When I was a kid I got up early every morning, especially during summer. I loved to see the sun come up and the dew glisten and dry; I enjoyed seeing my friends if I could get them to drag out of bed, as well. School started early enough for me the rest of the year, and that’s as untimely soon as I got up, unless I had an dern early workout during swimming season.
My habits as a teacher of school later in life are much the same. I arise as late as possible so that I can get to work on time, or at least not late often enough to attract the attention of my principals.
Most of the time, the only thing that gets me up early these days is the mountains and deserts. To see the sun rise and light on tree and rock is a song of color and flavor, a prayer of time and undulating space. Solid yields to liquid as space yields to light; and the passage of time is what enables sight through the fog of our busy days. The deserts and mountains still have plenty of rock, water, space and time.
Why else would one want to drive for a couple hundred miles? Nutty indeed.
Where else does one receive so much for only a portion of silence and a few deep breaths?
We drove early through the dark, snow and fog at five in the morning, and as the headlights dipped and swung through flakes, our hopes and expectations for the day did the same.
“Is this how the day’s gonna go?” The unvoiced opinion was that we were going to be cold and the light wasn’t going to be of much use for most of the day. We hoped we were wrong, but didn’t want to get our expectations up too high.
This early morning was supposed to bring us into the canyons early enough to catch good light and give plenty of time for screwing around, and as we made it over the summit and past January-like road snowpacked slickness, we kept hope.
But first, we had to get past our normal dopiness.
There aren’t many restaurants open during the winter at eight in the morning in Moab; the tourists looking for desert views usually have expectations of heat from the desert, and early mornings don’t make for much warmth on the high deserts around Grand County. We dragged Main, hurriedly looking for grub. We found nary but closed signs and a couple of packed houses, and turning our noses at Dummy’s and McDiddle’s, we settled for a main café and six-dollar breakfast bagels.
“Why do we do this? We know how to cook and build a fire.” We mused aloud, and somewhat loudly. The sixteen dollars we could have saved would have gone far. Our co-diners, ‘high tourists’ with new Patagonia down sweaters and squeaky new footwear talked of investments and their own tough times, but we could feel our silly but caustic banter would make us naught but enemies in this place We vacated for the hills as soon as we could choke down the high fallutin’ bread and meat.
The canyons were beginning to fill with light as we commenced walking, and the clouds parted for our pleasure. We walked and saw, snapped photos and bled out the pain of time in society’s valleys since we were last in the midst of red rock. Clear water slipped past and down toward the silty Colorado, but the air, water and light were ours for a time. The troubles of the world were guarded and nurtured by man’s buildings and God’s temples, but no such made it past the road at the canyon’s mouth.
As we hiked, I collapsed to the earth at the sound of a canyon wren. There were times I couldn’t step three times without a stunned, silent look or a camera’s shutter release. We were home.
“Why is it that (insert worldly beauty or wisdom) sounds, looks or seems silly when put into the context of this place? Why is it that the edicts of churches and states seem like the prattle of thin, pasty, drawn out old women when voiced under this sky?” We sung songs that sounded majestic within white plasterboard walls with curtained windows and they were now laughable or sad.
We need to find a way that is equally meaningful at home, in places of worship and labor, and in this wilderness. Our ideas ought to be in harmony and synergy with all these places in order for our species to find its home.
Eventually, the time walking in the canyons came to an end. We went back to Moab for a bite to eat and a cup of joe. Even the local thrift store was a pleasure to walk through; Tor, Bryn and Drie were the beneficiaries of a few good buys.
As we headed out, we thought to try out a new road, to see a new place before we headed home. ‘Potash 18 miles.’ Heck. That wasn’t much, and we wouldn’t mind another little town to visit in our travels from our own wee town.
The sign was quite literal. Potash wasn’t a town, it was a huge, private tract of potash mines and evaporation ponds. Our corporate state of America is a wonder to behold. Someone, sometime claimed all of this land for little more than a declaration and a promise to improve at a price of what now would scarcely buy a week’s groceries these days. Now they own mansions, islands and jets. Now their like are being rescued from gluttony and real estate speculation by the sweat of our collective brow and common resources so that they can keep mining this potash, evaporating precious water, feeding corporate style agribusiness, and live to profit another day.
Oh yeah. There was another oil derrick out there.
No cafes or little houses with families, though. I’m sure the men have to get up early to work these mines, twenty miles out of town and past uranium tailings piles.
Man, but it was worth our early morning and drive through snow to see and learn what we had.
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