• Bex McLaughlin

Desert Calling: Lesson 1, You Can't Control the Weather... or Can You?

Updated: Jun 9, 2019

During my solo trip to Utah and Arizona, I learned some valuable life lessons, including: You can't control the weather. I had perfectly timed my trip to the desert during late May to get a head start on summer, and come back to my home outside of Philadelphia thinner and tanner than I was before I left. Well, I think that saying "we make plans, God laughs" rings true.

A 100-Year Storm

May 17, 2019. The day before I would head out to Las Vegas and pick up a rental car to drive 1500 miles through mountains, desert and other amazing terrains in our National Parks system. On this day, I check the weather forecast for all my destinations, and see snow, rain, then more snow and more rain. And temps as low as in the 20's. I say to myself: "Self. What the for real holy heck?," run to REI to pick up some better gear (rain jacket, puffer coat and gloves), and decide to enjoy whatever adventure I am in for... which turns out to be what we can call a 100-year storm. It went something like this:

  • Day 1, Part 1: Bryce Canyon. Weather seems promising, but I am greeted with bitter winds upon arrival. Ten minutes later, a bustling snow storm picks up. Trails are closed. My hands lose all feeling. I retreat back to my AirBNB in Kanab, Utah.

  • Day 1, Part 2: I want to hike, damn it. I head to Kanab's Bunting Trail and decide to hike a mountain by myself. How this goes:

  • Day 2, Part 1: Grand Canyon, first attempt. I drive 1 hour and 50 minutes from Kanab to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As I get closer, I realize I am driving my little front-wheel SUV in a legitimate blizzard. Having spent four years studying in Syracuse, New York, I would call myself an expert snow-driver. But, zipping around bends and plowing through heavy winds is not what I am in the mood for. However, I have my eye on the prize: seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. Then (add doom-filled music here), with a few miles left to the entrance, I am greeted by a park ranger blocking the road. Due to the snow, the entrance is closed. @$*#%! ... I drive 1 hour and 50 minutes back to Kanab, listening to the only song my Spotify will play (because I have zero reception) on repeat. Shambala by Three Dog Night.

  • Day 2, Part 2: A glutton for punishment. I return to Bunting Trail. The scene of yesterday's hail storm and flash flood. I begin the hike when the same rolling clouds and cool wind pick up. I see a funnel cloud in the distance... and pretend it's not there. (I am getting my hike in, come hell or possibly more high water.) I run into a couple who advise me to turn around. So I do. And on my way back, I run into another couple who invite me to hike the mountain with them. I take on the more exciting challenge and we have a very wet, cold, sometimes scary, but ultimately rewarding experience. At the top of the mountain, as we're dodging hail pellets, the couple asks me if I saw the funnel cloud. I admit that yes I did. They send me a cool picture they took.

  • Day 3: Zion National Park. I climb Angel's Landing. Mostly beautiful weather.

  • Day 4: Page, Arizona--Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Lake Powell. Thunder storms come and go, but we finally get a great dose of sunlight and rainbows(!)

  • Day 5: Grand Canyon, second attempt. I drive through Flagstaff on my way to Sedona, and hit the South Rim. It's flurrying. I lose sensation in my face for a minute. But I am sitting at the Grand Canyon and enjoying its magnificence for the first time in my life. I get a hot chocolate, and all is well. I carry on to Sedona, where I witness a star-filled sky unlike anything I've seen before.

  • Day 6-8: In Sedona and Scottsdale, the weather is perfect. Actually, it is hot as basketballs in Scottsdale, but I still hike my butt off.

Needless to say, I had to bend with the wind (more so figuratively than literally) and adjust my plans day-by-day and sometimes minute-by-minute. To be honest, I started to become all sorts of cranky-pants after my North Rim let-down on Day 2, but I remembered that I have a choice about from what type of lens I experience life. So, I had put on my weather-chaser hat and decided to make the best of it. The rainbows and sunshine towards the end of the trip were pleasant rewards and seemed extra special after weathering snow, rain and wind early on. My heart was filled with such gratitude for the sunshine.

...Or Can You?: Controlling our Internal Weather

Now how's this for a spin on things? As much as I can't control what the weather Gods do, I do have some control over my internal weather. How I am feeling. My perspective. My attitude. For example, practicing gratitude can keep me sunny on the inside, no matter what's happening on the outside.

Tony Robbins is one of my favorite motivational speakers. I had an opportunity to see him live in NYC with Oprah, circa 2012, after winning a contest. Ever since then, he's been my go-to guy when I need a swift kick in the butt to take massive action in some area of my life. In this Good Day New York interview, Tony inspires us to make a routine during which we focus our thoughts and feelings to gratitude each and every day.

I apply this in my life, and I try to extend the benefit to those around me. Each Monday at work, I lead my team in a Motivational Monday pow-wow where we each state three things we're grateful for and set three goals to accomplish that week. I personally love starting the week focused on the things for which I am grateful and with clear-cut goals to accomplish. No matter what the weather's like outside, my internal weather report calls for sunshine and mild temps when gratitude overrides fear, anger, uncertainty and stress. I suggest you give it a try!

I'll end with this. Gratitude is an action word. We can say we are grateful till we are blue in the face. But, when we actually practice gratitude, we work hard to maintain the very things for which we are grateful. Grateful for my health? I exercise and eat well. Grateful for my family? I call them. I visit them. I love them. Grateful for my life? I am present.

How are you practicing gratitude, today? Answer in the comments


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