slow creature slow land slow man


You can almost feel the noon sun on the back of her neck. Look how she lifts her chin up—blissed out. Look at the spiny forelegs, an ancient adaptation to desert terrain and also a defensive gate when she withdraws and pulls those shields closed over her head. The shell itself is a wonder. Trace the lines of the sturdy underplate that juts up beneath her throat.

What an amazing creature. What an amazing landscape.

Autumn in the American Southwest is glorious. I slept under the stars for a couple nights in this canyon outside Moab, Utah, watching meteors and marking, with middling success, constellations and celestial bodies. I drifted off to sleep, then woke in the deep darkness lit by those stars, a pocket of warmth around me in my bag but the chilled, delicious night air on my face and in my lungs. Predawn skies filtered black to purple to blue until backlit mesas caught enough light to show their rust colored contours. I can't remember a more slow and stunning awakening.

I've lived and traveled the West since 1978, from the Canadian Rockies to southern California, and have spent a great deal of that time on the Front Range of Colorado, only six hours from this place. But somehow I never managed to make it Moab, Arches, Canyonlands, nor to the Grand Escalante, Bryce, or Zion. What was I thinking?

The hikes I took with my friends were pure poetry, a feast for the eyes but also for the other senses. By late afternoon, autumn sun pushed long, contorted shadows off the backs of great boulders and the rock grew a richer red in hue. Stored heat released from the great slab where we rested, yielding to a cool October dusk.

There's more, and I would tell about it all, but words are at times an inadquate layer of symbols for the real and tangible world and our experience of it. The trick is to get out there amid it all and let the rock and sun and wind have their way with your body and brain, wash from you the lingering scent of your preoccupations, your last illusion that any past or future exists.