This crazy September weather brings me back to the similar and unusual weather experienced in Arizona last month. Spur of the moment is one way to describe it. Totally awesome is another. As I lay here, feeling a bit unwell, maybe due to the dry weather or a bit of stress or even just a bug, I am extremely excited to share a few glimpses.

I once heard someone say, “I want to take back the word ‘awesome.’ Reclaim it back to a word that means incredibly awe-inspiring.” If I said that the mountains and rocks and trees and stars I saw were awesome, it doesn’t have the same effect as I want it to. I can’t really describe it in words. That’s what photographs are for. Although just a state away, a few tanks of gas, and 2-3 necessary pit stops from our origin, you wouldn’t think the land of Arizona is all that.

I was born here. Somewhere here. And yes, it’s mostly desert. Dry. Arid. And yet, so many gems are found across this land that the media does no justice to. As I strolled into Sedona for the first time (I may have been here as a small infant, so let’s just say it’s my first time), after so many hours of California Joshuas slowly transitioning into saguaros with all sorts of arm formations, I was filled with joy seeing layers and layers of water-colored rock that continually had me looking skyward. Annoyed at all the roundabouts, I just wanted to park and gaze at them.

Too late in the day for a hike, Flagstaff was on the list. Ascending into forest territory, I was a bit thrown off by the heaviest rain I ever remember seeing. Coffee and tea was a must-needed treat to take a break from the storm. The small college town was still bustling amidst all the unexpected precipitation as people ran door to door. I loved seeing the buzzing neons signs in the foreground of the formidable clouds.

I hadn’t seen lighting in a long time. It reminded me how small I am and how beautiful and powerful God made nature to be. How can someone even speak into existence how particles in a cloud, like rubbing a balloon creates static, are positive and negative, and once separated, they try to neutralize each other and let out so much energy that a streak of light miles long can light up our sky. I did a lot of looking into the sky during this time. I might have even strained my neck a bit, but you can’t look away.

Back to red rock county, looking at those rocks never got boring. There’s so many shapes, sizes, heights, and colors. After picking one to climb, I remember looking out into the valley; a mix of dirt and trees, thinking again, “I am so small.” This place is seven hours away from where I call home and yet it’s still my backyard. Incredible. More please. Making a trek to heart of the canyon, a fairly wide creek was mixing and stirring, fresh with rain water. The clay from the walls of the canyon turned runny as the storm got stronger and turned the stream’s little capillaries a shade of terra cota. Realizing that climbing back up the canyon walls wasn’t the smartest of plans because the wet rock is slippery and clay-like, getting out of the storm by going through the creek was the next best bet. Once out, the exit opened up to a wide field just as the rain began to slow down. That was my favorite. God was so present in that moment for me because I felt like He was just trying to tell us He loved us through the beautiful creations He made. Everyone else who was playing in the creek went home by now (or was still there not acknowledging flash-flood possibilities), so the peace and quiet got me looking up at the formations for countless minutes. There were shades of red and purple amidst healthy grass and towering trees.

When in a foreign place, I’m all for taking advantage of every single moment, but by golly, it takes a lot out of you. After all my talk of the beauty of nature, I was secretly happy that it was too cloudy to see stars because there was a time where I really did not want to go out and get time-lapses. Firstly, it’s dark. Second, I am shamefully impatient sometimes and long-exposures are hard work. Third, I forgot bug spray and I try my best to lay off the DEET. Joke was on me. Clouds disappeared and I could see millions of stars with my naked eye. Let’s just say I’m glad my heart was softened by seeing the stars above, again, following this theme about how small I am in this universe. Although noobish and archaic in my time-lapse knowledge, I was able to fashion out a system that worked out for me, enough to be pleasantly okay with the photos I got. Ask me about it.

As it came time to leave, I had one more opportunity to say goodbye to red rock county for the time being. On the last day, I took a few moments more to myself just look at them, not like I ever stopped since I arrived, thinking, “God really is the most creative being in the universe.” I mean, limestone and sandstone, basalt. The rock rusted due to water. This was all covered in water. Before time was time, before I was born, and before that expensive smoothie joint opened up down the street. There is so much diversity in such a small width of land and that could not have just been random. Realizing that I don’t have to fly on a plane or go overseas to have a good experience was a really good reminder for me. A few months ago, that’s all I wanted to do. Recently, I’ve been very content just being an explorer in my own community and making the most out of every day. I am thankful for all the experiences I had, but something cool I was told was, “If you look back into the past or focus too hard about what will happen in the future, you will miss what God is doing right now.”