I've been camped in the Colorado mountains for a long time, but I miss the desert and am just waiting for it to cool down way over there in Utah. In the meantime, I came upon a note I wrote last March while camped near Moab and thought I'd share it with you:
The days stretch one into another, and this is my life. Picture a bowl of desert sand, fine blow sand, in a bowl as big as the sun, which is too big to really comprehend, then take a tiny pinch of that fine sand and let it slowly trickle through your fingers.
Quickly gone, and even this takes longer than the days of a life, a tiny meaningless portion of much greater things. And this is neither good nor bad, it just is. Our lives are short, but we can’t even really begin to comprehend how short they really are—because we don’t have enough time to comprehend and understand it.
So, one day, I quit trying, and life became easier for it. I gave up on it all and I went feral. I gave up on the mindset that humans are important, that what we do matters in the grand scheme of things, and I just went feral.
The desert’s magic swept all around me, and I forgot who I was. All I could remember was that I was human, and even that seemed unimportant.
All that mattered was how low the stars hung in the desert night, low enough to reach up and touch.
|Rainbow over the La Sals in Utah|
I’ve been out in the wilds for three weeks before I decide to build a fire. I have a bundle of wood that I found in a campground, and I take it and finally open it, untying the twine around it. I bank a few pieces into a flattened teepee shape, then I crumple up a bunch of New York Times a friend gave me for kindling.
I’ve built lots of fires, but this is one of the best. Maybe it’s the content that makes it burn well. It takes off with a roar and I stack more wood around it until it’s a happy warm fire.
I set back, enjoying the warmth as the sun sets. Wild canaigre surrounds the camp, the green stems growing what seems like several inches a day. Soon tall shoots will shoot up, each bearing pink flowers. Wild rhubarb.
One plant grows near the fire ring, and I can see its broad green leaves reflecting firelight in the waning sunset.
The mountains light up in pale pink alpenglow, as if a precursor to the not yet opened pink canaigre flowers. Today is March 15, 2013, and the sunrise and sunset are nearly in perfect synchrony. The equinox will see them dancing cheek to cheek, only to part for another six months, going to their separate destinies.
The fire warms my legs, but my back is cold. The wood pops in protest of being consumed, and I think of how the trees grow only to be cut and used thus, their short lives mirroring my own. The fire settles, and the wood seems like it will burn forever. It’s a healthy warm fire with little smoke, burning hot.
|Sunset over Utah's Bookcliffs (Battleship Butte)|
The sun sets and the night chill moves in like a silent mist from long ago, the age of the giant lizards, the dinosaurs whose bones have been found nearby. I look out to the last waning sunglow on the Jurassic redrock, layers deposited when the great giants walked the Earth, and I can almost hear a distant roar.
I put another piece of wood on the fire and pull my camp chair closer, looking over my shoulder where I see the shadows deepen—was that movement a giant theropod, maybe an Alamosaurus, the most fierce of all theropod dinosaurs? No, it was just one of the dogs moving closer to the fire.
I stir the fire, probably one of humankind’s oldest traditions, and it jumps alive, popping and burning into the sky, ashes floating upwards until they become stars in the black vault of night.
I built a fire to stave off loneliness, which came for a visit today after my friends John and Tonya left. They were here only a short time, just long enough to remind me of all the things I don’t have—companionship, a home, a stable income, a tribe. Their absence, ironically enough, makes me want to flee even deeper into the desert.
My tribe is made of dogs and elusive therapods, no humans. I think of my friends sitting by their cozy fireplace and of how different that is from where I am. Cups of hot tea and no worries of therapods in the bushes. I suddenly feel the loss, though I knew were I to be there I’d feel the loss of not being here.
A sad state, this worrying oneself by the fire can be. I stir the wood, which is almost nothing but hot embers now. The dogs have taken themselves back to the tent and its security, meager that it is. Maybe they fancy they saw a theropod in the bushes.
I kick dirt on the last of the glowing embers and follow the dogs to bed as the space station quickly traverses the arc of night sky, its solar panels lighting it as if it were on fire.
I’m dumbstruck by all it symbolizes and nearly throw my notebook into the fire, feeling insignificant. My scribbles are nothing, of no importance at all in the grand scheme of things, although they do serve to ground me a bit—otherwise I would just float with the last of the fire’s ashes into that incredible night sky, that vault of bright stars, many already extinct.
I have to be careful to not look too far or hard at that distant sky—you can get lost forever with no path home in this vast loneliness.
John and Tonya are out there right now, camping and maybe even looking back this way, hopefully unaware of this impossible loneliness hiding in the bushes like a theropod.
|Camped in the Colorado Rockies - nice and cool and beary. No moose yet, though they're in the area.|