What no one tells you about the desert season

River bennett ( Photographer River Bennett)

The heat was waiting, ready to slap me across the face as I opened the heavy door of our suburban. It was unlike the heat back home. I felt the immediate impact - dry, oppressive and draining.

Once we were all out of the car, we wandered across the American desert highway that wound its way towards the horizon. As I started to feel the temperature rise, beads of sweat trickled down my face. I covered my forehead with my cupped hand for protection against the bright light and intense heat, wishing I hadn’t forgotten to apply the 30SPF sunscreen. Everything looked blurry, and I could feel my skin burning.

The silence within this Joshua Tree National Park was stunning. I listened for a rattle snake, the scurry of a scorpion, or some kind of wild creature but I heard nothing. Nothing. The entire world suddenly seemed so entirely huge and I felt so entirely small. All I could hear was my steady breathing - in and out, in and out. 

We wandered through a cactus garden on gravel footpaths which had been specifically made for tourists to get ‘up close and personal’ with the nature of the desert. I noticed huge wasps hovering like miniature helicopters over the cactus flowers and I warned the Wolfpack to be extra careful. I'm sure the wasp’s stingers would cause quite the drama if they were stung.

My mind wandered to scenes of the movie Mad Max - a movie which was set in the future, where no cities or civilisations were left on the earth. Filmed in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and everyone is fighting for the necessities of life, there are two rebels who just might be able to restore order—Max (Tom Hardy), and Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.

This desert landscape looked freakishly similar to the movie, with its dry arid regions with little to no rainfall - the place where some plants bloom and die in the course of a few weeks after rainfall. Many of the animals are nocturnal and stay in the shade or stay underground during the heat of the day. And although there are people who live in the desert, most people tend to avoid making the harsh desert landscape their permanent dwelling. Most, like Furiosa (Charlize Threron) would rather make it across the desert landscape in search of survival in a more green, luscious setting.

This climate reminded me of the landscapes of life.

Those dry, seemingly unfruitful seasons, where things didn't turn out the way we had hoped or dreamed. Where the temperature of anxiety and panic rose within us and left us with a blurry vision and sunburnt ego.

You know, those landscapes and seasons of isolation where all we can hear is the silent, piercing reality of aloneness and our thirsty creative natures are crying out to be hydrated.  

It’s that place where we planted seeds of innovation in a business endeavor, or shared a creative idea, only to find it now lying on the floor of a dry, barren land. Our eager hope for a harvest had been stung by an undetected wasp and it hurt – boy, did it hurt. 

The Desert Landscape of life is the landscape we all experience at one time or another. It’s inevitable. And if we are honest, it’s one that we so desperately want to avoid! We want to get that season over and done with as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Many live in a daily survival-mode, like Furiosa. They try to push through the harsh terrain, regain strength and start somewhere different on their creative journey. But sadly, many fall victim to hunger and allow death to drain away the dream they’d had worked so hard for.

I got to thinking about this in our time in the Joshua Tree desert.

It was true, there was a harshness to this landscape, but there was also something unique and beautiful about it.

What if the Desert Landscapes in our life offered us something positive?

What if there was a purpose to be found here?

What if journeying this season well actually set us up for our future in a way we could never have imagined?

If we are to change our perspective about the Desert Landscape, we need to learn how to get the most out of this season.

We need a Survival Kit. 


Here are a couple of ideas on how to survive the Desert Landscape seasons.

1. Accept the situation and stop long enough to listen. 

The biggest killer when finding ourselves alone in the desert is panic. 

Panic blinds a person to reason. The first thing we need to do is take control of our mind, stop and listen. 

All too often the artist, creator, inventor is left asking "What if?" 

* "What if I didn't sink X amount of $$$ into my business … I wouldn't be here in the desert of debt." (Regret)

* "What if someone had just given me a platform to bring attention to how good my idea is … I wouldn't be left here alone." (Blame)

* "What if I studied law like my parents said instead of pursuing song-writing … I wouldn't be in this mess." (Shame) 

Instead of tormenting ourselves with the ‘what ifs’, we need to try considering our options. 

Before we give up and die in the desert, we need to stop long enough to LISTEN - the beauty that lies in the desert is actually the silence. The silence is loud, piercingly loud.  

So what are we listening to when everything is silent?

What is the voice deep in our gut saying?

What ideas are being formulated in our mind?

The desert season is actually a perfect place for the best solutions to drop - accept your situation and stop long enough to listen. 

2. Assess what is within our reach. 

We need to see what we already DO have within our reach in order to survive.

It was a few years ago now that I was handed a camera by Tony Irving, a landscape photographer whose work I had admired for a long time. I was smack in the middle of baby season with three little men at my feet and a husband who worked two jobs to keep us afloat. As much as I loved investing my time into my boys and I was happy to release my husband to do what he needed to do, if you had asked me at the time I would say it was my creative desert season as my heart and head yearned for more. 

The landscape photographer looked at me one day and said, "I feel like I need to give this to you. I have seen your photos of your kids on Instagram and I can see you have an eye for capturing moments. You should give photography a go." 

I was blown away and thanked him, not knowing even how to use a camera. I went home and started to YouTube how to turn it on. Ha. And I started by photographing my kids and anyone else who would allow me to capture an image of them. I became obsessed in my pursuit of knowing my camera and continued pushing this new tool to its limit. 

Soon, I started being asked by families if I could come and photograph them. I accepted the challenge and found myself getting busy with booking jobs. 

My love affair with capturing images continued and prompted me to start THEWOLFPACKMRS. website, as well as a birth photography business called THEFIRSTHELLO Project with my photographer/designer friend, Bel Pangburn. The images from this business have found their way in amongst some of the top media outlets around the world and we have been interviewed countless times to share our story on why we see and capture what we do. 

I'm telling you my story to simply inspire you to take a good look at what's in your hand. Maybe you have been in a creative slump. Maybe the silence of peers or the lack of support is ringing loud in your ears, BUT there is something right in front of you to help you survive this Desert Landscape. Don't give up on that dream, sweet friend. Take a look around. What can you use? 

3. Think with your brain - don't listen to your stomach and find a solution. Get a plan. 

Reading up on survival guides I’ve discovered, "The brain is by far the best survival tool we have. Survival is much more a mental than a physical exercise, and keeping control of the brain is necessary. The large size of the human brain requires a high metabolic sacrifice in water and temperature control. Keeping the brain hydrated and in the shade will be more beneficial than all the gee-whiz survival gizmos in the sporting goods store. An additional psychological factor is the will to survive. It may sound odd, but some people have just given up due to what they felt was hopelessness, impending pain, hunger, etc." 

The pangs of starvation can be brutal. Desperation kicks in right before many call it quits on the venture but like that survival guide says, the brain is the best tool we have to survival. So what are we feeding it? What are we telling ourselves about who we are? 

I am constantly in awe of athletes - not only do they have the mental game of overcoming pain and self doubt, but they put their bodies on the line too. I believe in order to survive the Desert Landscape we need to reinforce the truths of who we are. We aren't quitters. We aren't born creative to die in some desert. We are creative beings who think and pursue a solution. 

A business mentor of mine, Dave Hundt, is always pushing me with the question - “So, what are your next 5 steps.” Breaking down the immediate situation and allowing ourselves to figure out a plan will help us survive.

For some of us just getting through the day may be tough as we navigate babies and tantrums and sleep deprivation - so maybe it’s just the discipline of spending 5 mins. on Pinterest exploring creative things that make your heart race. For others it may mean coming home from your job and investing time into your music - the job you dream of being paid for one day. And for others, maybe it means actually writing down your vision for the next creative idea to come into existence. Whatever the case, figure out your next 5 five steps and get moving. Whatever you do, don’t succumb to hunger and lay down and die. Get a plan and knock off one thing at a time.

So, my friends, if you find yourself wandering a Desert Landscape in your life - that place where your creativity seems stagnant, your emotions are pulling you towards depression, anxiety and panic, my encouragement to you today is to accept your situation and stop long enough to listen. Laying down and dying is not an option. Start to assess the situation. Take a look at what is in your hands already. What is right in front of you? What can you find within your reach to survive this season? Stop listening to your stomach and start using your brain. Find a solution. What are your next 5 steps?


Believe in you always and cheering you on.

River XO


Special thanks to @Chevrolet for this killer vechile that made for the best roadtrip ever. 

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