Canyon Pathways

A man & a woman embark for the canyons. Lightly packed, tent, sleep pads, gas stove, lantern. Six hours of driving, rest stops with signs reading: "Watch For Rattlesnakes". At one gas station, a kind old man with a ZZ Top beard went on about Vietnam, politics, the weather while he rang up their purchases.

As the miles fell away, the towns grew smaller and farther apart until eventually there was just farmland. The road cut through that farmland until it gave way to buttes & brush & clay so orange it was like a sunset. The man and woman followed those roads into the canyons, their truck rising and falling with the orange earth around them. As the terrain grew wilder, their cell signals grew weaker, until that last bar vanished. Her phone read "searching", but the woman knew it wouldn't find what it was searching for and, with a smile, powered it off.

This land was new to her. This orange ocean of earth juxtaposed against a sky so blue it seemed unreal. She'd never been someplace like this and she felt electrified by the excitement of it. As always in nature, she felt herself coming home. Each time there was the thought, 'I could stay here, run away into the wild, die happy despite starvation, dehydration, snake bite. Stay and die free.' She knew herself well enough to know she could accept that fate. She also knew herself well enough to know that she wouldn't choose that path, not this time, not yet.

That night they made camp near a ledge. There was a shallow, nearly dry creek bed below, and the walls of higher buttes just across. The stars nearly made her cry... it'd been a long time since she'd been far enough away from the city to take them in. It made her think of her childhood in the country, her family's home near the woods. He made a small fire and she cooked their dinner in its' coals. Later, in their tent, they listened in awe as hundreds of coyote lit up the canyon with their songs. She'd never heard coyote before and found herself falling in love with their wild yips and howls. She wanted to be a coyote, to be part of their raucous roaming packs. She told her husband as much and doubted that he was surprised by a single word.

The following day was defined by miles on foot. Ten miles looping through the canyon, much of it steep & rocky. Snakes, bison, roadrunners. Heat, red dust & hoodoos. Views which stopped them both, rendering them speechless. Then the last mile: cool rain splashing down, weaving pathways across their parched skin, in the dust, through the canyon. The rain slid across the man and woman, the same rain that had been carving out these canyons for years. A merging of sweat & water & earth that seemed to say "I will cleanse you. I will take what you no longer need and I will wash it away. It is part of this land and this land is part of you, connected, like all things, in a good gentle and sacred way."