Saturday, June 6, 2009

What I Wrote While Camping

I would like to write a little about Southern Utah.

During the few days we were camping there, one of the two teachers in the Liverpool group, named Michelle, proposed that we all write a phrase about how we felt about the place. On the day we went to Calf Creek, I ended up staying back while most of the group hiked up to Calf Creek Falls. I was feeling restless and couldn't draw. I watched little Hannah (my professor's 9-year-old daughter) make a drawing with a leaf, a kleenex, a graphite stick and an eraser. It was probably the most beautiful thing I saw that day in that beautiful place. I admit I was filled with envy, watching her easy movements and carefree, contemplative decision- and mark-making. It only took about two minutes and then she was done, and pleased. The drawing was lovely.

I wandered around a bit and then sat in the dirt to write some things down for Michelle's collaborative poem. After much struggling and scribbling, I had written about a page. This is what I had:

This place feels deep, like I'm walking on the surface of something that reaches very far down to places that can never be remembered or understood. The landscape here is more familiar to me than it once was, but coming here still makes me feel as though I've crossed over into a new and alien place, far removed from my home and unique in its personality. The feeling of strangeness and mystery seems only intensified when I notice a gambel oak or a magpie just like the ones at home, or I look up at night to find the familiar pattern of Cassiopeia looking back, and it occurs to me that home is only a few hours' drive away; I was there yesterday, and will return soon. How strange that places like this are so near, with many inhabitants that I recognize, yet whenever I come here I feel plucked out of life and put somewhere otherworldly and new.

Here is a place that one could come to love very deeply, where one could live and feel at home, but it could never be quantified, owned, or understood. The ancientness and strangeness and depth of it defy fathoming. It would not be possible to enhance or contribute to this landscape by any means that I possess. This sense that I am very small and alien here, and so limited in my capacity to understand, is not really a bad one. It is somewhat discomfiting to consider the scale of the landscape and its history that both surrounds and eludes me, but it is a special and awing thing to experience. It feels good to stand here on the surface of so much depth. Perhaps this is the best thing anyone can do in a place like this, whether inhabitant or visitor, staying for a moment or for a lifetime: stand on its dirt and let its beauty and strangeness fill you up and even change you; love the place for what it has offered for you to see, as well as for all that it won't ever show you. I love Southern Utah for both its beauties and its secrets. It fills me.


laura said...

so beautiful, annie. thanks for posting this.

annilyns said...

Wow, that's such an appropriate description of Southern Utah. And beautifully written.

Annie said...

Thanks, both of you.