Ode to Escalante

I visited the Southern Utah desert a few weeks ago. After I returned I was doing my usual hike in Eugene, noticing the changes spring had wrought during my week away—new leaves, flowers, a cacophony of bird chirps like a warming up symphony. And while it was beautiful, it made me a little bit sad, longing for the desert with its more austere gorgeousness. Western Oregon is so showy in its fecundity, a riot of life that resists efforts to contain or restrain it. The desert, in contrast, feels both fragile and untouchable, everything saying, “Drink me in for I am both vast and rare.”

The change in scenery, no doubt compounded by a year of sticking close to home, filled and inspired me. I took periods of solitude, doing yoga atop a sandstone dome in the crisp morning air and baking sunshine, followed by journaling and communing with the poetry of David Whyte and Ada Limón. I felt the creative tug in a way I have not felt in months and months. For this post, I want to share two new poems, which feels apt for National Poetry Month.

Whisper

I told my hurt to the desert and it said
I know.
It said
there is space here for your grief.
It said
Listen.

Escalante

You seem like forever.
A vastness always the same,
and yet unendingly unique.

I could walk into your depths
and die,
let thirst and exhaustion take me,
wrapped in sandstone arms,
a scorched, desiccated ecstasy.

But the birds chatter and
Lizards do tiny pushups.
Spiky, scrubby bushes tell me,
This is blood and sap amidst stone,
the place where life meets rock and sand
and takes root,
where cottonwoods declaim the vitality of our planet
and delicate black topos of soil beg me to watch
where I step.

Here, sculpted domes,
arches and huecos and
weird, contorted towers
show the impermanence,
the movability,
the mutability
of stone
Shaped by wind and ice and time.

Pay attention, you say.
I am not permanence.
Nor am I infinity.

I am a monument to change.

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