There is a place, not far from where I live, called The Racetrack. Despite the name, at this dry lake in Death Valley National Park, the only things that move are the rocks. They travel across the surface of the mud . . . all by themselves. According to the National Park Service, no one has actually witnessed the rocks’ movement, but “the long meandering tracks left behind in the mud surface attest to their activity.”
What intrigues me about this geological phenomenon is that no one can figure out exactly how the rocks move. The stones are too heavy to be relocated by animals or humans (one traveling rock was estimated to weigh over 700 lbs.), and the trailing tracks are often tens to hundreds of feet long. Scientists who studied The Racetrack speculate that when wind and water levels are perfectly coordinated a type of hydroplaning effect occurs. Less official theories suggest that the stones travel in response to the magnetic pull of the earth or as a result of alien intervention. None of these theories has been proven, and the mystery of how the rocks move remains unsolved.
I’ve been thinking a lot about The Racetrack lately as I contemplate the last twelve months of my life. Flipping back to the beginning of my 2012 calendar, I see a list of goals I made last January 1. Issues concerning my work, physical health, and relationships weighed heavily on my daily life, and I’d sketched out some ideas to help create forward progress. Yet despite my dogged determination during this past year I felt frustrated and stymied because it seemed I was unable to create any kind of change. No matter how much energy and effort I exerted, the issues in my life remained stuck in place.
But here it is a year later, and when I lift my head to look around, I see a totally different view. There is a long track behind me marking my progress, and I realize that those boulders in my life did move after all. Yet I am not exactly sure how.
Perhaps it was luck. Or, maybe I was so preoccupied with pushing that I didn’t notice the miniscule advances as they happened. The strange thing is, in hindsight it seems that the most significant movement occurred when I wasn’t looking, when I’d stopped to take a breather, turning my focus elsewhere. Maybe creating forward progress is simply a matter of setting an intention, doing your best, and then at some point letting the unseen universal force do its thing. I just don’t know.
And maybe I don’t need to know the hows and whys of traveling from one place to another. Perhaps it is enough to show up each day with a handful of hope and believe in the mysterious possibility of movement. To trust that over time, by means unknown, rocks will slide across a dry lake unaided, and all that seems impossibly heavy will lighten, leaving nothing but a trail to mark the progress.