We last passed this way a dozen years ago, our younger selves half-grown and beautiful and lost. Last time through, we quarreled and debated marriage, and in the morning continued on our desert loving way. We had a ’69 VW van. The Man of the Place didn’t know how to play the guitar yet (what on earth did he do instead? I can’t remember). Some things are the same. We’re still traveling together, after all, nowadays in a water cooled van, and with two little girls running the show from the backseat. Returning to this canyon was like a taking a very long road to step in an old footprint and to see the wholeness of the circle that has been traveled.
And because the land is so big, it’s history so long, I couldn’t help but pause and see how our story is a short one beside the volumes of fallen leaves, the years the sun has passed over the black rock butte covered in etchings. Take the land, erupting with lava for some thousand years. Take the people who lived here, then and now, their migrations and exchanges. Take all the losses of history, every tragic tale of conquest, every new home built on the foundations of the old. Take the day the first atom bomb was detonated in this very valley. Take the herd of twenty elk we saw in the foothills at dusk, the stars spinning through the clear night as they always have.
Camp made, our children ran to meet the stream and play beneath the tawny gold of ponderosas and oak trees. I saw then that each generation must find their way through history, must be brought to meet the waters of this year’s snowmelt, to take their steps on that spiralling road and mark the page where their story begins. Flip the pages back, if you will. The story is old, and still unfolding.