I just returned from hours sitting in the desert. I took a folding chair out of the car and unfolded it. I took about 7 books and read only parts of one, Red, by Terry Tempest Williams. At one point the wind grew so strong that it knocked over the small stack of books next to the chair. I watched the shadows of clouds change the look of the mountains miles away. I walked a half mile into the sage flats. I heard nothing but the wind, a few birds, and two planes flying overhead. Mostly I sat, read, wrote, sketched, spent long moments looking at the blue mountains in the distance and watching the ever-changing landscape, the play of light and dark from the clouds rushing past: shadow and highlight; the sagebrush color in the light of the sun. I am reminded of a quote I read recently, something by Walt Whitman: "Was someone asking to see the soul? See your own shape and countenance, persons, substances, beasts, the trees, the running rivers, the rocks and sands." —6.05
Oak Grove Campground, Pine Valley Mountains
Summary of the last few days of explorations: Parowan Gap (we ran up the rocky, rattlesnake-infested hills), Crystal Springs up Cedar Canyon (we ran and mountain-biked along the canyon rim), then an exploration at the Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness Area, just yesterday, at Oak Grove Campground, a new place for us down at the end of 8 miles of red-dirt road, tucked under the mountains that rise to 10,000 ft.
At Oak Grove Campground, we stopped and walked around. The campground host spotted us. He waved. I thought he was waving at someone behind us. As we walked by, it was clear he was ready and willing to give us information. His name was Bones, and he looked and acted like our friend Hank from back in Indiana, but add 15 or so years. Had the same mannerisms, wore his hat the same way, had the same kind of eyes.
He told us about the 550-year-old Bee Tree, a ponderosa that was holding onto its life just down the trail, and in which bees made their homes sometimes. We walked to it. It was monumental, with a 4-foot trunk. The sign said the tree was hollow; only the outer 6-8 inches were alive.
We hiked up the trail towards the summit at 10,000 ft, past lupine, gambel's oak, prickly pear cacti in bloom, more and more. About an hour and a half up the trail, we stopped, leaned against rocks, watched as the mountain peaks in Zion National Park glowed red and beautiful and clear and stark 40 miles away. We headed down. Driving out, we stopped and walked up the rocky slopes to look at the blooming cacti, which seemed to be everywhere. I did not want to leave.
There's this sharp joy that fills me up when I am in these places. But sometimes I grow tired of writing about these feelings and photographing the scenery, trying to get at the heart of what I am experiencing. Lately, I've been taking no photos. I am content to let these feelings wash over me for a time now. I am content to feel the wind and the sun on my face and simply be in these amazing places.
I am content to simply be for a while, to study the myriad yellow blossoms of a cactus for a long sun-filled moment, and a little longer, and then walk on. —6.05