Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday morning and I'm looking out the window at a desert scene, gnarled juniper, pitted lava rocks, sage brush and yellow-flowering Rabbitbrush slowly warming as morning gray is replaced by sun. I realize that I don't have to rush off to a meeting or a class and that any schedule I make is pretty much my own. At first this feeling is relaxing, exhilerating, and like a dog shaking off obligations like water, I feel free. Of course, living between our tent and hotel rooms offers a certain anonymity. Sue Monk Kidd, author of THE SECRET OF BEES, talks in an afterword about the importance of place as healing, yet what about the absence of place. Do those "things" we've collected over our lives give us our identity, a sense of connectedness, routine as peace?

The place we've lived in this last week has been eye-opening. We spent a week tenting in Zion, hiking everywhere, sometimes on truly challenging hikes, where we clung to climber's chains and looked straight down. The picture below shows our view of Zion on our last day. Park officials have shifted over to a shuttle service to handle the some 5,000 visitors a day -- the result is quiet in the canyon, although we pass each other on the trails, always polite. From our campsite, we could see a massive red mountain. Later in the week we hiked to an outcropping there to discover it had been used for grain storage by ancient peoples. High above the valley, the site was defensible, yet surrounded by unforgettable views.

We then drove over to Capitol Reef National Park, a geologist's dream. Apparently many millions of years ago (65 million), the tectonic plates of east and west met here. The resulting "crash" led to an uplift in the earth of between 4,000 to 11,000 feet and created a kind of fold in the earth's crust that is visible for about 100 miles. The rock formations here are formidable, massive, heart-stopping. We wandered through the Narrows at Grand Wash Trail to find canyons closing and then another corner, another canyon, yet narrower, massive cliffs on each side. Weather warnings told us to watch for flash floods; the evidence was everywhere -- wash outs, giant boulders dumped haphazardly, undercuts on the sides of the canyon -- and yet we saw junipers with berries, their bark so worn and twisted we wondered how they could survive. I don't see how any picture could do justice to this. The early Mormons farmed here isolated and safe; locals are a little displeased as they were displaced when Capitol Reef became a national monument. Tourism doesn't quite make up for the loss of land.

Yesterday, coming out of the canyon, we heard soft bird calls and discovered a covey of six chukkers hunting for food through the grasses, calling to each other. I stood quietly and photographed them, mystery birds until we got back to Sibley's Bird reference. Ah, birds. So these are the small pleasures of daily life, unexpectedly good coffee, a good view out my window (wherever that may be), and the chance to write. May your week go well. Beth

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