Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 15, 2011

Moon, Jupiter, Murphy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:31 pm
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As I lay in my down bag a few yards from the canyon edge, the full moon chased away sleep. Its calm light bathed every nook of the White Rim as far as the eye could see, highlighting the light sandstone layer several hundred feet below. Intricate pinnacles and eroded pillars stood down there, every surface shimmering in the blue-black October night. Shooting stars swept in fast arcs across heaven. Jupiter was rising in tandem with the moon, only a hand-width away. And I was there, my soul soaking up light and life.

It was my weekend. I had thrown my gear* into a backpack and grabbed my trekking poles to commence the ten-mile Murphy Loop from the mesa top: five miles down in the afternoon, meet friends camping at the trail bottom, hike out in the morning. I tried not to think about the switchbacks that would enable the 1300-foot elevation change.

I am at a loss to find adjectives to describe the vastness, the immensity, the agoraphobic distances, the layers upon layers of texture and color that define Canyonlands National Park. As I stood on the mesa top ready to drop down through the Wingate sandstone, deep breaths of clear air replenished parts of me that were thirsty and hungry for backcountry — away from footprints and the people who make them. Only three humans crossed my path on my ten-mile trek. Folks, that’s a mighty fine day.

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*Gear list: sleeping bag and pad and small pillow; fleece vest and pullover and warm knitted hat; one gallon water; two peanut-butter bagels, a banana, an apple, and energy bars; camera; headlamp; topographic map, GPS, whistle; toothbrush and paste; contact lens stuff; toilet paper and small disposal bags.

June 17, 2010

Why is solitude so necessary?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:54 pm
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I'm the only one in this wilderness... at least on this side of the camera.

My favorite minimalist blog, “Zen Habits,” contained a riveting quote by Rollo May:

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

Oh, I can be alone. I can appreciate what nature has to offer, or enjoy the comforts with which I have surrounded myself. I can lose myself in a good book, take myself for a hike or bike ride, play the piano or bake something delicious. I’m fine with ‘alone.’ I do well with it, actually.

However, in my week of wilderness camping, I found that my proximity to Moab (five splashy creek crossings plus a 35-minute drive) made it easy to ‘sneak out of’ solitude. After a couple of days without much human contact, I found myself finding reasons to drive to town just to interact with others. It would have been a good discipline to stay put and read more Dostoevsky, in all honesty.

But let’s get back to the subject line. What exactly is so positive about separateness, withdrawal, seclusion? Why is it a necessary component of creativity? Blogger Leo Babauta lists a few of the benefits he’s found from solitude:

  • time for thought
  • in being alone, we get to know ourselves
  • we face our demons, and deal with them
  • space to create
  • space to unwind, and find peace
  • time to reflect on what we’ve done, and learn from it
  • isolation from the influences of others helps us to find our own voice
  • quiet helps us to appreciate the smaller things that get lost in the roar

With which ones do you resonate? Are there more you can think of? If so, comment, please! What has been your experience of solitude?

March 17, 2010

Fringe Benefits

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:37 am
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"The Three Penguins" -- Out my front door in Arches National Park

Edward Abbey, a curmudgeonly park ranger here in the 1950s, was assigned to watch over the entire national monument. In the long stints between visitors he jotted the thoughts that would become Desert Solitaire, the book that is responsible for my love of all things desert. He said:

“I like my job. The pay is generous; I might even say munificent: $1.95 per hour, earned or not, backed solidly by the world’s most powerful Air Force, biggest national debt, and grossest national product. The fringe benefits are priceless: clean air to breathe (after the spring sandstorms); stillness, solitude and space; an unobstructed view every day and every night of sun, sky, stars, clouds, mountains, moon, cliffrock and canyons; a sense of time enough to let thought and feeling range from here to the end of the world and back; the discovery of something intimate — though impossible to name — in the remote.”

Amen to that.

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