Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend AZ

Max getting ready for sunset by gazing into the sky, in the wrong direction. The sun sets over the bend in the river, straight across from where we stood on the rim.

 

We spent about a day in Page, Arizona, saluting the day both at its end and beginning from the rim of Horseshoe Bend, a “horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River.” We made the mile-long trek to the edge of the canyon rim, overlooking the water below by about 1,000 feet. There are no railings, so you are left with only your own common sense to protect you from going over the edge.

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

Pretending to be a photographer, and being very careful not to stumble and knock the tripod over the canyon rim.

 

 

It’s windy here on the rim of Horseshoe Canyon, and the wind blows sand in our faces, camera lenses, and down one thousand feet to the river below. I can see the wind ruffling the surface of the water. It’s not really cold, just when you’re sitting still the wind gets to you, blowing your warmth away across the desert. The sunset tonight was all a photographer could ask for, streaks of pink clouds, blues and purples, orange. I hear violet-green swallows flying below me along the canyon walls, and lower still I see a soaring raven, which from my perspective looks the size of an ant, an ant with a paraglider.

 

 

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

Some of the people who joined us to watch the sunset. After I took this picture, more people arrived, until there were at least 100 total loitering on the canyon rim.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sitting on the edge, much closer than Mom would be comfortable with, my left foot braced parallel a few inches from the edge, the rest of me a couple feet back, no danger of losing my balance. The wind isn’t that strong. As the sun goes down, the people leave with the light. I try to eavesdrop, but most of them speak different languages and I don’t know what they say. They don’t seem to be speaking of the view though, because those who really look don’t say anything.

 

 

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

The canyon walls glowed a beautiful orangish/red in the vanishing sunlight, a living color that to me is the essence of this place.

Postcard: View from the road

Dear Mom, Dad, Megan, Eric, and the various animals living in our house,

Howdy from the road! Right now I’m sitting in a McDonalds in Page, Arizona, using the wifi and drinking a frappe. We’re here (Page, not McDonalds) to visit Antelope Canyon so Max can get photos of the light beams. We’ve been there before, in December. You have to pay for a guide since it’s on Navajo land, and our guide last time was a pretty cool dude. He played the flute for us in the canyon, while the photographers were busy taking their shots, and after asked Max if he wanted to take part in some “magic herb” with him and the owner.  Max politely declined. Wonder if they’ll remember us…

the view outside telluride_618x464

Outside of Telluride, Colorado

We left Boulder Sunday evening, and drove up to Aspen, where we camped for the night. Slightly chilly. From there, we went to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (where Max discovered he had left his national park pass at home on the dresser) and then on to Telluride. From Telluride, we headed to Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah for some star photos, and then this morning made our way to Mule Canyon, to take pictures of the House on Fire ruins. The ruins are in a little canyon out in the desert, and it was fun to poke around and explore. From there, we drove down here to Page.

Arizona highway

The highway in Arizona, on the way towards Kayenta

So tonight and I think tomorrow we’re here in Arizona, and then we continue our loop northward, heading back to Utah and hitting up Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as long as we don’t run out of time. We don’t have to be back in Boulder until May 11th, so we have plenty of time.

Natural Bridges National Monument

The underside of Sipapu Natural Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument

Give my Bogie-dog a big back scratch and an extra cookie from me!

Love, Lauren

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.

My heart belongs to the desert

My heart belongs to the desert; land of sun, dirt, rock.
I am the raven, dark shadow on the red rock wall. I am the sage, slowly crinkling in the sun. I am the rock pinnacle, rising out of the flat. I am the sun, browning rows of fence. I am the road, pavement stretching on into the horizon. I am the hawk on the fence post, waiting. I am the jackrabbit, listening. I am the bone-thin horse, running. I am the wind, touching every grass, every particle of dust.  I am the hard-baked earth, cracked and parched.  I am the tree, twisted by life without. I am the beetle, crawling. I am the coyote, spilling secrets to the stars. I am the bright moon, giving light to those who cannot see. I am the traveler, sleeping in the night-cold, peaceful.
I am the one standing on the rise, greeting the rising sun with my own spirit-light, the light within merging with the light without.
All pictures were taken in Utah (2011) during a road trip taken with my friend Max from Ohio to Colorado, via all sorts of interesting places like the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, New Orleans, the freeway system of Texas (not really), New Mexico, and Utah. This piece was written during that same trip.