This post comes from a journal entry written after a winter trip through southern Utah. Taken in January 2008, the trip was one of my most visually compelling: Navigating southwestern snowstorms, witnessing my breath linger across Canyonlands cliffs and seeing the contrast of white on red soil in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. I was witnessing a landscape I had fallen in love with during summer heat now resting beneath delicate blankets of the whitest snow and crystallized waterfalls. As you’ll find, it also left me thinking about time – how much we depend on it yet how insignificant it truly becomes when we walk away and focus on the experience.
Enjoy, vas-y fille.
Time is Irrelevant
Sunset in the desert remains one of my favorite experiences. It’s a ceremony I become a participant of in no other place except there. Always, when it begins, the hairs on my arm rise on end. Of one particularly memorable evening I wrote:
Around me the earth pauses, air baited, breath still. Crows cease calls and settle flights. Mule deer twist their felted ears. Even the wind halts its frenetic search.
The corners of my eyes turn to soft velvet and my own breath slows on intake. I find myself leaning in as, I imagine, the coyotes and the jackrabbits, the ravens and the rattlesnakes. We follow the final arc of the sun’s orb as it sinks beneath the covers of the western flank. With solemn reverence it severs true from the eastern horizon, that final brilliance a token herald to the pregnancy of the day. The formal permission for all things night to hasten their ascent and all things day to soon give their leave.
Stand at a cliff’s edge in the Canyonlands maze; gaze across its plateaus, its
rivers and their valley offspring. Snowshoe through Bryce Canyon; run your hand down a hoodoo in the Great Cathedral or the Queen’s Court. Step from your car at the Waterpocket Fold; gaze west then east at 7,000 feet of mismatched sandstone. The seasons, the geology, the animals, the plant life even the people that enrich the history all weave together in the desert wilderness.
Sudden ecological turmoil is threaded with slow erosion and constant evolution becoming one vast landscape that defies definition by the movement of a minute hand or the passage of millenia. It becomes familiar only through a collection of experiences rather than moments: A balanced slab of rock breaking from its support; Anasazi drawing the success of a harvest; an owl hunting. Each event holds space within it’s own occurrence yet lingers so explicitly into the next: The shattered stone on the floor of the ravine; a warn trail leading to a sheltered wall; a rabbit’s footprints suddenly gone.
One by one the events build until time is nothing but a simple case of mistaken identity.