Monday, February 6, 2017

Moving adjustments

My eyes have trouble adapting to this new place. The verticalness of the rocks and seeing-forever views make my head spin. The palate of the landscape is shockingly red. How can there be this much red?
Where even the trees sometimes glow red
As it happens, I arrive on a snowy day and the sky is mostly grey. The dullness of the light makes the red rocks covered in snow seem less imposing, if that could be possible. I feel not so much overwhelmed by their massive size, but by the details that I don’t understand. What does each layer mean? Why are they shaped like this? Why are these ones all rounded and those ones more angular? None of this seemed important when I’ve visited here before. But now this is my new home and I have become responsible for this information.
Arriving the first day to my new home for the next few months
While the rocks appear to dominate, eyes soon learn to focus on the rustle of dead leaves quivering in the wind. If I were back in Montana or Georgia, I’d be able to recognize the plants by their bare twigs. The shriveled grey foliage would mean something and I’d be able to anticipate the rhythm of spring’s emergence. But here the unfamiliar shapes make my head spin too with the overwhelming amount of unknowns.

Trails take me to the cliffs above town, and I climb each of them one day to compare and triangulate. Map and compass reveal a geography of place, as I try to make sense of my new home. The house where I am staying is a tiny speck. The La Sals seem even more massive and give me that “I NEED to go there” feeling of longing. The formations spread out as I try to make out each one, find where it is and make sense of all the inbetween.

Then there is the news and changing political climate. At staff meeting, we are handed out copies of the Hatch Act and told not to discuss politics. Two days after I land an interview for an exciting summer job, the federal hiring freeze is announced. I walk around overwhelmed with nervousness, worried I will stay something wrong.
Sometimes the rocks turn sherbert
By the time the clouds roll out, I’ve been able to found a place of green refuge. Or at least it will become green, suggest the dried up tan, grey, and brown sticks and dried up leaves. Here lurk tiny hints of the familiar. My eyes are drawn to the humped ivory shapes of scale, a type of insect related to the aphids I used to study, clinging to twigs. Something familiar, exquisite, specks that feel like friends.
Tiny, beautiful scale (insects that looks like white blobs)
I meet someone who wants to be my friend. Those are even the words, “Let’s be friends!” So I let down my guard and confide and laugh. Only then do I realize how much energy it takes to feel such uncertainty and fear.

We drive around the morning after another fresh snowfall taking in the awe of it all. Exclaiming, “We live here!” Almost in disbelief. A hawk soars and then lands in a tree nearby. The clouds hang low in the canyons.
Animal tracks criss-cross the fresh snow, revealing life and activity that is hidden. My camera is full of photos of all the unfamiliar plants. How much of this will remain strange over the next few months, and how much will become like an old friend, familiar and well-loved?


  1. It looks like you've landed in another interesting place. Cold though. Likely you'll see some heat coming along a little later in the year.

    Interesting scale insects. I've never noticed anything like that, though I did once check out what I've named "foam bugs" that hang out in little bubbles of froth. Clever little things, but you can fool me only so long. In this case it was only about 35 years before I took a closer look.

    Keep checking on the job despite the political climate. The more you show up the more likely they are to remember you when the time comes. The craziness won't last forever. In case you didn't get my reply to your last comment, check this out: "Initial Meeting of the National Parks Revolutionary Coordinating Committee" at for some encouragement.

    You can print it out and leave a copy here and there when no one is looking.

  2. Those spittlebugs sure know how to fool predators and stay hidden.

    Thanks for the encouragement for hanging in there with the freeze. Hard to take a long-term view sometimes. But now it's hard to imagine doing anything else now that I've gotten a taste working in parks.

    I have no official comment about that (delightfully funny) link.

  3. Glad you like what you're doing. Things will work out if you want them to. More inspiration: "The Way We Dress: Women in Uniform"

    Meanwhile, enjoy sleeping on rocks.

    Original link:

    Short link:

    1. Another enjoyable link-- thanks for that, Dave.

      Rocks are turning out to be surprisingly OK for sleeping when the sky is distractingly breathtaking.