As the visit with our family in Idaho ended, we realized just how quickly time had passed while we were here. Once again, we became acutely aware of how little time we have left in this world. Like a wrinkle in time, our last four months, mostly on the road, have been spent and gone forever. I will continue to recall and keep those memories and scenery in my mind.

Time can also leave its mark not only on the earth but on our skin as well. As I gazed into the mirror each morning this summer, I chastised myself for not using enough moisturizer all these years. It was a reminder again that I must utilize my allotted time wisely and boldly. Will I leave a notable and solid legacy as these ancient lava flows have?

On one of our first stops heading south through Idaho, we came to a beautiful wrinkle in the earth. It is a 52-mile-long fissure called the Great Rift, which crosses the Snake River Plain. Thousands of years ago, fountains of lava accumulated to form a black and foreboding landscape. In reality, as it is with physical aging, life blooms amidst this unwelcome geography.

Here at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, young lava once flowed around older flows that formed island-like kipukas. Isn’t it the same with humankind when younger women congregate around older women to glean wisdom and stories? Don’t we secretly hope that we never get as “wrinkled” as those mentors? I enjoyed this terrain so much for all the life lessons it would teach me. Here I thought I was just camping in a crater.

While the park’s seemingly barren lava fields present themselves with so much of the same colors and shapes, it erupts with life.

I found the most unusual pine tree, stout and squatty, and I marveled at its form and needles. Four needles grew directly in the same spot from the main branch and produced the most unusually shaped pinecones. These pine trees are called “Limber Pines” because they grow flexible, rounded limbs, which curl over each other to adapt to the arid and freezing temperatures throughout the year. Some of these gems looked like they were doing aerobics while attempting to have a conversation or cook dinner at the same time.

Women are so limber and flexible just as these enduring conifers. A reminder about this massive wrinkle in the earth could be a symbol for all the world that women exist and grow in the same conditions.

Another memorable sight was the “Cinder Gardens.” A small but prolific ground cover that was greyish in color with tiny leaves clinging intimately to the black soil made up of tiny lava pieces. As women, we dot our landscape with all kinds of textures, wisdom, and perseverance: sustaining life among death all the time, just like these tiny communities dotting the cinder and spatter cones, to create such life where there was no other.

Even more remarkable was all the vibrant colored lichens that clung to these lava creations throughout the year, always growing and adding to the terrain’s flavor. Women are so much like this innocuous living organism. Shades of gold, lime greens, reds, and yellow dot most of these black formations to give the eye a most astonishing sight; the dark charcoal color becomes alive. Nothing else exists on these dark cinder cones, making these gardens even more spectacular. I kept touching the surfaces to make sure they were real.

I have met many women in my life: persevering and growing despite the direst of circumstances, emanating hope in the bleakest of landscapes. There is no mediocrity in their lives. They are growing, starting businesses, writing books, and embracing their wrinkles.

As this wrinkle in the earth has blessed so many travelers, courageous and beautiful women, perhaps wrinkled, have gifted many of us through the ages with their time-tested wisdom. The price of perseverance and wrinkles look like different colors and textures, adding to our landscape.

Craters of the Moon National Monument was a surprisingly welcome and enlightening experience for me. It spoke to me of how our planet mimics sacred things often misunderstood. Crazy how the passage of time can create wrinkles in our lives in many ways, but they are beautiful, nonetheless.

There is always life in death of time, and wrinkles have become a necessary and enduring part of our lives. I am glad that I have kept a journal of this extraordinary journey so I can go back, when I no longer remember, and read about the beauty of wrinkles and the time spent with an old volcano.

Roman Betty Schaaf is a volunteer, a writer, a sojourner and a self-described wellness addict. Betty Schaaf’s email is bettyannschaaf@gmail.com.

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