In exactly twelve days, I will be on a plane, headed west. I cannot adequately phrase how overwhelmed I am by childlike anticipation for this trip. Believe it or not, I may be more excited for this 10-day stretch than I was for our honeymoon. All we had to do on that jaunt was decide if so much guacamole could be considered unhealthy, and whether we should deposit our bits and pieces by the interconnected pool or on the secluded beach (as well as where to stash the bacon we lifted from the breakfast buffet).
C and I are soon headed to what is becoming one of our favorite places on earth: Utah. Before your mind starts swimming in thoughts of the two of us on some compound in the hills, me barefoot and struggling to hold one screaming infant in each arm, C walking a plow behind a mule, and our 15 other sister-wives inside the pueblo peeling potatoes and making baskets to sell to the tourists, hold up. Last fall, we decided to celebrate our 5th anniversary with a crazy camping vacation to the southwest. See, both of us have been fortunate enough to, during our respective childhoods, travel overseas a little bit, and I for one, have found in my relative adulthood that I have a feverish desire to see America.
Our 2010 plans took us to Zion Canyon, in southwest Utah, where we found ourselves completely dwarfed by the orange stripes of Navajo sandstone and pale gold limestone rising half a mile above us. Zion is what Shangri-La must look like after a day crisping in the sun. It is simultaneously arid and cool, lofty and shallow, extremely sparse and astoundingly fertile. I have never found myself in a place so very welcoming while also so unapologetically austere. It’s hard to describe, but as we prepare to return to the area (this time to the southeast of the state), I randomly find myself fantasizing of my first moments in that bright, sandy landscape. All I want is to lay my body down on the hot rusty stone and stare into the bright turquoise expanse of sky – to feel the beating rays of the sun on my face and the radiant heat of the earth on my back. I want to taste the dust in my mouth and feel the swirling aroma of pine and juniper overwhelm my senses.
The north end of Zion Canyon narrows to a small chute at a point named the Temple of Sinawava (Sinawava was the Coyote god of the Paiutes). It seems obvious that people would come to a place like this and expect to offer some form of worship. There are geographic landmarks with names like Angel’s Landing, Court of the Patriarchs, and The Great White Throne which all allude to the canyon's role in various spiritual traditions. I do acknowledge that many of the titles administered to Zion’s landscape can be attributed to the influence of Mormon settlers in the mid-nineteenth century, and that some may find the imagery of The Altar of Sacrifice a teensy bit sinister. I have to admit that likewise, I don’t really want to hike up and check for bloodstains. However, the canyon’s vast panoramic nature does demand a certain humility and submission from it’s patrons, not unlike the spiritual kind. It’s like the earth speaks and insists that you think of more than yourself for a little while. It practically begs it of you.
If you shut your eyes and inhale deeply, I swear you can almost feel the warm, dusty breeze.