For Zion (part 1)
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
We last left off on the heat-beaten road to Vegas. In the hotel there was migraine recovery, over-priced food, a roof-top pool, and blessed air-conditioning.
It was my first time seeing the place through the eyes of children, and in broad daylight. I was reminded that it really is a place that delivers whatever version of itself you need the most. And it’s still as hot as hell out there.
With everyone recovered we pressed on to Zion - a little camp just below the main gate to the park. All of our clean camping gear was immediately awash in red earth and scorching heat. But from the first glimpses of the park as we came up through the valley, I was awed by the enormous, gobsmacking scale. And the colors. And the way time collapses in the folds and sharp lines. Not linear time but incomprehensible time where past, present and future are all the same thing.
Such a revelation when paired with the new images from deep space where recent history is already beyond ancient history. The kind of time that we try to wrap our arms around and define, but that keeps escaping us in both the heavens and on earth.
We keep expecting to see a stagnant and decaying understanding of the world, and the great beyond of our universe, but instead the Natural World just keeps expanding and changing. Impossibly, it’s still writing history even in this moment and even more impossibly it doesn’t need our help.
And so the four of us were humans wandering through this expanding time and space. The first morning the air was oppressively hot right over the hill in our camp. I tried to find joy and peace but a lump had lodged in my throat, thick and full of grief.
This is what happens when I pass through the portal of shoulds and woulds to a place that doesn’t keep time. This is also what happens when traveling with younger humans that have a whole set of their own needs. And matters worse, with no other adult to help me navigate a wonky tent and a full Thule box that won’t close, and a tribe of fire ants that bite like a bee sting.
But there was no mistaking this was meant to be a stop on our itinerary and I was meant to do this without the strong hands and back of my husband. That we were brought to the foot of the red rocks so they could go to work on me.
The first wave was paranoia. My mind played out all of the scenarios of being out here alone with three children. In my mind, we would definitely be robbed, the mountain above camp would give way and bury us, those distant coyotes were coming for us, and in the morning a child will surely be kidnapped, another most definitely washed away.
In my imagining we also had a flat tire and no AC in the middle of the desert where no one stopped to help. And every scenario played out in my awake and in my dreams where I only had two hands, and two hands were never enough. My mind was on overdrive with all of the worst kind of travel stories and they were all coming for us.
And I did lock us out of the car, with most of the food and water inside in 110 heat, and my cell phone died while trying to get AAA on the phone. And we took the wrong road and got pretty well lost. And we almost ran out of gas on a stretch of Highway that was 117 degrees and under construction. But miraculously there was always help and I remembered that I’ve done this before, and I know how to do this, and I did it.
But I still couldn’t shake this feeling of lack. Did I plan well enough (the answer is no, but good enough). Would there be enough money. Would there be enough time?
And who am I anyway to think I could take these precious resources and squander them like this? Surely, at this stage of life I should have learned how to be more frugal and un-wanting. But there I was ever the same. Totally unfrugal and still wanting.
What a weird thing, to feel shame about wanting what the heart desires. I sat with this every morning, with my yoga mat laid out on the footbridge across the stream in our camp. And there, on the third morning, flowing under me was the revelation.
Water. Impossible amounts of water. Upstream I could see the sun rising over the rocks of Zion and from the depths of its valley, rivers and streams flowed from every corner.
The scorching heat of the day. The silent giants that hum with time immortal, and precious cool water, verdant patches of grasses, bright green shrubs, trees with leaves that flicker like gold coins in the wind. Impossible amounts of water bursting forth from beneath the earth and seeping from the canyon walls.
Enough to bathe in. Enough to hear flowing from the tent. So much that we inflated our inner-tubes and made our way to a “locals only” swimming hole on a tip from our camp host. Enough to fill a canyon that led us up through the Narrows where the air sat in the midday like an incinerator for the things I’ve dragged here that no longer work.
I brought them out here to leave on the valley floor, and let my scorched heart be baptized anew.
And I’m doing this in real time with real people. A child who only gives me one chance to get the photo right before she slips away. Another who processes everything out-loud and at top volume. And a third who is sure we are on a survival mission, refusing to change his clothes, walking the red earth with knife in sheath as he defends our lives from bugs and desert reptile.
And the sunrise over Zion on our last morning lifted the grief and delivered the revelation that even in impossibly dry places, even where it seems unlikely that anything could grow, there is a spring from deep in the earth, cool and clear. And it flows without stopping. It’s source from somewhere unseen and it is always more than enough.