First Morning. The sun rises behind me. Almost where it set last night. In the south. Dramatic lighting casts long shadows that continue throughout the day. The sun hangs low in the November sky. Hot coffee steams from my mug. Delightful. The sky is blue. There is no wind. It’s 45 degrees. Feels like 70.
My camp is entirely rock, surrounded by enormous blobs of orange, cream, and yellow sandstone. Large chunks of black lava rock are strewn about. Very little crumbling rock here. Most is smoothly sculpted by wind and water. Some of the rock is quilted. Not cracked rock. But rather crisscrossed lines and patterns like that of a quilted blanket. Hoodoos guard the perimeter of this slickrock fortress. They stand upright against the deep blue sky. Hoodoos. Gargoyles. Goblins. Jabba The Huts. These tall Stone Gods stand watch. Witnessing the passing of the days. The years. The centuries. But they too will wear away. Their forms constantly changing shape. Telling their own story. Their smoothly carved lines, wrinkles, and folds are like the face of an old man or woman. Telling the story of time. Of life. Life here on Earth. Unfathomable time. Yes. We all have a story to tell. But up here, on the Waterpocket Fold, in the Capitol Reef, the story is laid out. Like an open book. Just take a walk. Take a long walk out into these rocks and the story unfolds in high-definition color. It’s a walk through time.
Capitol Reef National Park has been on my bucket list for quite some time. Always driving past it on my way back from Glen Canyon, Lake Powell, Escalante, and beyond. Capitol Reef is tucked right into this unique area of some of the finest desert scenery on Planet Earth. An area consisting of multi-colored sandstone, rivers, creeks, waterholes (tinajas), seeps, cactus, pinion pine, juniper, cottonwoods, willows, lizards, scorpions, frogs (yes, frogs), ravens, eagles, and buzzards. Just to name a few. A happy place. A place that calls to my soul. Over the hundreds of miles. Beckoning me. Alluring me. Seducing me. Like a drug. Like heroin. Tugging at me. Distracting me from my work. Haunting my dreams. What is it about this place? What is it about this desert that is so. . . so. . . I search for an answer to fill in the blank. But there are no words. Other than perhaps Awake. Aware. Enlightened. And Wise. Can rocks be Enlightened? Perhaps. But it’s more than just the rocks. This entire desert is Enlightened. Alive. Breathing. Waiting. Meditating. Listening. Witnessing. Witnessing eons of time. For it is time. It is the rain. The wind. The freezing and thawing of ice and snow. A canvas on which the Earth paints its picture. Its story. Mother Nature’s Masterpiece. A painting of such heartbreaking beauty and perfection that the rich colors leap from the canvas, overwhelming the senses, beyond even the wildest of imaginations. A work of art made by no human hand. A painting without the painter. Art without the artist. Beauty for the sake of beauty. The work of God.
And so I walk. Gently into her creation. Treading lightly through the canvas. As I, myself, begin to feel welcome as part of the piece. For I am not here to destroy. To dig. To drill. To excavate and haul away. I am not here to rape and pillage this land. I am not here to tame. To conquer. To make accessible to the masses. I am not here to probe. To prod. To take measurements. Samples. Scientific data for experiments. I am simply here to be in the presence of Greatness. Unspoiled Divine Greatness. And to listen. Not listen to the desert. But along with her. Not just to look at the rocks. But to see what they see. Not just an observer of the painting. But as part of the art itself.
. . .to be continued