A few miles outside Springdale, Utah; never mind where because I would never tell you and because, frankly, it’s not your business. Furthermore, you are a consumer (you’ve just proven that by reading these very words), and consumers have taken over Springdale, Utah; that’s another story, maybe for a chapter two, if I get that far. Consumers also want to read books about their favorite subjects. And authors like me are all too happy to take your money so that we can continue to lean and loaf and write about it. I digress, let’s just say that the marketing plan Utah came up with a few years ago to get “boots on the ground” in our so-called National Parks in Utah has been an unmitigated disaster for everyone but those who prey on others, by which I mean the sociopaths who already own land in Springdale and have gone about converting as quickly as possible, openly flaunting both town code, basic decency, community considerations, and human propriety, gleefully erecting the patently ugly jewels of their twisted and banal manifestations of ego. But I also mean the overlords in the Park Service, and the LDS church. Always, the Latter-Day Saints. Nothing happens in this state without the Latters having a say, tacitly or not.
Anyway, as I was saying, a few miles outside the town formerly known as Springdale, Utah but presently known as Zy-ahns by the legions of cattle-like tourists who even now as I write this late at night in August in Salt Lake City are descending on every square inch of land with the delicacy of a puppy and the anti-peripheral curiosity of an autistic, there is a place one can stand and where such unobstructed beauty meets the eye in every direction that one’s eye must close and then reopen just to make sure it’s all real. And god, how real it all is. And I’m really not talking about the big sandstone postcard fodder you buy in the tens and twenties at the Park Service Mini Mart with a tee-shirt proving to your friends you’ve been here, especially when you wear it out to dinner at your local Olive Garden (your usual waiter will be so interested to hear about your adventures when he brings the third order of breadsticks!); no, those are a dime-a-dozen, really. What I am talking about is subtler but without a doubt the sine qua non of those burly cliffs of umber and of yellow and of such trans-human power that no less Jim Bridger decided to write his own name above the (in his opinion) juvenilia of two thousand years ago. When you stand in this particular place which I shall never mention, you look out, say, toward the south and you see extraordinary seemingly infinite forests of pinyon and juniper. For you folks who haven’t spent much time in the southwest American desert, you’ve got to let go of your Latinate affectations. It’s pronounced pin-yun, not pin-yon. Pronouncing Spanish words like a Spaniard will just make you look like the politically correct coward you are. Don’t roll your r’s either.
For example. It’s also just Zi-uhn. No need to get ‘round that O too much. Utahns, like Aussies and like Southerners everywhere, do not spend much effort enunciating all the stuff that comes after the first bit of a word. Make sure that the first vowel sound is long (ex. Alta not Ahlta) and you’re getting there.
From this vantage point I see endless undulations of this spaded green and and burnt umber, a sky virulently corpulent bearing pillowy clouds that here and there gather into great, dark nimbuses of electric febrile crazy. If I am lucky one of those emergent cells heads my way on some invisible torrent of air, yoked across the azimuth by fate or else by nothing at all but fucking randomness which is as potent and worship-worthy as any god, and I am drenched and my car is stuck in red roads suddenly turned into rotting salmon flesh, sticky sucky soppy incorrigible and implacable. The first thing one learns when one heads out toward the interior on Chinle roads is that if it rains you ain’t going nowhere. At least for a bit. I remember heading into the Escalante and passing a woman walking out by herself whose truck had come to grief many miles inland from the highway. My Corolla was no help in pulling her out, and I said so, but still I had to see for myself. But that’s another story.
Where was I? Oh yes, standing on this mesa, perhaps a couple thousand feet above the valley floor I am looking south across those hard-lived, excruciatingly beautiful conifers and cypresses when I spot it, there above it all, effortlessly transcribing arcs prefigured in creation, the deathly eye above the playa, the king of the skies undoubtedly, a golden eagle. A golden eagle, synchronistically (Jung would be proud and, setting aside his pipe for a moment, inquire whether or not I realized this in the moment) arrived, just in time, it turns out, for our wedding here in this place a year later. As my now wife and I were traveling up the winding road to come to this place which overlooks the known world, or at least all the known a human might need to be fulfilled, and as we listened to a compilation of different singers singing “hallelujah” (not our choice), suddenly, as if in a dream, a golden eagle peregrinated over the basaltic crest, a thousand feet of air beneath him, banked slightly, and careened over our car without so much as twitching his wings-
copyright, 2016 Andrew David Cliburn