“I don’t much care for straight lines. Too lacking in possibility.”
– Craig Childs, from Soul of Nowhere
– Craig Childs, from Soul of Nowhere
We are driving through Arches National Park, and it’s raining. There are big flashes of lightning here and there, but I can’t hear if there is any thunder. The car windows are rolled up against the rain. The gray clouds and sky make a different backdrop, one I like better than the normal clear blue skies. There is more emotion, more drama. This is what this place stirs in me, varied emotion, varied feelings, the gray mottled churning of the sky.
This place is not as simple as a cloudless bright blue sky.
Neither am I.
“To stare directly into the eyes of a place like this, to not look away, is nearly unbearable.”
– Craig Childs, from the book Soul of Nowhere
Max and I spent quite some time here, photographing and getting to know this place, in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. We also sheltered from a few rather large thunderstorms here, and watched some fantastic lightning shows from the comfort and safety of this cave in the canyon wall.
Check out his much better photographs on his website: Max Seigal Photography.
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
I’ve lived a lot of places, but I’ve never lived out here, in the desert of Utah. I wonder what it would be like, to wake every day to this. It looks like simple starkness in all direction, but looks can be deceiving. We drove past a man walking down the highway–on the wrong side of the road I might add, he should be walking against traffic. Not that it matters, with so few cars. We’ve only passed maybe 10 so far this morning, including all those in town where we stopped for gas, coffee, and the bathroom. I forgot to brush my teeth. The man was miles from the nearest building, at least a 30 minute drive from our direction, 5 miles in the other according to the sign he passed. It’s just after 8 a.m. Where is he going, and where did he come from?
This is a long road to walk to get to nowhere in particular, and probably even longer to get to somewhere specific.
Part of my soul lives in the mountains. The steepness, the rough and smooth edges, peaks sharp or rounded, a barren summit or a wooded grove on the hillsides, the view, and the breath of fresh air that carries a special taste of true nature. I feel free of the weights I wrap around myself, the ones I didn’t realize were there.
Part of my soul lives in the desert, in the barren rock. When I look out into the wide-open space and gaze at a rock tower rising up into the sky, I just am. Everything is quiet, and I’m just there. The starkness absorbs all the internal moaning and rattling, and all that’s left is the rock, the dirt, the sun, the endless sky.
|Gopher Tortoise, Merritt Island NWR 2012|
These places speak to me, resonate with me deep inside, and I feel a special sense of completeness when I am there. They feel right, like walking around your childhood home in the middle of the night. You know the exact number of steps without counting, the placement of each table and chair, so that even in the dark you can find your way without tripping. My soul can live in the mountains without tripping all over itself in confusion. Sometimes I feel that I am laying on the floor in the dark, waiting for someone to turn the light on and notice me, quietly moaning. I tend to feel that way most often when I’m stuck in boring, flat places, probably because I find it easier to have adventures when I’m in the desert or the mountains.
When I was heading down to Florida and Merritt Island, I was not particularly looking forward to my time there. Florida is flat, hot, buggy, boring. Coming from a cross-county road trip, camping in Utah and Wyoming and rock climbing in Colorado, Florida was not where I wanted to be heading. And, well, I found that Florida is flat, hot, buggy, and boring. But, to my surprise, I loved it anyway.
|Roseate Spoonbill and Snowy Egret|
|Heading into the sunrise to look for Scrub Jays|
I leave bits of my heart everywhere, tucked in with the people and places I go. Quite a bit of my heart is in Ohio, but there are pieces in other states and countries too, in places I have and have not been, in places only seen by those I love.
|Playalinda Beach, Canaveral National Seashore|
And part of my heart is at Merritt Island. There are some places you stay and you know you are home, even if it’s just for a short while. This is one of them. No matter where I travel, I will always remember that place, that time, those people. Especially those people 🙂
|Me, Betty, and Connie (refuge volunteers) after kayaking with dolphins and manatees at Merritt Island NWR|
|Meghan and Angie kayaking at Blue Springs State Park|
|Patrick. Blue Springs State Park|
|Patrick and I are expert kayakers, can’t you tell? Blue Springs State Park|