The Arizona desert seemed like an odd vacation destination in the beginning of August. My family was sure they would melt in the heat, and I had to cajole them with promises of daily ice cream outings and a hotel room next to the pool. But in the midst of the stark, dry landscape, we discovered these timeless lessons:

A change of scenery creates a new inner perspective. Our three-hour flight from Chicago brought us from a humid, muggy, and flat landscape to a terrain of cactus-pocked mountains, arid rolling desert and hiking paths framed by red dirt. Arizona is as different from Illinois in topography as an elephant is from a shark. A two-hour time difference showed us how vastly disparate reality can be; no ONE perspective or viewpoint is the absolute truth.  All we know and feel is influenced by our surroundings.
Beauty, danger and sustenance co-exist naturally. During our tour to the Grand Canyon, we learned that certain cactus bloom with vibrant, gorgeous flowers that dot the desert with fiery color. Other succulents contain a toxin that can create illness and even death in other creatures. And others contain enough moisture to keep a lost hiker alive for days. Those things that scare or amaze us can be our savior as easily as they can be our ruin.
Risk can bring reward. Hiking the trails of the Grand Canyon is arduous and even frightening at times. I considered turning back when the temperature rose above 110 degrees, and the path narrowed to a foot-wide ledge dipping dangerously into a steep decline. But when the guide urged me to continue through a low-hanging arch, I was gifted by eons-old pictographs etched into the canyon’s face, images of animals, fish, human handprints left by our ancestors. Pushing past my fear and fatigue brought me a sense of connection to generations past that I could have easily missed.