I am sitting in Natural Bridges National Monument, at Owachomo Natural Bridge, the last of three natural bridges in the Monument. It is after dark, and I’m waiting for the stars and my friend Max, who is photographing the night sky. In the distance, from their pools in the narrow rock canyon, I hear frogs that sound like sheep and chickens. Bats fly about in quick loops, swerving through the dusk.
The stars above and around Owachomo were visible first. The view through the bridge was cloudy for quite some time, the clouds trapped by the rock ceiling. The wind plays with my hair, and gradually dances my body heat away across the desert, through the bridge, out to the stars. I brought a cushion to sit on, and my sleeping bag to wrap around my shoulders. I have a book to read while I wait for Max to finish his pictures, painting the arch with light so it shows up in his shot.
Every few minutes I turn my headlamp off, let my eyes adjust to the dark, and look all around to the expansive sky of stars. I’d sit here and just watch the night, but I know it doesn’t take very long for me to fall asleep, lulled by the dark, the wind, the reassuring stars all around. I don’t want to fall asleep, not yet, so I read to keep myself awake, engaged, present, and yet not, with my surroundings.
This is the perfect place to read this book, The Soul of Nowhere, by Craig Childs. It is about these places, and blends with them. It gives me another way to connect with this space around me, through the words of someone else who has absorbed this place and knows how to articulate what it means.
“… I am hoping to become the same, a person who is changed by the land, who puts a pen to paper and tells what I have seen of this land.”
– Craig Childs, from The Soul of Nowhere