Important plants seen today: Peach trees, apple trees, pear trees, cottonwood trees, Evening Primrose
I woke up less than happy, I was cold and tired. I could hear the heater from our camp’s makeshift kitchen at the first crack of daylight. It is a continuous, uncomfortable whirring sound that makes your ears ring. I tried to hide my face from the cold and my ears from the noise by hiding my head inside of my sleeping bag. I ended up breathing in my own breath and feeling suffocated. I could hear footsteps by my mostly sheer tent so I knew people might be able to see me lie there. Self-conscious, suffocated and angry I woke up.
I decided not to wear makeup today, which is a rare decision for me. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to some people but I am incredibly aware of all the bumps and lines on my face. I have a hard time seeing myself as beautiful without makeup. But today I figured it wasn’t about me, it’s about the canyon, no one would be paying attention to me. It’s almost a relief to have my naked face showing and to not worry about my greasy hair. I never feel this way, it is odd. It must be this canyon.
We traveled into the canyon where I did a watercolor of a canyon wall. It didn’t turn out how I wanted it to. It turned out more like a Keith Haring illustration. It was nice to sit on a null in silence with my paints and my thoughts.
We went to Lonely Dell Ranch for lunch. As an exercise we had to write a letter to Emma Lee who lived on this property with her husband John D. Lee until 1879. Here is some of what I wrote:
I’m sorry history doesn’t remember you as well as your husband. He seemed like a pretty stern guy. Did you like him that much? It’s a rude question to ask but I really hope that you loved him. I’m sure it is hard to have six kids with someone that you hate. He did allegedly massacre a lot of people but you know that. Or did you know that?
Did you sit under trees and think about people long ago like I am doing now? I’m sitting closer to the dude ranch that you never saw because it was built much after your time. I like it better than your house. Nothing personal, I just like the style of it, also it probably isn’t as dusty as your house is.
Back to my point, did you day dream? Is this the life you wanted? Is this the life you left your home for? I hope it was.
I like the pretty flowers here, I think you might have too. I think we may have liked each other if we knew each other. Have you been stung by a bee? Have you ever slept under the stars?
Did you love it here? Were you sad to leave? How did you manage to build an oasis here? How did you manage to stay so strong? I am sorry I’m asking more questions than answering yours but I can imagine you as the kind of woman who’d rather be listened to than talked at. I imagine you have a lot to say. I have a lot to hear.
I wish I was learning things from the perspective of Native Americans rather than Mormons. Nothing against Mormons but they were in this area for about 200 years when there is evidence of Paleo-Indians living in the Grand Canyon as far back as the Pleistocene Era (9,500 B.C. to 6,500 B.C.). Most of the history that I have been taught as an American student in public school has involved Manifest Destiny. At one point in time during my early education it seemed like the Western United States was uninhabited. Native Americans were only a small part of Manifest Destiny in history lessons, they were just cowboys vs. indians. The Trail of Tears was merely only considered a scar on the whole body of our country’s history.
I want to know who lived here. I want to see the ruins that were flooded out by Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. I want to know how Katie Lee felt this canyon and how the Native Americans built their lives here. The history of this canyon should not be written in Mormon and Native American blood. It should be written by the people who worship it.
I’m still here at Lonely Dell. I am laying in the dirt under a tree at the end of a long row of trees. It’s amazing sitting amongst all these bugs, one little ant keeps crawling up my arm. I imagine a couple of them have already made their way inside my backpack. I either seem to be all in or all out about nature. Some days I want to bury myself into the dirt letting it cover me and allowing sweat and dust glaze my skin. And other days I want two showers, a fresh coat of makeup and crisp clean clothing. What a contradiction I am.
I just found a lizard skeleton next to me. I almost crushed it with my foot, which made me very aware that we are always stepping on someone’s grave. The dead lizard is interesting. I never knew their tails were just one long bone. The lizard’s hands are curled like it was grasping on to life before it died.
I was interupted by my fellow trip mates and taken to Marble Canyon
It was time for another daily art trip. I hiked down a couple hundred feet to sit at the edge. I could see a small branch of the Colorado River running through it. I concentrated on the wall of the canyon where the blemishes of thick black dots and lines ran along it. I didn’t finish my drawing because I was too distracted by my spot. The sun was beating down on my back but the wind was keeping me cool as well as blowing my hair into a giant knot. Just 200 feet above me were fields of globemallow and all my responsibilities waiting for me back home.
Back to camp.
Tonight we could see the stars. The sky was barely dark because of the countless gas giants, galaxies and dippers little and big. I could have stared up at the sky all night. Thousands of points of light shined above me. We saw Ursa Major and with it the Big Dipper, we spotted Orion’s Belt and with it Orion himself and found the North Star. I tried to find Taurus but I couldn’t spot it well. I will always remember sitting on the ground and looking up at the stars with these people. I got chills from the magic of the sky and being around friends that I could talk to.
I could remember summers when I was a kid and my uncle Matt would show me the stars through his telescope. Or in Tucson whenever there was a power outage — which happened more often than one would hope — I would lay on my lawn in complete darkness. The concept of stargazing is incredibly romantic to me. I would think of Le Petit Prince and A Trip to the Moon. Little distant figures would wave back to me in the distance. But the concept of space is not.
When you’re small, you think the moon is small. Space isn’t scary to you. Learning about the planets you end up having a favorite — mine was Venus I liked the greenhouse effect. Then you learn about the galaxy and how there are countless others. It unnerved me that there could be other planets with life. Then you learn about the universe, it’s constantly expanding and one day it might disappear. You get to black holes. You get to stars collapsing and dying. But I think the scariest thing is that I am so small and everything I care about is so small that we don’t matter.
But stargazing in this magic place wasn’t scary. I didn’t think of dying stars, black holes or expanding universes. Space is beautiful as small points of light above me and not the vast darkness that we live within.
I went to my tent.
For a lot of the night I laid and listened to the wind blow against my tent. Every once and a while I was afraid the stakes would lift off of the ground and my tent would be toppled over taking me with it. As our cook and guide moved cleaning up from dinner his head lamp would sometimes illuminate my tent. At first it worried me and then it comforted me. I wasn’t alone.