The Colorado River north of Moab, Utah, in December's pale light. Note teal instead of brown water.
A powdered-sugar dusting coats the rocks; thick vanilla icing smothers the mountains. Utah welcomes me with fresh snow, heightening the contrasts: reddest sandstone, bluest sky, sere brown remnants of this season’s grasses. I smile. Returning to the Colorado Plateau — where I feel deeply attached, fully belonging — is joy, great joy. My Minnesota address seems like another universe rather than two days’ drive.
Winter’s light is thin, transparent. Is it anemic and wan, or is it merely saving itself for an April assault on the senses? Landscapes change as the weak rays attenuate visual distractions, focus my eye on texture and composition. I seem to see better when the days are short and angles are low.
As I round a bend on Highway 128, the Colorado River startles me with atypical clarity and color. It’s normally carrying tons of sand and silt, brown and muddy; I’ve never seen the bottom. In December it almost resembles a mountain stream. I blink twice and take off my sunglasses to double-check the hue, so surprising is the difference.
I’ve much to explore in this new light of my third season, but first winter, in Canyonlands National Park.
I'm being changed.
Living and working on the stunning Colorado Plateau has changed me. I don’t mean that I’m darker-skinned, or in better shape, or leaning toward vegetarian, although I’m all those things too. No; this place has worked its way into the fiber of my being and will not let go. It has shaped my thinking and affected how I view my world. Perhaps it has even ruined me for any semblance of a “normal life” in the future.
Whose definition of “normal” have I been using? And… why? Is it finally time to define my own ‘normal,’ since it is well documented that I don’t seem to fit others’ ‘normal’?
I’m discovering what I love to do, and where I love to be, and finding a way to bring it to fruition. I’m not on some hedonistic pursuit of happiness. The older I get, the more wilderness ministers to my soul. Time becomes more precious, and wasted opportunities more disappointing. Every single day is a blessing as I wander purposefully through Arches National Park on a mission to locate raptor nests. Each sunrise is pure joy.
I am more content than I have ever been in my entire life.