Monument Valley Morning

“Beyond the glittering street was darkness, and beyond the darkness the West. I had to go.”

— Jack Kerouac, On The Road

dawn mittens dec 2012

Mittens Formation, Monument Valley, AZ. December 2012.

I slept in the car last night, in spurts, bundled in my sleeping bag in the front seat while Max lay out on the ground next to the car. We were off the main paved road, on a dirt track that might have eventually led to someone’s house. The stars were brilliant, and sometime in the middle of the night I awoke to the moon shining brightly through the windshield, just below the rear-view mirror, incredibly glowing and bright for such a medium-sized sliver, just barely bigger than skinny.

sunrise mittens dec 2012

Monument Valley, AZ. December 2012.

I don’t know where the moon is now, the street lights in the parking lot befuddle and seemingly keep the natural world at bay. We are sitting outside of the the hotel/restaurant/gift shop run by the Navajo tribe, who own this land around us, Monument Valley.

There is light now on the horizon, bringing the Mittens into dark profile. A grayish burnt orange that fades gradually into blue that gets darker and darker to merge into the stary night, the transition. There are charcoal smears of clouds, like the artist rubbed the sky with a dirty hand, smearing part of the dark outline of rock into the new start of day.

Max has his camera set up at the overlook, taking long shots of the stars fading away and the sky gaining color. I’m sitting in the car, mostly still in the sleeping bag, swaddled in my yak wool shawl, writing by light of the parking lot lights and watching out the window. I haven’t decided yet if I need to experience this outside the comfort of the car. It’s cold out there, not conducive to writing since I can’t manipulate a pen properly while wearing my thick ski gloves.

mesa arch dec 2012

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. December 2012.

Now, stretching out from the initial orange peeking over the horizon, the distant mountains and horizon are a soft, deep purple with touches of a lighter pink nearest the sun. Minute by minute the light and colors seem to change, or the clouds move just slight enough to be noticed. Almost imperceptible when watched, but every time I look up after writing a sentence or two I can see just that much further, just that much more color.

Now there is no doubt that day is on the way. The whole sky is lighter, not just the horizon in the east, the stars faded back into the unseen. It’s just about light enough to see, to be able to navigate without stumbling over an unseen rock or bush. It’s the transition, when one should be sitting with a warm thermos of coffee, bundled in flannel and wool and thick denim, standing beside a dusty beat-up truck, savoring the first meditative sips of day, the quiet-still cold before the sun rises completely to shine down on everything that needs to be done or fixed or attended to.

This time of day is full of the best promises, the ones about to be fulfilled. Dusk is also full of promise, but of the promise of tomorrow, of the future, because the stars and moon are too distant to give anything real or immediate. But the sun rising in the morning brings the promise of life, of warmth and light, of food and sight.

sunrise mesa arch

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. December 2012.

It is officially day now, light enough to see everywhere, and light enough to realize I’m hungry, and for my thoughts to begin to spread out in all directions, tracing around and over the rock formations, settling among scraggly juniper bushes, burrowing in the soft reddish dirt. It’s harder to see things, to see things equally, when the light comes up and shines on everything. It gives you the chance to focus, to choose. When the dark chooses for you, it’s easier.

mesa arch sunrise

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. December 2012.

3 thoughts on “Monument Valley Morning

  1. Beautiful…the whole boomer generation grew up knowing this valley without knowing it…it’s where the film maker John Ford used to shoot all those generic westerns of his. Lived in AZ for a while, and you captured that valley in photos and words so well. Cheers !
    Later…

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