Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Everett Ruess: Iconic Mystery (Still) Everlasting

Oh, Everett Ruess. Did we ever know you? Did anyone? Such a short life. How many people have revealed all of themselves at 20? I barely know myself yet at twice that age. Yet paeans have been written to the lost poet's name, songs and laments and glorifications. So many projections have been flung upon this poor young man he's probably twitching in his grave, wherever that may be.

Everett Ruess, the young writer and artist and dreamer and wanderer, was irrevocably lost into the southern Utah canyons in November, 1934. (On the practical note, let me reinforce that most significant part: LOST in the southern Utah canyons. Disappeared, gone, vanished. So many theories over the years, none of which have yet been corroborated, yet all of which point toward the potential finality of tramping the wildlands of this glorious yet highly unforgiving little section of the world. There are plenty of people who wander all over it at will and are perfectly fine, will die in their beds at home at an advanced age...but there are some who will not. So please remember that this place can just be dangerous, if I must be completely blunt about it. If you enter the canyons, climb the mesatops, hike to the heights of the mountains, be prepared to extricate yourself again, and to save yourself if need be.)

This young wanderer, this dreamy poet, who dared tramp where his feet led and seemed not to care too much what others thought of him, has borne the brunt of many a projection. How on earth to shoulder such a burden? “Excuse me, but your ideas of who and what I am are growing far too heavy for me to carry. Can you please retrieve them and kindly let me on my way, unencumbered by your ideas and ideals of my perfect life?”

Makes you want to say that yourself to people, doesn't it?

Since it was officially revealed earlier this year that the remains thought to be his are, in fact, not, a new flood of accusations, projections, theories, and dreamy idealizations have been trotted out yet again all over cyberspace.

I freely admit that I am as mildly thrilled as many other people. The mystery still exists. The ghost of Everett Ruess still tramps the desert, beckoning to his fellow travelers, promising an enduring tale that has no ending but for the one we each make up for ourselves.

No wonder some people are happy he's still missing. His story is a fulfillment of our own wishes. His short life and unknown end are a blank canvas upon which we can splash, caress, throw, even fingerpaint our own masterpiece, create our ending, satisfy our own needs.

Everett Ruess, for my own selfish desires, I kind of hope you stay lost just a little bit longer. But for your sake as well as your family's, I will instead set my intention toward your remains and your unique story being discovered and deciphered...someday.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

top 5 reasons to visit Cedar Mesa, Utah

Sometimes I do lag in posting, don't I? Hard being a freelance writer yet also a lover of the wilderness who adventures a lot! (Ok, ok--I'm also a bit of a procrastinator. Just a bit!)

I recently traveled to Mancos, CO, to visit a friend. Great trip...especially the drive over Cedar Mesa. Now, this is an area I have driven through many, many times when I lived in Durango yet felt compelled to often return to Torrey (gee, I wonder why, lol). I've done a minimal amount of hiking and camping in the area--but let me tell you, there's an abundance of hiking to be done there! Cedar Mesa is the sort of huge secret that many locals or canyoneering or ancestral Puebloean aficionados know about, yet it's still basically hidden from the general public eye.

Good thing, that. Plus, if you visit this area or plan to do any stomping around, you'd better be self-sufficient. Not a forgiving area in which to get lost or stranded without possessing some basic survival skills. (That's another post coming soon...all abut the bowdrill and more.)

Ok, caveat emptor, here's why you should put Cedar Mesa on your list of places to visit:

1) Unspoiled.
Really. It's way off the beaten path, there are no national parks within its sprawl of canyons and buttes, and its biggest attractions (mountain biking, canyoneering, hiking) haven't yet drawn the crowds that swarm places like Moab. Phew!

2) Huge.
Cedar Mesa encompasses over 400 square miles of pure wilderness playground. Check out Natural Bridges National Monument, the awe-inspiring ancient native american remains (such as Turkey Pen Ruin and Perfect Kiva in the Grand Gulch Primitive Area), and stop in at Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding to see some of the "spoils" taken from ruins over the last century. Oh, and swing into the Butler Wash Ruins overlook and check out the Moki stairs. Really nuts! (Yes, Virginia, there were ancient people who pecked that staircase out of sheer rock and then used it. They were either ancient versions of Spiderman or just really, really trusting of their toeholds.)

3) Grand Gulch Primitive Area.
Note the word "primitive." They're right on the money about that, so realize that if you get your little hiking butt into trouble out there, you'd best be able to get it out again--on your own. Grand Gulch is utterly sublime in its beauty, incredible ruins, and eerie link to the past. Back in the day (say, 1200 years ago), supposedly, more people inhabited this area than live in all the Four Corners today. Crazy, no? (I remember hearing this somewhere but can't find documentation for it just now...will keep looking though.) Please remember that the Archeological Resources Protection Act says it's a felony to disturb or take artifacts. Want more proof of how serious they are? Hark back to the Blanding raids earlier this year. They mean it.

4) White Canyon, home of the Black Hole.
Spooky! The Black Hole is a classic canyoneering experience in the most serious sense. You actually need a drysuit to do it, as water temps can be so cold even on a 100+ degree day in July that you can get hypothermic. You'd also best be experienced or with someone very experienced and safety-conscious. And White Canyon itself is such a fascinating, lovely fissure in the earth. It demands exploration even if it didn't contain the presence of cool slot canyons.

5) Dark Canyon Wilderness.
Ok, technically it's a bit north of Cedar Mesa. But it is an amazing hidden gem, and should be explored by every serious off-the-beaten-path adventurer heading to southern Utah. There are some stunning hikes, hidden ruins, and vistas that are unbelievably beautiful--and best of all, no one else is there! And it has 45,000 acres! Let me say it again: Hidden. Treasure. Go check it out...but mum's the word.

Best reasons of all:

See below. Happy trails.... And do tell me your own reasons why visiting Cedar Mesa is such an awesome idea.

Cheese Box Butte.

Gorgeous canyon that parallels Hwy 95 much of the way.

Ancient potsherds. (No, I'm not the one who "arranged" them thusly. You should never do this, as it causes the artifacts to lose their provenance. But does make for a nice pic.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

hiking in my southern utah stomping grounds

I realized I don't much talk about specific hikes around here.

Recently, I mentioned Spooky and Peek-a-Boo slot canyons, and those are super cool hikes not to be missed. (As long as you are neither claustrophobic nor well-nourished, as noted.)

Last year, I posted pics and raves about how gorgeous Lost Lake, up on the Boulder, is. (This post also somehow morphs into Hillary Clinton, the Milky Way, and lightning. Don't ask. You'll have to read it, heh.) Then there's the anti-ATV (well, anti-piss-poor users of ATVs) rant that happened because of another horseback ride up to Lost Lake.

Hmm, then there was the one about seeing bighorn sheep along Pleasant Creek Canyon in the Park. No pics, as I'd forgotten my camera that day...but I often see sheep in that canyon. And it is sooo gorgeous there.

Ooh, Natural Bridges National Monument, just down the road from Torrey out in Cedar Mesa. Total wow out there.

There are so, so many hikes I can mention. I'll have to start doing that, and posting pics along with them, of course.

i just wrote a "travel tip" for a nicely-organized travel site called Travel Dudes. My tip was, oddly enough (lol) about Best Hikes in Southern Utah's National Parks. All of the parks down here are, pure & simple, AMAZING. And each is so in its own way. Am I partial to Capitol Reef because that's where I live? Of course. But each park has its own breath-taking delights. Visit 'em all. (Check out this really crisp photo of Bryce Canyon. If you're a camera fiend, that park will keep you occupied for days. For all hours of all the days you spend there, in fact.)

And here are some blog posts on NileGuide I wrote about road tripping and gettin' your beer on in Zion. (Too bad I can't write a similar one about Torrey, ha. Not quite as many drinking establishment choices here, I'm afraid!)

What else. Well, there are my most favorite hikes around Torrey...but I'll have to think about exposing those, so to speak. Not like this is a rabid tourist mecca yet, but it's always been my goal to not encourage the over-visitation of wild places that often means eventual, rather traumatic change. We'll stick with just mentioning Lost Lake for now, hmm? :)

More pics for your viewing pleasure. Then it's off to dreamland for this adventurer...

Blind Lake in the fall, up on the Boulder



Sunday, November 08, 2009

a day in my life

Okay, these would be from several different days, but you get my drift.

Have I mentioned yet that I live in paradise and I love my job(s)? Capitol Reef is a really sweet place to call home. See below for verification. ;)

Working. Really. (Apparently with a tree growing out of my head, but anyway.) The incredible background of my home behind me, Doc standing very nicely.

Pippin hard at work on one of our pack trips. Ha! (Yes, he had his own sleeping bag.)

Relaxing with a guest after a long day on the trail in front of CRBO's kitchen tent. Aaahhhh...

Spooky slot canyon in GSENM. I led people through here on a hike.

Taking some kids riding past Blind Lake up on the Bouldertop.

The boss (Cody) talking about fly fishing on the Fremont River (ok, not a day in my life, but still a cool picture. I'd like to do more fly fishing).

Pack trip in the desert. Those are the Henry Mountains in the background. (It was kind of hazy because of huge fires near St. George.)

Fall foliage on the Boulder in September. So gorgeous! So chilly!

Scary part of the job: feeding 900-pound hay bales with the tractor! Without running into the fence, ha. And yes, that's actually me driving the crazy huge thing. First woman ever taught how to do so in BCO's history. Hee hee!

Convinced that my job & life here has some perks? :)

Each year that I live here (since 1999) brings me new adventures, discoveries, and understandings. What an amazing place this is, especially since it's taught me so much. There's a sort of magic in the desert and mountains here...if only I keep opening my eyes and heart enough to let it in.

thoughts on life in a small, rural, mormon town

Torrey is one of nine towns in Wayne County (WC), Utah. It is inarguably the most "liberal," "open-minded," "accepting" of all the towns here. Why do I use quote marks? Because, dear readers, your definition of those appellations and WC's definition probably vary wildly.

Torrey, as I may have noted before, actually has three churches, as opposed to the other towns only having the dominant LDS (Mormon) church. Torrey is home to an eclectic pile o' people, including hippies, artists, ranchers, Mormons, grubby outdoorsy types, writers, photographers, horsemen and -women, rich folks, poor folks, in-between folks, and many deliciously diverse more.

Torrey is also, as is most of Utah, a very red town, as in Republican. In the election one year ago, however, for the first time in its history Torrey voted blue! There are plenty of Obama supporters here, and they voted. The local paper, The Insider, very grudgingly noted Torrey's left-leaning sensibilities as my little home ripped itself away from the dominant majority. Heh. (Doesn't really matter if you supported Obama or not...my point is that for once the majority was toppled by the determined, and very few, votes of the lesser-represented.)

In last week's election, we voted for Mayor and Council members. My neighbors on my little street (called, very tongue-in-cheek, Morningwood Drive) both won their respective runs. Adus Dorsey is the new mayor of Torrey, and Jennifer Howe is a new councilwoman. They each take up their duties in January.

Neither one is particularly aligned with the majority religion in WC...they won't be mouthpieces for it. Have I mentioned before that there is little separation of church & state in Utah?

Now, this is NOT an anti-LDS rant. It is merely an observation of the mores and morals (or sometimes lack thereof) in my teeny rural adopted homeland. I will note, however, a conversation the other day with a woman who lives here with her two kids, both of whom are in the WC public school system, and none of whom are LDS. Last year, her son's teacher told his class that anyone supporting Obama was a terrorist! (The kid's eight, for crying out loud.) This teacher also supposedly pushes her pro-LDS sentiments in the classroom...of course, the debate over such behavior from a teacher goes on ad nauseum. I say, no sirree. You'd better not push your values on my kid, lady. You're supposed to be teaching them readin', writin', and 'rithmetic.

I digress. Hmm, this might be just a bit of a rant.

Back to my impressions of my little town. I love Utah. Its gorgeous landscapes have stunned me since I first beheld them ten years ago. I am in favor of difference of opinion, diversity, and honest expressions of one's beliefs. I also happen to believe that there's a time and place for all things! I like to believe in our democratic process...though I also often have my doubts.

Ah, too much to think about. What do YOU think about belief systems and sharing said beliefs with others? What have you experienced in your lifetime, good, bad, or downright ugly?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

a natural high: drunk on the beauty of the red rocks

Oh, it is so spectacularly beautiful this morning in Torrey. The sky is a crisp blue, the sun is uncovered, there's a light breeze rustling the changing leaves of the nearly-bare aspen trees, and the red cliffs are just begging to be explored and climbed.

Hmm, I've mentioned before that I live in paradise, no? This is a sublime time (ooh, bad rhyme! Ha.) of year to visit. The nights are definitely chilly, but damn, the daytime is so perfect for tramping around the desert. Think of the treasures you might stumble across in your wanderings! Pottery shards (yeah, don't take those), dinosaur bones (um, don't take those either), petrified wood (okay, you're allowed to take a small amount of that, but you'd best check in with the Bureau of Land Management office for specifics), possible sightings of bald eagles, golden eagles, bighorn sheep, quick-moving lizards, rabbits darting and leaping everywhere.

Dang. I need to get out and explore today myself! Me and the Pip pup. He'll love a good adventure.

Now, here's something I missed from last month. Wild horses are definitely considered iconic in the American West...but they're also hideously overpopulated and not being adopted due to recent economic concerns. In fact, some people have taken to dumping domestic horses out on the range...Yeah, that's what you do with a domestic animal you can no longer care for. Been going on for a while, too, sadly enough. Anyway, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has apparently launched an idea to make sustaining the wild horse herds, well, more sustainable. Will it work? Let's see. This is a whole other discussion for another post. And will I be able to go on and on about it! (You can start by reading more here; please note that these are someone else's thoughts, but any thoughtful addition to the conversation makes it more well-rounded.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

the bittersweet season

It's fall here...I love it, yet it brings an anxious pang to my heart every year. Fall is when the colors burst from the deciduous trees, the sky is even more brilliant blue than usual, and the weather is mostly awesome for hiking in desert canyon land. I can relax...explore...revel in uncrowded beauty here. I made apple pie with the fruit from the trees in my back yard. Leaves are thick on the ground, and smoke scents the air as many people (me included) fire up their wood stoves to ward off the chill. This is the sweet part.

But here in Torrey, it's also the end of the season. The tourist season, the awake season, is winding to an abrupt finis, an ending that lands sudden and sharp as the cold and the shorter days. Most of the businesses in town close, including my place of employment, Capitol Reef Backcountry Outfitters. Things start to feel...eerie. It's another winding down. An ending, and we all know how difficult those can be. This, of course, is the bitter part.

It's actually a wonderful time of year to visit. The crowds have slimmed considerably and the cooler temps just make it more pleasant. I plan to get out there and explore a bit. I have been stir crazy lately!

Oh, and my goodness. The remains of Everett Ruess are not his after all, it seems. How crazy is that? Who's to blame for the snafu? Well, that might be a moot point. Although I feel for the family members, who are still lacking the closure they seek, it's sort of nice to have the mystery still open. It reminds me that once again, all possibilities are open.

Which is how I perhaps ought to think about fall. Hmm...off to wander the red rocks and ponder that thought!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

shameless self-promotion

Well, but I'm also promoting southern Utah, the land of my heart and soul. Damn, I'm actually promoting it all over the place, these days. Can't help it, I love this area so much. I want others to love it too...responsibly. (Do you hear me, silly NYT article that did NOT include a useful sidebar telling visitors how to behave when visiting the perilous desert? Grumble. I hold you responsible for the trashing of Spooky & Peek-a-Boo. Seriously. That and just the all-too-common lack of human decency or respect these days.)

I'm the southern Utah Local Expert (sounds very official, no?) for NileGuide, a very cool travel site for the savvy, hip traveler (hey, that's you, really). I'm in charge of Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Moab. Uh...keeps me busy! Hopefully they'll add Capitol Reef sometime (but not too soon, I've got lots to catch up on with the other parks. Yikes....)

Set me up a Twitter account (yeesh, the thought scares me...but here I go anyway), @julietrevelyan.

And soon, hopefully, I'll be blogging for Capitol Reef Backcountry Outfitters, where I just completed my second season full of adventure & exploration.

Ah...the rain is falling wildly and the thunder is shaking and rolling terribly at the moment. Huge storm! And I'm inside! Writing! I love being able to look outside at the sturm und drang yet not have to be in it. God, this place is so beautiful. See?


Sunday, August 09, 2009

oh, summertime, how I love thee...

...but how you make my writing suffer! I knew it had been some time since I blogged on here, but I was utterly aghast to realize it'd been almost two months. Mea culpa!!! A thousand times over. Not like I have a huge readership or anything. Yet still, the responsibility hangs heavy on me at the moment.

As you may know, in the summer I am paid (paid, I tell you! Miraculous.) to play outside. Ride horses, go hiking, drive people around to gorgeous areas like Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Look at these pictures and weep:

(yes, my pants are highwaters...deal with it. I have long legs! Velvet Ridge aglow in background.)

(the bridge at Devil's Garden in GSENM)

(riding my decidedly nervous horse (Doc) in the annual 4th of July parade in Torrey)

(Pippin at Blind Lake!)

(on our way home from Blind Lake...descending Boulder Mountain...with Thousand Lake Mountain in the background. Tough job, eh?)

As you can see, I've been quite busy running around this lovely area. But I really will try to post more often...it's just so hard during these gorgeous, busy days!

Hope summer is going fabulously well for everyone else out there too. Enjoy it...it only comes once a year. ;)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

don't twig out: the creepy connection between pot hunters & meth

Ever hear of a "twigger"? Yeah, neither had I, until I read this aptly-titled article ("Drugs, Guns and Dirt") in the March/April issue of Archaeology Magazine. Wow. Twiggers: methamphetamine users (often called "tweakers") who apply the drug's obsessive-compulsive drive to search methodically through archaeological sites, loot them thoroughly, then sell their illegally-gained finds on the black market to get more money to supply them with their meth habit.

Unreal, no?

And of course, in the process these addicts are destroying the history and culture of the areas they loot, because they aren't exactly doing it in a way that preserves provenance.

Other articles contribute to the details of this exploding "trade:" here, here, here, and this most recent SL Tribune article.

You might be tempted to think this is small potatoes. Nuh-uh. The illegal antiquities trade (on a worldwide scale, although U.S. Southwest native american artifacts are a huge leader) has been estimated to be in the Billions of dollars--right behind drug smuggling and the illegal arms trade. Yikes, no?

I reported the other day on a big bust right here in Southern Utah. Well, that plot has thickened considerably, and all sorts of people are upset now. It seems that some of the local Blanding residents object to having their names "tarnished"; our very open-minded (she says with a curled lip of distaste) Utah senators are crying foul on Interior Secretary Salazar's harsh crack-down; and at least one accused Blanding resident has apparently committed suicide due to his arrest.


The whole situation is sad, to be sure. Law-breaking, disregard for history, for an entire country's right to enjoy its treasures, the loss of life, the bs and the lies...

But I whole-heartedly agree with the federal process. Those locals of Blanding, UT, who willfully broke the law need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They do not need to be bailed out. They need to take responsibility for their illegal actions--forced to take it, if need be. Hello, it's called The Antiquities Act of 1906 (yes, that would be 1906, not 2006 for those out there who would like the twist the law to suit themselves), and it says it's ILLEGAL to take ancient human artifacts out of the ground unless you are permitted to do so! And yet many Blanding residents (as well as others throughout the world) justify their actions with the statement, "But I always did it as a kid, it wasn't illegal then." Perhaps not, if you are at least 115 years old.


I live in rural Utah. I come face-to-face with ignorant attitudes toward our country's government on a regular basis. Trust me, the people who have gotten away with their "we hate and don't need the federal government" drama for years need to ante up and recognize that if they don't like it, they can darn well move somewhere else. Such as Siberia. Or maybe, just maybe, they could get themselves educated and caring and start protecting the rich archaeological treasures near their homes.


Okay. Off my rant. And remember not to twig.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peek-A-Boo & Spooky

No, it's neither a child's game nor time for Halloween. Rather, it's two great little slot canyons, the classic beginner ones that everyone who wants to hike a slot canyon should do. I first hiked them about six years ago, and yesterday had the privilege of taking a friend who had never in her life been in a slot canyon! Lookie here for some of what we experienced:

Yes, ooh & aah. That one is inside Peek-A-Boo.

Let me note that these slot canyons, plus another one called Brimstone, are located near Escalante, Utah, 28 miles down the v-e-r-y- j-a-r-r-i-n-g Hole-in-the-Rock Road (seriously, the washboards were terrible). It's recommended you have 4WD and definitely high-clearance. Since there was a recent New York Times article about Escalante (which features a great pic of Peek-A-Boo), the crowds had stampeded to the area. We saw probably no less than 60 freakin' people on our hike, and it made our experience in Spooky less than desirable, as we had to squeeze back into the rocks to let herds of Boy Scouts pass, and felt rushed when we heard people coming up right behind us in the there-is-no-physical-way-possible-that-you-can-pass-anther-human-being slot.

But I digress. Just look at these pics, and marvel more:

This was our Chaco-clad feet covered in the STINKY muck leftover from recent storms that we had to climb through in order to get up into Peek-A-Boo!

This is other people descending what we climbed UP into when first getting into Peek-A-Boo. Are you now properly impressed with our prowess? Let me tell you, it took forever to get in, because our feet kept slipping on the wet mud. Note: don't try this going up (when wet) unless you're really sure of yourself or use ropes. It could be really dangerous. You didn't hear me tell you to do it!

This is looking down into Peek-A-Boo. I climbed up on top and snapped this to demonstrate how deep in the womb of mama Earth we were.

Spooky. Yes, this is what you have to go through. You truly cannot be wider than about a foot in some areas. People who are, ah, well-nourished, should not attempt this slot canyon. Nor if you have claustrophobia, nor if you are athletically challenged--you often have to climb up, down, over, or all three, the rocks that get caught in a slot, which are called chockstones.

Me sneakin' through Spooky. See? Narrow! And so, so fun.

Southern Utah. Land of the natural cathedrals, sublime beauty, amazing forces of nature demonstrated right before our eyes. Oh, how I love it....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pot hunting. Yeah, it doesn't pay.

I firmly, albeit sadly, believe that greed will always be a part of the human condition. I suppose that's not all bad...it leads to lessons, no? But it sure as hell is disappointing most of the time. Take this SLTrib article about looters of ancient artifacts in southeastern Utah. It's a big bust, and it just went down. Hoo-rah!

It's aggravating. Annoying. And yet...I feel the oddest little tickles of greed myself, despite all my high-minded (and genuine) ideas about sharing and not doing The Wrong Thing. I'd like to see ancient treasures myself. Up close and personal. In situ, actually. All by myself. Now, I don't want to take them. Heck, no. As I've mentioned before, I have too much respect for a) ancient spirits casting a disapproving eye upon such activity, b) the rights of citizens to be able to enjoy the protected wonders of their country, and c) the laws of the land. In that order, too, I might add. But I do want to see them, admire and enjoy them all by myself. Frankly, I'd really like to see the "pre-Columbian menstrual pad." I mean, come on! How interesting would that be? A great reminder that no, Virginia, contemporary humans did not, in fact, invent the wheel. They just like to pretend they did.

Is that sort of drive, this really deep interest, at the root of this sort of greed? Or do the looters really just want to pay their rent, put braces on Janie, and don't give a fig how they get that money? I wonder.

I'd also like to note that this went down in Blanding, Utah. What a shocker! Blanding has been ground zero for looting over many decades--since the 19th century, really, when white folks discovered that those back Easterners would pay top dolla for real live Injun artifacts. Families in Blanding have been raised around the concept of looting. As if it's The Right Thing. Some members of one family in particular have been involved in pot hunting for a long time.

Grr. And at the same time, HA. You got caught. Now, stop teaching your kids that this is the Right Thing to do. Because it is not. End of story.

Anyhoo. Your southern Utah news for the day. Pot hunting: you can do it if you want, but eventually you'll lose. Especially if you're taking things from the land that by all rights belong to every citizen...not just you and your freakin' greedy little fingers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

little green buds

Ah, Utah. Home to glorious red rock vistas, alpine meadows, sunny blue skies (or tempestuous storms as have lately been visiting us), and...uh...pot farms?

Yep. One of the larger busts of a pot plant "grow" was just discovered right by my house (relatively speaking), up on Boulder Mountain in lil' ole Wayne County. There is a rich history of growing marijuana in southern Utah, it seems. (Who knew. I pay more attention to ancient ruins and OHV tearing up of the land!) Apparently, as crackdowns on illegal grow operations have stepped up in other states (hello, California), the growers have been moving their tidy little money-makers to federal lands throughout the West, including rural Utah.

Now, all this has many implications. First off, let me clear the air about my own viewpoint on pot. Do I really care if people smoke it? Nope. Have lots of friends who do. Heck, one of the medications my grandmother is on right now is Marinol, which is basically synthetic THC that can alleviate pain symptoms in patients. And there are certainly more alcohol-related car accidents and deaths than, um, any related to pot, as far as I know. Should pot be legalized? I believe it should, with all the usual details to make it as safe as possible for users. Would save taxpayers and law enforcement a lot of headaches. Not to mention make life easier for terminally ill people, among other things. I mean, come on--pot sales probably bring in more money for the state of California than the entertainment industry! Anyway, my two cents. And no, I personally don't smoke it. The control freak in me doesn't like the effects of pot on my system. :)

However, pot is still illegal, and grow operations exist all over, and they are potentially dangerous. And that part gives me serious pause. Here are some reasons why:

1) Probably most of the "garden" tenders are harmless, possibly illegals themselves, who are just trying to make an extra buck (or thousand). But that may not always be the case. Some of those arrested in grow-related incidents were armed, and anytime a person feels threatened, there is the possibility s/he will try to defend her/himself with whatever weapon is currently handy. I don't particularly want to stumble upon a grow operation while out hiking alone (or with friends, or guests) while the tenders are there, and possibly armed and jumpy.

2) Ahem, this is not exactly the intended use for federal lands! Pot grows mean water diversion (in areas that already struggle for water), chemicals dumped into the soil via fertilizers (I somehow doubt the growers are using environmentally-friendly stuff), and people knocking about as they lug equipment far into the back country, probably ignoring any sort of notices about fragile soil, revegetation areas, local fauna, etc. I mean, if you're growing illegal little green plants, you probably don't give a darn about other rules, eh?

3) The growers might be tempted to make grow areas as uninviting to hikers or other outdoor enthusiasts as possible. This could mean a little bit of danger at the most, annoyance at the least. I don't know exactly what they might do, but I'm not sure I want to find out.

4) Well, sure blows my theory about solitude in the wilderness, no? A pot farm in the forest or desert seems to taunt the sacredness of wild spaces to me. If I want to get out, meditate, contemplate, hike, rediscover my connection with the earth, just knowing that grow operations, possibly tended by people who certainly don't want me anywhere nearby, might be out there in my perceived solitude just takes away some of the spiritual beauty and meaning.

A pot farm probably does not have the immediate hazards as, say, a meth lab, of which busts in Utah have been common. But even so, I just don't like it.

So watch out for fields of unnatural green when you go hiking...because I'm sure these grows aren't going to stop anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

for Ronan

Ronan, I don't know if you can hear me, but listen to me now: You ARE my family. Peace and amazement to you on your journey, which has come too soon.

At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen.
What marvelous route did you take from this world?

Beating your wings and feathers,
you broke free from this cage.
Rising up to the sky
you attained the world of the soul.
You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.
Then you heard the drummer’s call
and flew beyond space and time.

As a lovesick nightingale, you flew among the owls.
Then came the scent of the rosegarden
and you flew off to meet the Rose.

The wine of this fleeting world
caused your head to ache.
Finally you joined the tavern of Eternity.
Like an arrow, you sped from the bow
and went straight for the bull’s eye of bliss.

This phantom world gave you false signs
But you turned from the illusion
and journeyed to the land of truth.

You are now the Sun -
what need have you for a crown?
You have vanished from this world -
what need have you to tie your robe?

I’ve heard that you can barely see your soul.
But why look at all? -
yours is now the Soul of Souls!

O heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
Seeking divine heights,
Flapping your wings,
you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.

The flowers flee from Autumn, but not you -
You are the fearless rose
that grows amidst the freezing wind.

Pouring down like the rain of heaven
you fell upon the rooftop of this world.
Then you ran in every direction
and escaped through the drain spout . . .

Now the words are over
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest
in the arms of the Beloved.



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Everett Ruess: Mystery (Almost) Solved

The wandering ways and days of Everett Ruess caused much speculation in many folks over the last 75 years. The young explorer of the wild, wild West disappeared forever in November, 1934. The last signs of him were seen at Davis Gulch, a prohibitively remote area near Escalante, UT. His beloved burros were left in a corral there, not long after his last known contact with people, a couple of local sheepherders.

His body was never found. Until now. According to the Ogden Standard-Examiner, human remains discovered near Comb Ridge, Utah, are most definitely his.

But it seems as if the skeptics still abound. It is intriguing, to be sure. His burros were found 60 miles from his body. How in the heck did he travel that distance without them? I say, duh--he was bopped over the head by the "bad guys" (opportunists, more likely), who took all his worldly goods, headed west, and left his critters holed up near Escalante. Or something like that.

At any rate, I understand the desire to hang onto the romance of this old mystery. It hooked me too, years ago, when I first moved here. I've read his journals, I've dreamed about discovering clues to his death. And...if this is case closed, then that's it to the dreaming, the wondering, the curiosity.

Although the cynic in me foresees a biography (David Roberts, I'm looking at you), more articles, more people making their names on his brief life and much-debated death, the romantic adventurer and idealist in me longs for more. More information, more mystery, more knowledge to tuck close to my heart and soul and bring out and re-examine on a cold evening.

Cheers to you, Everett. May not all your mysteries be discovered nor solved. Because when I wander in the canyon country, I like to think your spirit whispers out there too, guiding my footsteps and lighting my dreams.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

touching my ancestors

Today I looked at potsherds and arrowhead pieces and broken ax heads and irregular marbles hand-fired years ago. I touched the intricate paint designs on the snapped pieces of bowls and mugs, licked my finger to touch the paints and make them come alive in deep, rich color, as if new. The whorls and swirls of mud pushed together by hands long since returned to dust bumped under my questing, delicate touch. I imagined the Fremont, the Anasazi, the tribes I'd never heard of, my visions fuzzy, possibly romantic, certainly not quite accurate. But my imaginings were very earnest and respectful, no matter how they might lack in precise truth.

I imagined myself. I felt their pain, their joy, their simple acceptance of daily existence. I touched their lives, broken and scattered in my palms, and it was only afterward that I thought, This might be all that is left of this person. A broken shard of mud, claimed from its ancient desert resting place by eager, modern, white hands. This might be all that is left of an entire human life.

What do we leave behind, anyway? How much? Why? And who will see it, feel it, in some distant and unknowable future? Who did I touch today, anyway? And how will I ever know that person? Can I actually understand, fully comprehend, the life of someone who lived so long ago, in such a different way than I do?

Doubtful. I mean, I barely comprehend myself in all my complicated, complex, blazingly simple human glory, right?

But I do understand that I hold history in my hands as I look at the shards of pottery. I do understand my link, tenuous as it might be, to these people who hundreds of years earlier roamed this very area I now call home. I can make up stories about them, conjure up their lives, a moment in their day, which might be fired in part by movies and books and snippets of overheard conversation during my lifetime.

I can hold a piece of them in my hands, and I can link myself back to them, and I can touch my ancestors, no matter how far removed they actually may be from me in cellular or geographic or cultural terms. This little piece of mud is me, and you, and it might be the only thing left of us when we too shuffle off this mortal coil. So handle with care.

Friday, April 24, 2009

ATV rant

I mean, it's not as if I would PRAISE ATVs. Of course this is a rant. But as it is late, this will be a gentle rant, dear reader.

Stay the @#$#*&$ on the roads meant for your use, ATV riders. Or can you not read the signs that clearly state, "No Motorized Vehicles"?? (And in case the answer is No, actually, I can't, as I'm a morally bankrupt illiterate--well, may I kindly point out that said signs include very clear PICTURES also indicating No Motorized Vehicles.)

So. The most current history behind my rant is from a few days ago, when I took riders (that would be horseback) up toward a gorgeous place called Lost Lake. As we left the road part of the trail to hit the trail part of the trail, guess what greeted my wondering eyes? Yep. Signage, pulled out of the ground and flung (flung, I tell you) carelessly aside, barricading rocks & tree limbs hurled elsewhere, so the oh-how-pretty ATV gouges could destroy the trail, making it five times as wide as it had to be.

I almost said Very Bad Words in front of the guests, but I managed to restrain myself. Instead, I sighed and explained to the Easterners (East as in Massachusetts, not as in Oil for which we spill too much blood) why I was upset. They agreed it was uncool.

Luckily, the trail is a really hard-core one, and the ATV tracks petered out after a few hundred feet. HA! But those hundred feet really did not need to be churned up as they were by some troglodyte (love that word) on his burly man-toy. (Yes, that comment is a bit sexist...but you understand where I'm coming from, right? I'll find stats on ATV gender use and post them sometime.)

God, it just pisses me off. What the hell is wrong with people? How freaking hard is it to stay on their own trails, follow the rules, and think, Gee, I bet there are other people in the world beside myself who might have different viewpoints on things like trail destruction?

Grr. Rant, rant, rant. I'd've taken a picture, but I was so mad I forgot about my camera in the saddlebag. (And you know, for anyone out there ready to take a deep breath and holler about how livestock ruin the land as well, let me point out AGAIN that this particular trail is open to Hikers and Horseback Riders. Period.)

Okay. I suppose this is another example of how being angry can be constructive. Lookie here, it got me writing again, did it not?

Well. I feel a bit better now. Thanks for listening! And remember: if you must ride ATVs (let me throw in here the little tidbit that someone who was riding an ATV in a nearby area over Easter weekend had an accident and is now PARALYZED from the neck down), please follow the rules. There's enough fricking road for you, already. If you want to see the backcountry, get off your ass and walk into it, already.

Signing off, the irate defender of the wilds (and user of ALL CAPS too, apparently).

Friday, April 17, 2009


Winter is the time to slink off to one's cave, lick life's wounds, and reflect while keeping one's back safely to the wall, no?

I have been in deep hibernation for the past six weeks, it seems. Time has swung for me crazily, veering in and out and sometimes standing still.

I slept. I dreamed. I moved. I cried. I giggled. I contemplated.

I did not, however, write.

Back again, waking up to the world in a slow, leisurely stretch. Gazing around, blinking, taking in the whole bright world through one cracked lid at a time.

Welcoming myself home. It feels good. And, oh, the writing muscles. How they both long yet fear the impending workout!

Good thing I'm surrounded by red cliffs, snowy mountains, and friends. It's what buoys me now as I plunge back into the world....

Saturday, February 28, 2009

America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, take 17

America's Red Rock Wilderness Act is about to take center stage again. SUWA provides several links and general information about the act, which has been floating around for some time now. It has been nurtured by several fierce and tenacious political advocates, and of course many unknown people just like you and me.

The current administration, far more friendly to our lands than the last joke (uh, I mean administration), shows convincing signs of being very receptive to the passage of this act. As the SUWA page says, "The 111th Congress represents a real opportunity to gather the support and momentum needed to hold congressional hearings and ultimately pass America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act." That is a refreshing thought that certainly causes hope to beat wildly in my chest.

Wilderness At the Edge: A Citizen Proposal to Protect Utah's Canyons and Deserts was published years ago in an attempt to represent enormous concerned citizen effort to raise awareness--and save the red rock lands they loved. The message got through to some people in power, and those people still champion the need to protect and preserve these lands.
Take a moment. Contact your representatives (see this link for information on how to do that) and share your voice with them. Remember: if the people we chose to represent us do not hear our voices, they can't fight for what we want.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

jump ship and save yourself

Ah...I've been a bad poster this month. Life getting in the way and all that. As they say, crap happens. Some days, it's just more crap than usual.

Wandering the crowded southern California landscape as I have been of late, I notice many things about its bipedal denizens. What strikes me most is the air of urgency, of entitlement, and of myopic vision. That is, many seem to see only what's right in front of them--blocking their way--and do not take time to really be in the moment. To really see their surroundings. To understand that the suffocating concrete wilderness that they call home is perhaps a trap; even more, to understand that it is one of their own making.

Sometimes people here do not seem to be really living. They're existing, sure. But are they paying attention to their own existence? Do they really know who they are and what the heck they're doing, as they zoom and carom around, pinging off one another with barely an honest glance, intent on hurrying to the goal of--what, exactly? The all-powerful god of mass consumerism? Getting through the day in order to fall insensate before the altar of surround sound and 24-hour satellite channels beamed in from around this frantically spinning globe?

I want to reach out. I want to hug someone with jumpy, flat eyes, and say, Go. Go to a truly wild spot, one with fresh air and solitude and a tree with which you can commune in silence for an hour. Remove yourself from the madding crowd for just a moment, and blunder and stumble your way back to who you really are.

Perhaps then we can really talk. Perhaps then you will meet my eyes and look at me, really see me, and allow yourself a deep, cleansing breath as you pause in the midst of the chaos we call modern life.

Or maybe not.

Monday, February 09, 2009

dusting oneself off & movin' right along redux

Time for an oldie but a goodie. This posted originally in November 2007, which seems an eon ago. It resonates with me at the moment for several reasons. Yes, I have once again destroyed my laptop. (Just a little incident involving a jumping mug of tea...) Yes, I freaked out. Yes, it has been a lesson in humility, loss, and eternal querying (Really? Again? Why me? Etc.). Yes, I had to speak to the Disembodied Technical Voices in India over the phone, which meant lack of clarity on, I suspect, both ends.

Have I learned something? Good grief, I hope so. In the meantime, I still write...and actually, I have slowed down a litle bit and am enjoying other things beside my laptop. Bizarre, no? (Says the passionate advocate for the wild spaces and getting out of our own heads and away from people-stuff such as technology. Snort!)

Here it is:

This whole laptop-has-crashed-and-burned-in-a-mighty-conflagration thing is, as usual, providing me windows of opportunity I might have otherwise missed. (Despite the fact that I really did not want this sort of window--or maybe, come to think of it, because of it? Hmm...philosophical brain twisting in the morning.) Some of the windows include these gems:

1) Forced to either write on my friend's computer (which is okay, but I tend to keep my writing very private and secured), or by hand, such as journaling more. Ah, the old-fashioned way. It does bring the writer closer to the words themselves, makes me think about my choices more carefully, because there is no delete button, nor a backspace....There is only commitment.

2) Strongly encouraged to stop freaking out about this potential loss and simply enjoy what I do have, which is plenty: loving family, generous friends, a spectacular place in which to live at the moment, my mind and its endless machinations & cool new ideas, on and on the list goes. I really am blessed--just have to remind myself of that at times.

3) More time to read! Watch movies! Hike during this amazing fall weather, which is perfect! Talk to friends and acquaintances! Visit and play with my horse! Practice yoga & meditation! Etc., etc. Gifts, indeed.

4) Space to explore the quiet, patient side that I generally lack. I have been a downright hermit lately, and it's been grand.A friend (thanks, Dan) sent me a quote I want to share here, because it's really apt in this moment:

"Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito wing that falls on the rails."

I'm letting nutshells and mosquito wings veer me off-course, which is silly. Things happen, and we all really do go on--just perhaps not in the way we expected before the calamitous event. Another friend pointed out my ability to find gifts in the challenging moments, which was a great compliment and meant a lot to me (thanks, Shelley!).

One last gem, the kind that will nurture me for years to come: the other day, I was sitting in a local coffee shop with a friend, grousing a bit about the unpredictable nature of the wilderness therapy industry and proclaiming my own personal doneness with it. Then one of my recent students from the field, one I'd worked with for two shifts (16 days), came in with his parents. He'd graduated, and they'd just finished up their family workshop. I met his folks, noted how centered the student seemed, and we had a brief conversation.

And during that short time, he said to me not once but twice, "Thank you, Julie." And I heard and saw the sincerity resonating through his every fiber, and it just meant so much to me, and brought that sort of smile to my face that can only come from the recognition of right action, of having done something well that touched another life in the most positive of ways. And my last week out with that particular group had been so, so difficult! You never really know how your presence affects another.

At any rate, I want to thank broken laptops (sigh), unforeseen opportunities, a young man named Thomas, and my dear friends, all of whom have helped me in these past weeks to get up, brush off the dust, and just keep going, even if the smile has sometimes slipped from my face.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Salazar's doin' ok by me so far; or, oil & gas leases cancelled

Cool beans: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar put the kibosh on the oil & gas leases today. Yippee! Although it only involves the 77 parcels that were up for grabs in the "fire sale" back in December, that's a tremendous victory for us desert rats and otherwise suspicious-of-greedy-oil-company types.

Unfortunately for that brave (foolish? Your thoughts?) activist Tim deChristopher, Salazar's decision does not have any bearing on his case. Of course, I say just let the kid go and let's spawn an entire future of sales-disrupting activism to spring up--but I'm also a bit biased.

Well, blow me down with a feather, or something like that. No oil & gas drilling near gorgeous areas? Near where I, or my friends, or our descendants might like to roam, unobstructed of view and lung? Sounds pretty damn peachy keen to me. HA!

Take it on the nose, o greedmongers out there. The people roared, they were heard, and they were righteous in this victory. (Sorry, I'm feeling a bit punchy today. Need to lash out at someone!) As Sharon Buccino, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in the WaPo article linked above, "We can have energy security without sacrificing the West's wild places."

Yeehaw. I might need to celebrate a little. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

on the power of sunlight

I am sitting with my grandmother in her hospital room. She has been in the hospital for three months now--three months!--of which she has been conscious for about the last five weeks. Something that really strikes me here is the seeming alarm about sunlight and a view that some of the hospital staff seem to possess.

I open blinds to let sunlight into my grandmother's room. It hits the bed, creates a gorgeous backlight behind her flowers, brightens a tirelessly, endlessly routine space. It slips up over the sheets, lighting her mostly still form beneath the blankets and her cherished yellow robe with purple flowers from home. The light touches her face gently, its afternoon winter rays weak, yet strong enough to illuminate the healthy color in her skin, the still-lively smile that pulls up her lips when she teases us.

But the workers ask, when they see the opened blinds, Won't the sun bother/hurt/annoy her? Won't it get into her eyes? Doesn't she prefer it closed?

Oh. Well, why did I not think of that? Shutter the light, keep the air stale and still and unnaturally lit, and of course she'll get better. Why did I not think of that before? Silly me and my frightening love of the light. The sterile, cold environment is best for healing.

I wax sarcastic, but it stems from months of uncertainty and varying healthcare and wildly differing opinions. It pains me to think how oddly fearful urban and suburban dwellers seem to be of our own sunlight. (My fingers keep slipping on the keypad and I write "sinlight" by accident. Interesting, no?) Some of that trepidation is culturally created, with all the genuine concern about skin cancer. But really. We need at least 15 minutes a day of direct, glorious sunlight on our bare skin in order to obtain vitamin D. And for our souls, our psychology, our humanity, I think we simply need to be sun worshippers, in the best, healthiest definition of that label.

Do not fear the light. Do not shut it out, do not always replace it with a pale artificial imitation. And please, please, do not withold it from our suffering and ill, locked away in our places of rest and wellness and recovery. They need the sun. My grandmother needs the sunlight, to remember that she is human, that there is a world out there still awaiting her return. And I, for one, will gladly let that light fall across the beautiful, soft, lined map of her face. She's every bit as worthy of her place in the sun as anyone else.

Monday, January 26, 2009

natural bridges, naturally stunning

Found this article in the the Salt Lake Trib today about Natural Bridges National Monument. As the writer says, it is off the beaten path. It is gorgeous. I do recommend visiting it if you're so inclined. Generally, it's not a destination in itself, but part of a loop, since it is waaaay in the boonies.

I've been to Natural Bridges twice--maybe three times? There is a paved road one can drive with little stops that overlook breathtaking parts of the park. You can of course also get out and stretch your legs with a hike. You know me--move your rear and get up close and personal with all the sights out there. But I think a lot of people just do a drive-through en route to somewhere else. (Guilty as charged on that count myself! I was headed to Colorado for a workshop and short on time. Judge not lest ye be judged, yadda yadda yadda.)

The sky is dark, with no large nearby towns to drown out the starlight. The land itself can be immense, silent, so vast and fierce against one's puny humanness. And the remnants of the ancient ones who called the place home are scattered throughout, provoking creative speculation among the more speculative-minded.

Sigh...I'm longing for Utah right now. I miss the canyons, the natural stone bridges, the bright skies, the star-pocked canopy of night. Thank you, o random article, for reminding me where home truly is...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

some Sunday contemplation

Sundays are made for contemplation of one sort or another, are they not? Today feels particularly contemplative. It is cool, overcast, and rather quiet. The ground is still saturated from yesterday's downpour of blessed water from the sky, which of course came originally from the ground, and before that from the oceans and rivers and lakes.

Sometimes the circle of life makes my head spin. How amazing is it that we know so much? That everything works so perfectly, if all is left to its own devices? How do people figure out things? Who takes the time to look at a given thing--say the cycle of rain--and really understand how it works?

People from an earlier time, that's who. People who were not so distracted by television, the Internet (ahem), movies, their mobile devices, the generally fascinating world of humans at large. Those people still exist today, obviously. There are many throwbacks among us. I'm one, for example. While I loves me my online world, I'm also a sucker for sitting in silent wonder in a dusty little depression in the ground, surrounded by towering cliff walls and unknown scratchings on those very walls by long-dead hands, wondering to myself who those people were, why they wrote those symbols in the sandstone, and what their lives might have been like.

I'm missing the red rocks just about now.

So. Because Utah isn't the only land imperiled by blind human "progress" and ego, here are some links to contemplate yourself:

A friend just saw the movie Red Gold at the Banff Film Festival last night. She was so moved by it she cried, as apparently do many who view this film. There is a town in Alaska, Bristol Bay, that calls itself home to the last wild salmon hatchery in the world, and it is of course threatened by The Pebble Partnership, ye typical big huge corporation with an avaricious glint in its eyes, which wants to build an open pit mine at the headwaters to dig up gold. You can see the trailer at the Red Gold site, and it's a breathtaking cinematographic experience just in that snippet. And here's the blog site of the filmmakers, Felt Soul Media, with updates on the town. (Odd tidbit: Mitsubishi has a 10% stake in Pebble. Huh?)

For even more info, check out the following links:

Save Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay Alliance (seems to be a bit outdated)
The Pebble Partnership (the mine's site)
Stop Pebble Mine
The Pebble Blog at the Alaska Daily News

Seeing this sort of organizing, this public awareness-raising, makes me feel good. You know?

And here's some stuff going on in Wyoming: the Red Desert (never been, but it looks amazing) is being attacked by, you guessed, that dastardly old Bureau of Livestock and Mining. As usual, it's all about the oil and gas development. Shocker that, no?

Ah. Enough to contemplate for one morning, is it not?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

i'm vibrating with rage at the moment

Okay...this is basically off topic. I've read about this before, and just ran across a Facebook group about it.

So there are truly sick and twisted individuals in China (be careful not to get angry at the whole country, although it's very tempting) who SKIN ANIMALS ALIVE. Dogs and cats. Every day. For their damn fur. Because of money. And, apparently, because they get off on torturing living beings?

A group called Animal Saviors is trying to raise awareness about it. Check it out. Please sign the petition. Please forward it.

You may not want to watch the video. I didn't and won't. But I will remember. This is the kind of thing that brings murderous thoughts rising through me in a bright red haze. Very, very hard to extend compassion to the people who do (RIGHT NOW! They are doing it right now.) such things.

Good god. I need to go throw up, cry, scream, or something now.

I may just have to write about it. Using my voice is sometimes the best (only?) tool I have.

Monday, January 19, 2009

oh, those land lease updates...good times!

Ken over the San Juan Alamanac beat me to the punch today with his link to good news about the Utah land leases, detailed in the L.A. Times. The Salt Lake Tribune had the story two days ago (naturally, since it affects Utah more directly). Hoor-rah! So. Why is this a good thing? Because all indications point to the incoming (tomorrow, phew!) Obama administration being much more receptive to conservationist ideals, land preservation, careful and educated approaches to land uses, etc. etc. In plainer terms, it seems that the folks on his team might be more, ah, kind and gentle to Utah's lands. (My personal jury is still out on Ken Salazar (Interior Secretary nominee), but we shall see.)

Here's what the Salt Lake Tribune had to say yesterday about the juxtaposition of the incoming team and Utah's land interests. They also point out that Salazar is focusing almost exclusively on energy concerns, letting fall to the wayside very important concerns like off-road ATV use (which pisses people like me off to no end). That issue is of growing concern, fueling ugliness and downright violence all over the place, such as the ongoing issue in Garfield County, Utah, that went on for quite some time. I agree that energy concerns are vital right now. But we can't forget all the details. This is when delegation becomes an essential ingredient of governing. Hey, Mr. Salazar! Put me to work on the ATV yahoo issue. I'll be part of an eagle-eyed team on that subject.

It's exciting to think about the possible future. One of my favorite activities is just wandering red rock country in southern Utah. Really. Just wandering. It can get so silent...the space is so vast, and so beautifully unfilled by people, that the silence can actually ring in your ears, pounding along in rhythm with your heartbeat. The flap of a raven's wings might be the only sound breaking the silence, along with a brief croak or two as the bird scans the area and lets you know, as it passes overhead, that you are in its territory and it does indeed spy you down below, o flightless human. The smell of the pinyon pines, the lack of human trash or footprint, the abundance of jackrabbits and pack rat droppings and imaginings that fill the landscape...ahhh. The thought of that remaining untrammeled, undrilled, and simply being, is what excites me. We all need places where we can just be, can just exist, can wander without worry, secure in our simple connection to the land.

Doesn't the land itself also need such space to just be?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

San Juan Almanac

Yes, two posts in one day. Gasp! One of my hazy writing goals (I say hazy only because I wanted to "write more" in general) for 2009 is to post on here much more regularly. So far, so good. But...check back in June and pull out your scorecard then. :)

I've been invited by author and blogger Ken Wright to participate in his latest online venture, the San Juan Almanac, with the tagline of "All things Southwestern Colorado."

But Red Rock Writer, you say. You don't live in southwestern Colorado anymore. This is true, dear reader (all three of you faithful folks). However, I did live in Durango for a while, and it was there that I discovered his writing, which is right up my alley. Our viewpoints on things like land and writing and the West run in a similar vein, and due to the wonders of the internet, he discovered my blog and I his back when I was a Durangotan (thanks, Robin, for that particular appellation!). And here we are today, and I am so excited to join in with another chorus of interested voices.

My philosophy about preserving Western lands and ideologies (only the good ones, natch!) from certain depredations (say, modern miner 49ers, oil seekers, big fat greedy developers--you know, the usual careless suspects) is that communication is part of the key. Getting the word out there is essential. And even if just one person gets fired up enough, in love with these areas enough, to make a small change, then that is good enough for me.

Okay, and it's just fun in general to be part of a community, no? So check it out, and check out Ken's blog too.

I should note that I just added both of Ken's links on here (look to your right somewhere), and I also cleaned up a lot of my old writing links. This blog has evolved, for me, into a much more Utah-, West-, personal thoughts-focused type of place. I created a professional blog for EditWorks, which is how I'm trying to mostly earn my bread & butter, and to which I moved many of the writing links I'd had here.

Here's to writing, community, and the endless world of our thoughts and actions. May they intertwine peacefully....

updates, updates

Some new (rather belatedly passed on by me) news about Utah's wildlands: positive advances for the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act, referred to as the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (no sense in making things short and easy to say, now is there? Be warned that this doc includes all sorts of tidbits about land management throughout the entire country. It weighs in at a meager 1,294 pages. Ahem.) Washington County is south of Wayne County and includes the utterly sublime Zion National Park. There's more here on Senator Bob Bennett's site. And here's a pdf document in a Q&A format about the bill, which provides more illumination about the thoughts behind it and how bills like this one can help protect land.

Washington County is also home to St. George, one of Utah's bigger cities. Visitors to Zion very often fly in to Las Vegas, drive to St. George and stock up on supplies, then take an easy jaunt over the Zion to ooh and aah. Zion has a very high visitation and name recognition, as opposed to a place like Capitol Reef, which is smaller and off the beaten path and not well-known. Does this make a difference in protection? Possibly. I don't have any stats on that theory, although of course now I'm going to look into it. But the generally accepted precepts of capitalism (pay attention to where the moolah is made) tell me, sure, yeah, totally possible. Interesting...

Here's a little update on Tim DeChristopher, the activist who threw a gorgeously Abbey-style monkeywrench into the land lease sale last month in SLC. Should the big enviros be doing more to support this guy? Would you? Good questions. As a knee-jerk reaction, I'd be inclined to support him. After all, he was trying to do the same thing I advocate: preserve our Utah wildlands. But does that mean I condone his actions, which are possibly punishable by law? How far do we go to make ourselves heard, to clearly state our opinions and passionate beliefs in this world that often seems dominated by the powerful, greedy, moneyed few?

How far would you go to save something you loved?

Shiver. This is the sort of question that makes me ponder my own boundaries. Really, how far am I willing to go to put my money where my mouth is?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

continuing the conversation

I just saw this post and find it really interesting. A way to comment on specific parts of blog posts might be much more helpful...much more interesting...and indeed engender more conversation.

Encouraging more conversation--real conversation, thoughtful and hopefully insightful, rather than the blatherers that just blather--is something I will always champion. Talking to one another is the only way we can continue to grow and evolve and increase compassion, which we desperately need on this planet.

We have evolved from the fears about online communities detracting from the ways in which people truly connect. Sure, emails might be less poignant than, say, a long and chatty letter to a friend. Twitter might have taken over quick communication and be contributing to the dumbing-down of language.

But I argue that the Internet has provided an outlet for so many who may not communicate as deeply otherwise. Those who are shy, paranoid, quiet, awkward in person but eloquent on the page, might all benefit from being able to "talk" in the virtual world. We all want a voice, to be heard, to be listened to, to be acknowledged as existing and as being of value. Sometimes, expressing one's soul can happen through a medium as everyday and as mundane and as astonishing as the Internet.

Quote from Mary Oliver (love her work):

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009!

I wish for you multitudes of blessings, wild abundance, joyful abandon, extravagant expansiveness, and the courage to reach for your wildest, most heartfelt dreams.

Happy New Year!