Important plants seen today: Prince’s Plume, Beavertail Cactus, Globemallow, Banana Yucca, Yellow Ragleaf (Maybe?), Engelmann Hedgehog or Grizzly Bear Cactus
I am about a half a mile from the fishing and camping area in Lee’s Ferry. We took a less traveled route to get there, climbing over and sliding down large rocks.
My heart was beating incredibly fast as we hiked there. I was afraid that I was about to overheat or pass out, it has happened before and I hate the feeling of completely losing control of my body that way. Fortunately I think I was just excited. I didn’t think I would fall in love with the area the way I did. The Colorado River flows through it, a beautiful blue with a green tint. The sand on the shore is a gentle cream color and soft. Little reeds poke up from the shore and large reeds hang back leaving space for the water to push itself. Multi-colored rocks line the shore; they rise out of the ground engraved in the dirt revealing their smooth surfaces. All of this is in the backdrop of the canyon where the brown and red rock juts out and dents in. Thin, light lines on the wall cross all the way through and wave. Little lines going vertically stop short and cut deep.
To me the canyon is almost indescribable. I feel like no amount of adjectives or flowery words could ever fulfill its grandeur. I can only describe what the canyon does to me. That is the only way I can honor it properly. I feel the same way about painting the canyon. While artists that have spent their lives here have created stunning works of art, it’s only a representation.
I was thinking earlier today while painting that it is beautiful how we have to smudge our drawings because we leave our fingerprints in the artwork. We give it a part of ourselves, a part of our identity to complete it. I feel a similar way to the canyon. I feel like I give it a part of myself when I leave my shoe prints in the dirt or when I hold on to a canyon wall for balance. But the canyon is not a piece of art.
I feel almost intrusive here I stomp, I hop, I dig. I alter this canyon in irreversible ways. In a sense I feel incredibly sad here. I can imagine how beautiful it must have been if my species had never come here. I wouldn’t see the fishermen's lines deep in the sand of the beach, nor would I see Budweiser bottle caps hidden among the rocks, and I wouldn’t see little pieces of glass shining through crevices. I can just imagine how untouched and pristine it would be. For people who love the canyon like the former river guide and the artist I am traveling with they leave no trace on the canyon. But unfortunately they are not like the rest of the visitors.
At the same time I am the calmest and happiest I’ve ever been. I feel clean here and I feel empty of worry. I can’t help thinking this land was tailor-made for me. The only thing I can hear is my gentle echo and my own pencil. When I stop for a moment I hear the sound of silence in my mind. My head is the clearest it has been in years.
The cool air bounces off the water on to my arms. I am apprehensive about going in to the river because I am afraid I would end up sliding my whole body in. I am dying to lay down in the water and float downstream. If only I could be a leaf in this river. I need to feel the river’s cold chill. I need the smell of the fresh water air hinting to the salty smell of the ocean that surrounded my childhood, flowing from the river to the sea.
Every once and while I hear a plane, see a swarm of gnats or find a bottle cap resting next to me that reminds me that this place isn’t perfect. To keep my mind off of it my focus keeps shifting. For a while I was looking at the tiny reeds on the shore. I slowly pulled one plant out to study its roots and then I replanted it. I circled things in the sand and I let its tiny grains encompass my hands, filling up underneath my fingernails and the creases in my palm. Then I focused on a small lone mallard in the river. She swam in small circles and took no notice of our sometimes loud group. Next to the mallard I noticed a small opening in the rocks maybe a foot above the water. It’s shrouded in mystery; I feel like I could spot a little beach but then the beach was only a crevice. I dreamed of crossing this green river.
We returned to camp.
I always seem to get homesick at night. Before falling of sleep I dreamed of being home with the people (and cats) I love. It happens every time I travel and then quickly subsides when I wake up. While I was tucked away in my sleeping bag with a thin layer of cushioned lining I heard the soft breeze on my tent and was slowly cradled to sleep.
I woke up around 2 a.m.
It was too cloudy to see the stars, but I could hear the running of the river.
I fell back asleep.