Finding the Heart of Joshua Tree

February, the month Hallmark Channel calls, “Loveuary,” was right around the corner, and the pressure was on to find it.

It shouldn’t have been so hard for me to find. I prepared for it, and dressed the part; kept my heart, mind, and eyes open, remaining hopeful even after searching for so long only to have to walk away. My best efforts and still, I could not find it.

“Do you know where it is,” a lovely woman asked me?

“No,” I answered, in a voice that reflected the disappointment we both were feeling.

At least I wasn’t the only one, but that did not make me feel any better. Clearly, I needed to rethink things and turn my energy and focus elsewhere. Time was running out, and I needed a Plan B.

The next morning, with a nudge from my daughter, I gave it one last try…

THE SEARCH FOR HEART ROCK

By Publisher, Lisa Lynn Morgan

There is always a sense of unease until the month’s cover is created. In early January, I still hadn’t come up with the February cover for Joshua Tree Voice. Once the cover is established, there is a surge of optimism and purpose – the feeling that says, “Ok! Now, we have a magazine!”

Like it or not, the month of February has an undeniable theme. Valentine’s Day is smack dab in the middle of it. I am not pessimistic about love or romance whatsoever, but did not want to contribute in any way to the 14 days of stress or dread over the commercially-leveraged expectations of romantic acts, followed by 14 days of binge eating chocolate, recovering from resentment, disappointment, or fights with a partner.

Imagine my joy when through my research, Heart Rock appeared on my laptop. Rocks shaped like hearts – there truly was a thing in Joshua Tree! However, it quickly became clear that finding a great photo that we would have permission to use, and a writer who had been there, might be just as difficult as getting Billy Gibbons or Jason Momoa to pose for the cover.

Saturday morning, my daughter Kimberly and I set out to find it. First stop was the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center for information on how a heart shaped boulder came into existence.

My notes from the Visitor Center:

Water, wind, and earthquakes form some of these amazing shapes.

You can see “veins,” in the rocks where molten rock is pushed into cracks in older rock. As the molten rock cools, it forms crystals of quartz and potassium.

Photo: Matthew Hall

Photo: Matthew Hall

If the crust pulls away from both sides of a rock, or if the rock shrinks while cooling, vertical cracks form. When pressure on top of a rock releases, like when soil and rock erode, horizontal cracks form. And when the rock is squeezed from the top and the bottom, X-shaped cracks form.

You can find out more about the geology and ecology of Joshua Tree National Park at www.usgs.gov/geology-and-ecology-ofnational-parks/geology-joshuatree-national-park

Joshua Tree Voice photographer, Sandra Goodin, had made an early morning attempt to capture a shot of the Heart at sunrise and was not able to locate it. This put a little bit more pressure on the success of this adventure. Informative and fun as the Visitor Center was, we had to lean on information online to find our photographic treasure.

Photo: Sandra Goodin

Meanwhile, my daughter was growing somewhat impatient with all my stops in preparation, like getting lunch from the Roadrunner Grab+Go, and of course, the restroom. It was a three-day weekend in honor of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., so the line to get inside the park at the Joshua Tree entrance inspired us to turn around and enter through the 29 Palms entrance a few more miles east. With a short wait, we showed our annual pass to the ranger, and we were in and parked at the Arch Rock Nature Trail parking lot. At 9 a.m., it was already full. We had just snagged a great parking spot when my daughter announced that she needed to drive to a restroom. Determined to be a “cool mom,” I chose to refrain from the age-old, “Why didn’t you go before we left!” That lasted about 20 minutes. Things got a little cranky, but we brushed it off and were walking down the trail in no time.

It was chillier and more overcast than I expected and was glad I brought a heavier coat. The notes I had taken weren’t as thorough as I thought they were. I had a few screenshots of formations near Heart Rock to work with, but there is no cell reception in that area. We found Arch Rock easily enough, and that was a great experience. But for the life of us, we could not find Heart Rock which was supposed to be nearby. After three hours of staring at the photos, then back at the landscape, then back at the directions, we were hungry. “GOOD THING I STOPPED AT THE GRAB+GO FOR LUNCH,” I thought (this time, to myself).

We sat on a flat rock just east of Arch Rock, enjoying lunch and staring out into the vast desertscape before us. We’d climbed and moved all over the area, getting that cool crisp air in our lungs, and it felt good. As ancient as these rocks were, and barren as the desert is, it generated a sense of refreshment and renewal that had become foreign to me; it was exhilarating, as though I had fully exhaled for the first ti me in a long time. Words like “serenity,” “peace,” “health,” come to mind as I reflect on that moment. The word “truth” does as well.

This may be the part where fellow parents might think how wonderful it was to have my daughter’s full attention, free from her phone and any electronic devices. It was wonderful, but I am the one who needed the wake-up call. I was unaware of how necessary it was to pull my head out from behind the glass window of my phone and step out of work mode. My daughter is a very strong, self-sufficient, young woman, but this trip would ultimately teach me that she still wants and needs her mom to be fully present when we’re together. With the exception of those hours in the park without service, I was failing her miserably. Our discussions eventually would dive deeper and provide an opportunity for me to know my daughter better than ever, that I was still needed, and how to better care for this young woman who means the world to me. I have NOT finding Heart Rock to thank for that.

As we talked, we watched a woman with long black hair wandering about 50 yards out. She had stopped a couple of other hikers and asked them something. Moments later, she shouted to us, “Have you seen Heart Rock?” Tired and somewhat disheartened by my own answer, I offered her a simple, “No,” and the disappointment in her body language matched ours.

We continued the search for another hour, but the sun was about to set and we were beginning to loose heart (so to speak). As we made our way back to the car, a A deep feeling of pride replaced any disappointment as I watched my daughter quietly carry out trash she found on our way. “Leave it better than when you found it, “she said.

The next morning found me anxious and dangerously close to deadline. It was time to rethink my strategy for the cover. My daughter encouraged me to try again, and with only one stop (coffee) we were on our way. She downloaded a different map that would be available without cell service, and we reread what we had researched. It all made more sense to us now that we had a firm grasp on where it wasn’t.

FINDING THE HEART OF JOSHUA TREE

We found it within 20 minutes of parking at the same location. The fatigue I felt from the stress I put myself under vanished and was replaced with joy and wonder. It was beautiful, perfect, and RIDICULOUSLY easy to find. You can even see the road from where it stands. It occurred to me that I had been looking so hard for what I thought it would look like and where I thought it should be, I missed it entirely. As we approached, like a Hallmark “Loveuary” movie, the sun broke through the clouds, letting the blue sky peek through with just enough sunshine to brighten up everything around us.

Roses had been laid at the rock’s basin. Over the next couple of hours, as I took photos, none of the travelers that came by disturbed them. We all sensed there was great emotion behind them… a memorial, engagement, or an offering of gratitude perhaps? That story has yet to be told.

Photo: Sandra Goodin

Photo: Lisa L. Morgan

Humanity of all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages came to Heart Rock, all of whom approached it reverence and respect, including the children. Adults posed in front of it with their arms held out in victory; the children just wanted to hug it. Remember the woman who had been searching for it the day before? Her name is Purvika. She found it too! What are the odds we would pass each other on the trail a day later (she was hiking up just as we were leaving), and recognize each other after our brief exchange from 50 yards away?

My daughter and I discussed staying until sunset knowing it would be a great shot for the cover. But heeding what was learned in our conversations, dinner with her before she left for Orange County was in order. Shortly after we left, a happy text from Sandra, our photographer, announced that she too had given it one more attempt and found it as well. She shared her own joy for the much-needed spiritual reboot the photoshoot brought her.

What began as a frustrating effort to find something that seemed out of reach, in retrospect, was a literal treasure hunt. As much priceless bounty was discovered on the journey as in the destination. I would not trade one wrong turn or cut one step short. It was all necessary and precious.

Perhaps what they say about this ancient place, born out of heat, wind, water, pressure, hot magma, and violent clashes between fault lines is true – it is magical and spiritual.

Maybe Heart Rock only lets you find it when you’re ready.

Here are the directions from my notes:

Nature is a wonderful and necessary part of a quality life. Get out there more!

When a path looks too steep or the terrain too difficult, change your perspective.

If at first you don’t succeed, refresh your approach.

Take joy in the journey and the lessons.

Be mindful and present in the moment.

Evidence of love and magic is all around you. You will find it when you’re ready.

Photo: Kimberly Morgan

There are enough clues in this article and online for you to create your own treasure map. Do your research before arriving, learn how to adventure safely, and leave the park better than you found it. Enjoy the magic of the hunt, and please share your experience and photos with us at MyVoice@JoshuaTreeVoice.com

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