With the smoke and the fire and the stars at night

Up again in the morning bright

With nothing but road and sky in sight

And nothing to do but go...

—old hobo poem

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lost and Found

Quoth wheels through the slickrock sky, trying to imagine what it would be like to be part of a flock of geese instead of an independent bird.

The past few days I've seen the same flock of Canadian geese flying around high above the slickrock east of Moab. To me, they look disoriented and like they're lost, looking for some body of water that's not where it's supposed to be. The Colorado River is way below, but they keep circling into the high plateau country of the lower La Sal Mountains, a cold waterless place this time of year. And they're way up high.

Do clouds ever get lost?

When I was a kid, a large flock of Canadian Snow Geese came through northwest Colorado one cold winter night. For some reason, they thought the airport beacon was something of significance and they began circling it, or maybe it somehow disoriented them. After circling half the night, they began to fall from the sky in exhaustion. Fortunately, people began to notice their cries and someone turned off the beacon. 

Broken Feather informs me that ravens never get lost because they're always exactly where they want to be, even if they don't quite know where that is.

I think that incident made me very aware of the foibles of getting lost, even though it didn't have enough of an impact to make me overly careful, though I've only been truly lost only twice in my life. Both times were in tall timber where I couldn't see out. 

I'm such a visual person that I tend to steer by landmarks instead of by map and compass, though I love studying maps. I have a photographic memory for places and can describe every turn of a trail years after I've hiked it. About the only thing this talent has ever proved useful for is when I'm stuck indoors and can only daydream about being out. I can always go for a hike in my mind's eye.

Anyway, today the geese are gone, so I assume they found their way to wherever they wanted to go. It's been cold and windy for several days, and the clouds have been really dramatic. I've been too caught up in looking at everything to take many photos. Sometimes you just want to absorb life's treasures. 

I did find a beautiful tiny awl in a wash, a tool made of red chert used by the Anasazi of long ago to poke holes in skins and such. I've found many points in my lifetime of wandering, but it's still a real treat to find something used by people of so long ago. It's a form of touchstone back to lives that must've been so very different from mine. Kind of like the lives of those geese high in the sky, seeing things I'll never see. The one good thing about being lost is you sometimes see things you never dreamed of.

I put the awl in the fork of a big old gnarly juniper tree for safekeeping, where wild flashfloods wouldn't carry it away. No point in it getting lost, too.


  1. They studied with many great masters, including Poe, Shakespeare, and PT Barnum.

  2. Like you, I too am a landmarks person, but my photographic memory is not as finely attuned. Maybe those Canada Geese are blazing a trail homeward to our place. We have many of them in the summer on ponds nearby.

  3. Sometimes the best photographic memory is a camera. :)

  4. Um, thanks Al, for saying it without saying it.
    They're "Canada" geese. They don't have passports.
    'Cause if they did, we'd want to have them revoked.
    They poop everywhere.

  5. So...Bob, you mean to say you have them in VIenna, too??? :)