The wisps of sunlight peer around lenticular lollipops of back-lit clouds and sneak into the comfort of the tree net. Beautiful and unique, retired ropes wound around the void between branches to create an intricately woven cocoon. I sway along with the limbs in the wind and open a wonderful story of my childhood: Jonathan Livingston Seagull. As I imagine that I am soaring into the colorful afternoon sky, cutting through clouds with wingtips, I recall a similar experience the day before under my bright blue parachute. Listening to the songs of golden finches and mourning doves, I feel at one with them in the tree here. The wind tickles my sunburnt skin and I strettttcch…… ahhh. The toes wiggle unprompted and curl beneath the layers of woven cord as my hands reach to the sky that I love so much.
Sometimes, when I breathe in on a hot July day, I feel the essence of the desert enter my lungs and pump into my heart, where it stays, glowing orange with desire and imagination. What a splendid place, with its great soft dunes and happy juniper and sage. Tempestuous bursts of rain fill the canyons anew and wash them clean to perpetuate history. I walk through the moist sand and gaze in amazement at the remnants of a happy and fastidious culture; their artifacts remaining untouched by human hands until this moment when I pick up a colorful arrowhead. A smile melts across my face in the midday heat…
The clouds glow red not because the sun is low but because
it reflects off the expansive desert below. If only to know this territory like
a bird! Perched high on the rock, looking down below to the tiny trees and the
green mountains in the distance, I watch a redtail circle with the warming
thermals from the slickrock around us. We catch each other’s eyes as I fall
into the sky around me. The bright blue parachute opens with a soft bang and
the lines hug me tight. For a few moments I am a marionette, suspended by strings and at liberty of the desires of the universe. For now I fly to safety back to the sandy earth. Far from the troubles of population, I am content alone
with my happy thoughts, with the wonderful friends who join my attempts to
rekindle wildness in a world of idleness and inactivity. Pursuing happiness in
ways not even known yet; an adventure each moment of the day.
So here I sit in this beautiful net, woven with the fabric of dreams and the colorful ideas of even more colorful people. As I sit here smiling, I grow into a happier being. Day by day life manifests in unique ways that I cannot preemptively fathom. Come join me in this tree, or in another place of your own design. Stop and listen to the birds, look to the sky, and allow the adventures in your future to unfold themselves in spectacular ways.
The phosphorescent essence of bioluminescence follows curve and crescent of the paddle of my boat. I am afloat in a sea of neon green, moving around me, breathing, up and down with the current; into the cave I go. The light of stars and a red full moon is lost, only the green outlines of the cave walls where the water meets sharp rock show the way. Submerged – swimming - fingers enveloped by strange green light. Treading water my entire body is enveloped by a milky green cloud of agitated algae – the sound of water splashing rock echoing through the small enclosure. Paddling deeper into the cave, the tide is rising and the small exit ahead is about to be fully submerged. With a last gulp of air, we swim through the iridescent cave, coming out the other side still engulfed in strange greenness. The full moon overhead casts blue shadows across the lagoon, now fully isolated in physicality, but more connected to the great unknown than ever before.
Small movements continue to create an ineffable glow of green rippling across the surface. A jellyfish floats by and we watch in wonder and amazement. Creatures of this earth are so unique and beautiful. The underlying drone of cicadas grows larger and softer, reacting to the tiny waves in the cavern. Bats emerge from the cave far above and flutter around looking for their eternally nocturnal insect feast. Geckos chirp, announcing their territorial boundaries to anyone who will listen. The cavern breathes in and out. Whoever said that the earth wasn’t itself a living creature was either blind or a fool. The life all around me is so uniquely in balance. We swim back through the indiscernible gap in the wall back to the cave and to our boats. Again, the living green waters illuminate the path and lead us back to the ocean. But first we sit on a rock, drying off in the moonlit breeze, admiring how this earth can be so large and full of wonder, but so small when compared to the vastness of the stars above…
The hike through the canyon is peaceful, climbing up past sandstone edifices and cottonwoods. I see markings on the wall from a lost civilization, abused and forgotten. The caves on the canyon walls to my left arch high above the red sand at my feet, ashen ceilings indicating ancient campfires; I imagine the deformed shadows excitedly dancing across the ground. A hint of trail continues upward towards infinite fins of petrified time. I wonder how many creatures were born and then died here. The wind tells me there will be many more. Birds mingle in front of me gossiping about the best places to find hibernating insects that have survived the warm winter.
Only steep sandstone remains as I continue ascending to the highpoint of the canyon. Fear grips me and suddenly the winter climate is void of green and has a depressing pallor. I hear machines rumbling in the distance, cutting down introduced species of trees that have been choking the native population. The intervention of nature long ago has led to the prolonged suffering of native species. It seems ironic that in this place, of all places, history repeats itself. I hear the saws cut through the thicket, replacing death with death to control the erosion of the river below. As I take each step up the sandstone it becomes more puzzling to me that human intervention is seen as an appropriate action for endeavors of conservation. What will become of this wilderness when we are gone? Are we so powerful that we can ebb the forces of nature for our own purposes? Will the earth ever again be as peaceful as it was before the homo-sapiens discovered fire and consequently sought to control it?
I stand at the edge of the canyon rim, high above my starting point. I look out into the distance, reminded of the frailty of this landscape. Roads made long ago navigate the desert like deep scars. They will heal with time. I think about the gray coyote and his friend the jackrabbit. They dance in careful equilibrium, generation after generation supporting each other. What is my generation supporting? What will we leave behind? Standing at the top of the tombstone, I am reminded again about death. I sit and think about the meaning of my life, and those lives around me. Compared to the breathing stones around me, my life is incredibly inconsequential. However, the passion that the desert instills in us short-lived creatures is so brilliant that it is beyond words. One smile can power a dream, one kiss can fuel a lifetime of happiness. I embrace everything around me with a saturated happiness and listen to the wind as I ask a question: do you know that I am here? do you know that I appreciate you? do you know that I am listening?
The desert will survive, it is the toughest of climates; a habitat for the toughest of species. We will not. Death is inevitable. One day my dust will follow a rogue sagebrush as it bounces through the contours of this unique topography. My flesh will become fodder for flowers as yellow as the sun, and as blue as the sky enveloping it. But for now, I have two boots on my feet and a parachute on my back. As I step into oblivion and fall towards the rocks below, I smile, feeling the intensity of my passion for being here. My parachute opens and breathes along with me; for a moment we are suspended midair together. I fly down to the riverbed, tiptoeing on the dry grass and thanking the birds overhead for giving me the courage to try the impossible.
(not me, random photo of Tombstone from online)
The tombstone above me is not a mark of death, but a celebration of it. Many have lived and died in these tall canyons, and their connection with the earth was unmatched. They celebrated the sun, moon, and stars; they celebrated each of the rare creatures that inhabited this delicate landscape. The natives of the desert appreciated the beauty of life more than almost all of us do in this “modern” world. Each moment of this life is spectacular and ineffably beautiful. While it must end eventually, why not celebrate these moments? I’m not trying to seek out death, just beautiful glimpses of an understanding of true passion. When I find them I’ll be sure to share with you :-)
I've been living in a beautiful tree in Moab, suspended by miles of worn webbing and climbing ropes woven into a colorful cocoon. Each morning is unique and special, which inspired me to write this and share with those of you whom I have given my heart: