Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pinyon juniper scrublands

A cool wind blows through the pinyon juniper scrubland, and I think of my senior friend who passed last summer.

"She had an extreme, ecstatic response to nature," her lifelong friend said. How perfect. That description said more to me than her words could convey.

I open an old pinyon nut shell, and note its emptiness. I wonder if any human has eaten the pine nuts from this shady spot overlooking one of the many arches of this incredible national park. I remember the last time I collected pine nuts, salting and roasting them in abundance at Valley View, my favorite hot springs in Colorado. I ate so many pine nuts that I got a stomachache, but still I wandered/wondered in amazement that these little nuts had sat, undeveloped, all around me for years, never knowing that such a feast could await me... Only once every 7 years. No wonder pine nuts are so expensive!

How could one grow a field of them and have the financial stability to survive for so long, when they produce their edible cornucopia so rarely? I haven't gathered a wild pinyon nut since.

Wait! This is year 7! I wonder if they will ripen again this year! Is the timing that reliable?

This I ponder as I allow my thoughts to wander quietly in the shade of the scrubland.

I've been thinking a lot about John Muir, Ed Abbey, and John Wesley Powell. Ed and John Wesley knew these scrublands intimately. They knew these canyons with their green streams streaking through it long before I was even a speck of existence in my great-grandparent's time.

We would have all been friends if we'd been alive together- John, John Wesley, Ed, and I. Who were the unsung females heroes of this movement that I embody? Rachel Carson is the only one I know.

Were there others? Did they write of their experiences? It seems as though it is my turn to follow in those footsteps.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Belonging. 10 years of rivers!

So here we sit at Green River State Park and I realize the powerful urge I have to hop in the river and float through my favorite canyons. I remember the first time, as Dave and I left this shore, this incredible feeling of leaving everything I had ever known to venture into the canyon I had dreamed of for years. I remember the incredible freedom, and praying that I remembered everything.

Green River State Park launch site, April 2013

The same place in 2004, with Rex who joined us on many canoeing trips until her passing
I remember camping for our first night in the tamarisk, reaching camp just at dusk and setting up camp in the only clear space we could find, ducking and crawling into the thick tamarisk to find this secret opening.
Our first Green River campsite in 2004

I remember the incredible feeling of.... Aliveness. Of fear of the unknown. Of exhilaration. Of HOME. That day in 2004 was the first time I realized how much I BELONG on the river. I BELONG in these canyons. This river is a part of me, and I am a part of it.

I think of all the rivers I've floated since that first trip with Dave. I think of the hurricane we came upon in 2005 on this very river, here in the desert of Utah where the last thing I would ever expect was a hurricane! The headwinds were SO strong that day. We had to fight waves and wind until finally we gave up and camped across the river from Anvil Butte, on a sand bar protected from the wind. The next day as we packed up our gear, we watched a huge dust cloud billow up against the canyon walls upstream of us, headed our way. I looked up and the clouds were swirling around a blue eye right above us. The center of a hurricane! I had laughed at the 3 guys here at the put-in, where I stand right now in 2013, when they said that a hurricane was coming! I was not laughing now. Dave and I sat, huddled under a tarp with Oso and Rex, our canine companions, between us- marveling at the wind whipping around us and the freezing temperature that was 25 degrees warmer 5 minutes before.
Anvil Butte, 2005, the day before the hurricane

Something unexpected always happens on rivers. Always. In the 10 years since I stood here in this spot for the first time, I've experienced crazy wind, terrifying thunderstorms, an insane flash flood, hidden grottos and streams snaking their way through rarely visited side canyons. I've awakened to canyon wrens and ravens singing and frogs croaking all around us, huge clouds of mosquitoes, fish snapping at the debris swirling in eddies, double rainbows (oh my god!) arcing over the river brightening a dark, ominous sky, and countless peaceful silent picnics and naps under cottonwoods, and magic around every corner.

These last 10 years have been the best of my life, and it all started here, on the banks of the Green River, where my life became one with the water that I gaze upon in this moment. The gratitude is overwhelming. The gift the Green River gave me in 2004 is the greatest gift I could ever have: the birthing of a sense of HOME.

Just before sunset on the Green River in 2005