I have no dramatic, weird or suspenseful tales to tell about the weekend, in which we traded our city, finally glittering with what is always a deceptively bright and warm early Spring, for the basalt columns of the Frenchman Coulee and its bone-dry, shadeless basins. No mishaps, no injuries, no wrong trails. It was pretty boringly idyllic, and that was okay with us.
We simply got what we needed—a couple of days away from the hustle, out in the wide-open desert under giant, cloudless skies. A good, hard sleep at the base of lichen-coated towers, wrapped in down and breathing in the junipery spice of desert sage. A couple of meals cooked over an open fire. Dirt on our hands and feet. Sun. Air.
The green and white spackled polygonal towers that rise to form the canyon walls of the Frenchman Coulee were carved by Ice Age floods somewhere around 15 million years ago. That part of the earth’s history is hard for us to imagine; we only know it by the stories built upon fossil fragments and mineral layers and carbon-dating machines. We have let others take on the seriousness of that work, and we are grateful for their diligence, for it frees us to learn these stories in a different way—with our arms wrapped around the rock.
Sometimes it’s good and necessary to just be people, together and alive, and nothing more. The world is a mystery, life is a goddamned conundrum, and surely we’re all seeking the means to solve it but too many of us are doing it all wrong.
I say, no need to wear down the soul in attempt to solve the mystery—that big unknowable unknown, wrapped in beautiful confusion and heartbreaking contradiction—better to be a part of the mess. Bruise the body, scrape the knees, ruddy the cheeks and muss the hair, come home with broken fingernails and lips split by hours spent wandering under harsh sunlight the foot trails of our mothers and fathers, simply because we are blessed with functioning limbs and days yet free of children to raise, fences to mend and spouses to comfort. For now, we build fires in the dirt, and raise and mend and comfort each other, and that is enough. God, it’s more than enough.
[Thanks to Sara Sanford for the last three, beautiful photos!]
i’m headed that direction this weekend. alas, there will be no climbing, but i will most definitely pass by where you were.
It’s such a lovely drive out that way, have a great time!