desert photo1

“When someone seeks . . . then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”

On my final day of my thirty days of sobriety, I decided to go explore Papago Park during my Phoenix vacay…and trip on mushrooms while doing so.

I lived in Phoenix for four years prior to moving to Chicago, and during that time I spent less than a handful of hours in Papago Park and explored very little outside of the hole-in-the-rock with an ex-girlfriend and the Desert Botanical Garden with my father once at night. In one afternoon as a visitor, I would see more of it than my entire time I lived in Phoenix.

I went back to hole-in-the-rock to take some photos with my snazzy new Sony A-6000 and 210mm lens.


I found a cozy little spot high up in the rock to pull out my magic mushroom chocolate and take in the city from a different perspective.

“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”


As I sat in my perch in the rock, I pulled out a copy of a book I brought with me, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. A book I have never read before despite sitting perched up high on my bookshelf for years collecting dust. A story that begins with Siddhartha seeking escape from his privileged upbringing and popularity in favor of spiritual illumination. He leaves his family and joins the ascetics where he fasts, becomes homeless, renounces all personal possessions, and devotes much of his time to meditation. After awhile, Siddharta comes to the realization that he must seek his own distinct experience as an individual and obtain a personal meaning in life that cannot be taught by teachers or by doctrine.

I shall no longer be instructed by the Yoga Veda or the Aharva Veda, or the ascetics, or any other doctrine whatsoever. I shall learn from myself, be a pupil of myself; I shall get to know myself, the mystery of Siddhartha.” He looked around as if he were seeing the world for the first time.”

As the magic mushrooms began to kick in, I felt a sublime sense of peace and connection with a city that I had previously felt largely apathetic towards during most of my time here in my late twenties. Through my viewfinder, I could see downtown Tempe where I spent many nights drinking with friends…singing along to “Sweet Caroline” at the piano bar, toasting on New Years Eve…or jogging along Tempe Town Lake.


And downtown Phoenix…doing the art walk on first Fridays, having craft beers at Lost Leaf or fantastic wood-fired Italian pizza at Cibo.


I considered staying at hole-in-the-rock until sunset, but I planned to also return to the Desert Botanical Garden so I had to leave my perch.

As I checked my cell phone I noticed that my battery was at 5%. I immediately turned it off and decided to just roam around the park some more. My eye was drawn to the white pyramid that I had seen so many times before during my stay but never inquired about what it was or paid it a visit. Since this day had been about changing my perspective on this city and experience the beauty that can lie even in the harshest of terrain, I decided to make the journey up to the white pyramid in the sky.


“But now, his liberated eyes stayed on this side, he saw and became aware of the visible, sought to be at home in this world, did not search for the true essence, did not aim at a world beyond. Beautiful was this world, looking at it thus, without searching, thus simply, thus childlike. Beautiful were the moon and the stars, beautiful was the stream and the banks, the forest and the rocks, the goat and the gold-beetle, the flower and the butterfly. Beautiful and lovely it was, thus to walk through the world, thus childlike, thus awoken, thus open to what is near, thus without distrust.”

As I approached the white pyramid I wondered if maybe I should just leave it a mystery. The older I get, the less mysteries there are in the world. Sometimes I’m envious of the wide-eyed ten-year-old version of myself that knew so little, but was captivated by so many things that he didn’t yet understand. But I had come too far to turn back now and had to solve this mystery.



George Hunt was a friend of the common man and a foe of the railroad and mining trusts, which he called “coyotes” and “skunks.”  He allowed women to vote in his state eight years before the rest of the country and was elected governor seven times, which set a national record.

The hilltop later became part of Papago Park and the open-air pyramid was enclosed within a tall, ugly iron fence.

With my remaining battery life in my cellphone, I wisely decided to take a selfie with the white pyramid.


I then came upon a bench on the other side of the pyramid with a spectacular view overlooking the Phoenix zoo and the rest of the city.




I lost track of how long I spent up here. I hadn’t eaten all day but wasn’t at all hungry. All my worries and concerns about my future…whether I would find a job as a software developer or if I would even enjoy being a software developer, whether I would find love again after a lifetime of heartbreak, whether or not the Vikings would win a championship…all vanished before my eyes. The magic mushrooms were definitely kicking in.

The sounds of birds chirping. The stoic mountain goats off yonder.


mountain goat

I was enraptured by it all.

Until an old, shirtless fat man that sat down on the bench next to me and totally killed my communion with nature.

So I left before sunset to find my Desert Botanical Garden.

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”

As I wondered around a pond taking deep appreciation of the colors that surrounded me thanks to the magic mushrooms, I lost track of exactly where I was at in Papago Park and where the Desert Botanical Garden was. So I checked my cell phone. Unfortunately, I must have forgot to turn it off after that last selfie at the white pyramid. Oh well. I figured I would find my way. So I continued on.

I continued taking more pictures as the sun slowly began its descent. My goal of finding my Desert Botanical Garden no longer seemed important. Even if I didn’t make it before sunset, I would find it in another time. So I just wandered with no direction and no goal. And it became the longest sunset I ever experienced in my life.



To be continued…

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