Looking Up to See Bottom

BLISS AND DEPRESSION. The mountaintops and the valleys. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

At times in life, I’ve known such joy it’s as if I’ve overdosed on endorphins. At other times, I’ve felt really, really low. So low that, as I’ve told friends, I’d need to look up through a powerful telescope just to see bottom.

But in at least one way, I’ve never been as low in all my life as I was this past weekend. How low? Well, 282 feet below sea level—that’s how low. Badwater Basin. Death Valley National Park. Lowest point in North America. Fortunately, it was a cloudy February day with a temp of about 60. By July and August, the temps will be about double that at 120 or more.


Directly behind the Badwater parking lot is a sheer rock cliff rising up hundreds of feet. Far up the face of that cliff is an amazing sign that says, “Sea Level.” Truly, one must “look up to see bottom”!


Within an hour or so of walking the salt flats of Badwater, I drove around to Dante’s View—a panoramic overview of Death Valley more than a mile above Badwater. And I marveled again at how quickly my perspective had changed.


From my new viewpoint, I saw so much more than I had down below. And it reminded me of how, in the midst of depression, one’s view of things is regrettably limited. So limited, hope is out of view. So limited, the possibility of anything every changing for the better can’t be seen.

But my fast trip from 282 feet below to 5,475 feet above made a world of difference. It reminded me that when I find myself in a low place, I won’t always be there. And when I do find my way to a higher place, the whole view of life changes. It’s a view with a far larger and more accurate perspective.

If you’re down right now, even if you have to take this on faith, cling to the certainty that your fatigue or disappointment or heartbreak or even certified Grade-A depression is not likely to last. Time will bring amazing changes.

But so too will making the choice to leave Badwater and step by step, mile by mile, head for the viewpoint thousands of feet above.


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