solitude is rare blessing,
her sun-bleached land a tonic,
her dark night skies a reminder to rest.
It is in darkness that the light returns.

How ancient the land upon which I walk,
volcanic rock cold upon the hot desert earth.
Fossils of trilobites and shark teeth hint at
its story, once upon a time an ocean.

I commit to memory all that surrounds me,
Reminders of being home.

Even when I leave I stay.


Terry Tempest Williams writes,  “If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.” Yes, desert pilgrimage is sinking into the depths of self — getting lost, getting found, sometimes staying in the middle space between lost and found.





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. Beautiful, Bo. <3

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