Nature Writing

March 28, 2013

We strangers shuffle across Old Main’s sidewalks in what feels like the dead of winter. Chins buried in our scarves, shoes and boots slapping murky cement. Sometimes we walk hundreds of feet like that, not looking up, not wanting to exhale just to inhale ice. We stare at the ground with hopes that it will take us to class faster.

Let me number the things we miss:

  1. The way Logan Canyon unfolds her lips against the snow, reborn and beckoning to the most daring of adventurers: Come and find me now. Her breath comes in cloudy, clingy puffs.
  2. Pine trees that resort to their seedling innocence. Just look at them, little white pinecones clustered on the rocks.
  3. Furrows at the Bear River Range’s base that look like strong fingers kneading dough. Floury.
  4. Chunks of cliff exposed. Oreos in Cookie ‘n’ Cream slopes.
  5. The yellow leaves that had just recently touched the ground for the first time in their lives. Dead and vibrant against snowy grass.
  6. The Wellsville Mountain Range’s new winter suit. Bone jutting from valley skin.
  7. Clouds that look painted onto the sky.

These are the things we refuse to look at. To know.

Let me number the things I know:

  1. The face of the land at night from the top of the Wind Caves. A winding black road with the lights of a lonely traveler flashing far below a skeleton-white moon.
  2. The blush of Logan Canyon against an autumn sunset. Colors so pink, you wonder if the treetops have been set on fire.
  3. The rush of glacier-cold water that my sister and I jump into and cut through like knives. First Dam empty of fishermen, but not empty of fish. They squirm beneath the bridge, and we shriek at them before crashing through their rippling home.
  4. The stinging whip of the wind on top of the tallest Wellsville peak. You can see the valley splayed before you from up there, Antelope Island in the south, and, I’m told, parts of Nevada in the west. Every muscle in you knows the narrow, rocky path that sets you between two counties and the closest to heaven you’ve ever been.
  5. The way Logan Canyon feels beneath your fingers and your toes when you scale her walls. She’s a broken veteran, and you tear yourself apart against her. Your rope slaps against her limestone cliffs, and her limestone cliffs fight back with immobility. You are the carabineer clad knight scaling the castle wall. She is a puzzle stuck in time.
  6. The sting of weeds that bite my legs off trail. A view from a rocky outcrop I never would have seen had we not gone off trail.
  7. Wildflowers. You will find them in the hardest bends atop the Wellsvilles.

Even then, there are the mysteries that I read in journals and memoirs that I long so badly to know.

Such as:

  1. The way the Milky Way looks from the red stones of Southern Utah
  2. The way the Narrows supposedly hug your body when you explore them
  3. Tugging rope and yawning bats in the darkest corners of a cave
  4. A moose, mossy and bumbling, dipping its head into a mountain lake
  5. The scream of a cougar
  6. How far you could walk barefoot up Logan river
  7. El Capitan – not a Utah site, but still a weird part of me, an attachment I don’t forget
  8. Native American tradition weaved through and against the rocks of the desert

We strangers shuffle across campus without embracing change, change that screams for risk and exploration. Staring at the ground, we miss the corners of the canyon and the valley and the mountains that tangle with our soul and re-astound us when we simply look up and breathe.

Written Oct. 24th, 2012

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