It was a long drive across southern Utah. We set eleven food caches, every resupply between Moab to past the Grand Canyon.
By the time we made it as far east as Moab, Moab had closed its doors to overnight lodging, including camping anywhere within the county. We shifted our plans, deciding to skip Arches National Park (hopefully it will be open to hike when we come back to Moab at the end), and set out from Moab in time to reach the county line before camping.
We headed out of Moab, happy to finally separate from our truck. Now on foot, we climbed over Amasa Back, an alternate out of town, traversing a cliff above the Colorado until we climbed up onto a Mesa, high on red rock, hiking with the clouds. Here is where the ribbon effect begins… I leave that part of myself behind, the part attached to the human ways of a programmed society …the part that compartmentalizes everything …it’s a slow process …but over hours, and days, and weeks—I become a ribbon across the landscape—tuned into nothing and everything at the same time. I breathe in the smells and fragments of earth, I sing songs with the birds until our melodies sync with time. I drink all the waters across the landscape—tasting the abundance of life and death and the flow of time in a single drop. This ribbon comes and goes at first, but slowly settles in until I let go, into the ribbon’s flow. I am the ribbon now, the wind whispers across the landscape. I can feel it, but I don’t believe it yet, still distracted with the worries and duties of another time.
Our hike started out with a couple of days of dirt road walking, with a few short connecting canyons, before dropping us into Rustler Canyon and Indian Creek Canyon. I found a broken arrowhead made from an olive-green colored rock, a color unlike any other rock I’ve seen out here so far. When I find things like this, I always wonder whose hand made it. Handmade objects are precious to me—a beautiful tie between imagination, necessity, and earth’s materials.
Somewhere above Indian Creek, my thoughts grew anxious. Every rock felt precious. Every rock wanted to tell me a story. The clouds grew overhead, and my desire to find the perfect rock took on an importance that I knew was about my mother. It started raining. I knew I needed to find a rock to keep in her memory. I picked up pretty rocks, plain rocks, little rocks, and big rocks. None of them were the one. I’d almost given up when the perfect rock presented itself. A rectangular, smooth, red rock. I don’t know why it was the one. But it was. I put it in my pocket and hiked the rest of the afternoon wondering what message awaited me when my phone would have signal again.
Shortly before camp, the clouds parted, and the sun came out with a warm blast just before bed. I didn’t sleep. I kept thinking about my rock, my mother, and where I would find signal again out here.
I found cell signal near our first food cache. I scrolled through my messages. And there was the news—my mother had passed at the same time I was finding my rock. Tied to the earth and to the wind, in the middle of the desert, my ribbon flowed in and out of time like a magic carpet ride of joy, and love, and sorrow…
Distracted by food, people, and social distancing, I sat at Needles Outpost a bit lost, staring into the big sky, wondering who I was now.
A bird that has lost its wings—cannot fly. What does this say of life—beside those who have woven us into time. What does this say of death—plucking each feather that makes possible our flight. Who are we when we lose—those who have taught us to fly?
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