Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The First Day

Two hours before the approaching sunrise, the alarm shook me out of sleep.  On the first of my twenty-one mornings among rocks of Utah, I wanted the best light, and that would come at dawn I was told.  I made the seventy-mile drive into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park before those first enhancing rays struck the cliffs.  Highway 191, then 211, all in darkness until the last twenty miles when red and white ghosts began appearing, taking on the forms of faces, loaves of bread, choirs.  

I park at the trailhead and start out in dry cool air.  And when I stop, there is not a single sound, nothing—silence.  Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the pinnacles and minarets and balanced rocks, not gradually but with a burst of light.  I must be Eve on the first day of creation, it seemed, in full knowledge that millions of days have preceded me.

Livening and brightening in color and texture with every minute of the sun’s climbing, the rocks seemed animated with changing character.  My camera snapped and snapped, but soon I realized I had risen too early.  The formations are more vivid a half-hour to an hour after sunrise than at that moment of bright burst.

The trail is mostly on slickrock, a whitish sandstone with many potholes that fill with water during storms.  Then, I am told, the spadefoot toads come to life, having lived through the dry spells in a state of estivation in dry sediment in the bottom of the hole.  There they wait, patient, perhaps listening for the sound of raindrops pattering at last above their heads.  But today the potholes are dry with dirt in their bottoms.  I follow these rock cairns which mark the trail.

Placements of decorative rock, esthetically chosen, by Chinese no doubt.

It looks like dirt but it’s a living system of plants and animals, a community getting by in a dry hot place.  To walk here is to bomb the kibbutz. 

A giant has passed this way leaving us his shoe.  Guess he knew no one would take it.




 Tomorrow morning I will shoulder a backpack with two gallons of water, tent and sleeping bag for an overnight stay in a waiting canyon near Druid Arch, deep in the Needles.  You will not hear from me tomorrow night.


  1. Beautiful photos of Chinese rocks! Yes, we are on such, you and us, and one of my favorite times was being intentionally lost in the rockery... amaze (created) of rocks... last afternoon ay the palace. You are amidst the natural... I saw the sun burst as I looked out of my poem from the train this morning... love from our moment of internet at the base of Yellow (not yellow) mountain today!

  2. AnonymousJune 08, 2011

    Hello Sharon. It's just as beautiful as you said it would be, the pictures show why you had to go back. Kind of peaceful looking, unlike the last week of school with 7th graders....
    counting the minutes,

  3. Wow! That giant shoe looks a lot like my grandmother's porcelain shoe. It is uncanny. I wrote a poem on a piece in the Pacific Asia Museum that recalled this shoe for me. Wish I could post it here so you could see. An incredible likeness of shape...

  4. Rocks rock!

    Kathabela you've seen it in China.

    Liz, we'll see it together.

    Susan, Surely--post your shoe/rock poem here.

  5. Steven RadiceJune 09, 2011

    Pretty pictures! :o) But none of you! :o(

  6. my favorite is the gorilla at the end!

  7. Oh Steven, I am the rocks, the starlight, the juniper tree and the piñon pine; but not, Kathabela, the gorilla.