Readers if you are following the park route starting from Grand Canyon, Monument Valley is 2nd.
Space opens wide to all who come. There is nothing but space, sparsely occupied by creatures of four legs or two or none. Water rarely visits this space but carves deeply when it does. Up thrust and not yet eroded stone invites imagination. Much like clouds, we humans see what is not there, a pair of mittens, a teapot, an elephant, a sister. We append the familiar to these inexplicable stones.
We pretend that the cliff in Monument Valley is the Eiger in the Alps. We pretend that the red soil is Mars. We pretend that dozens of dramas of the old west played out here. Ironically, the John Wayne movies that solidified our skewed image of settling the West also brought prosperity to some on this land. Hollywood continues to bring business, repurposing the landscape, pretending that it is galaxies away from Utah.
We pretend many things, but only those who live here know what the land really is. They know water will dry up. They know the consequences of sun, wind, snow, rain. They know the mustangs will trade work for food, water and safety. These horses make a deal with humans to return from the free range each night and be ridden some days. This is the Navajo Nation of clans and councils. One must know one’s clans. Lineage is expected when introducing ones’ self. Marriages must be outside immediate lineage and that may mean one must travel to another place to find such a person. Children are taught the Navajo language in schools run by Navajo but because life is hard, children often leave. Children do return. When they do, they may return with a spouse that is black, Asian, or of any nation. All are welcomed; all are people.
This land, these spaces may be hard and yet land ends up in our blood.
Back Story: Part 2
If it’s Tuesday….
Not sure how I feel about this opposite mode of travel. Traveling with people, on someone else’s schedule and staying in each place only long enough to kiss the blarney stone is not something I’ve ever done. Hurry, hurry logistics, one night in each hotel and departure times varying from 5:30 to 9:30 make this speed dating for National Parks. Bags out at X; people on bus by Y. Be back by Z. Off bus at A, in room, wait for bags, scrounge for dinner, clean up, sort clothes, sleep, pack up, rinse repeat.
While I understand seeing as much as possible, I’d rather see less and stay longer. Side trip guided hikes would be more appealing than cowboy bar b ques and cheesy entertainment. When I can’t even remember the day before and the parks blur together, that is not my ideal. Having an hour or two in a park the size of Rhode Island lacks. The few opportunities for extra time, Grand Canyon breakfast walk, jeep ride into Monument Valley and a quick morning return to Bryce have all been well worth it. At least now I know that Bryce and Arches are places I’d like to spend quality time.
Understandably, there were long road trips between sites. These were filled with napping, movies about the parks and napping during the movies about the parks. A few people read or listened to audio books but It became a running joke that every time we tried to read; the guide would start talking. We’d wait for miles thinking we were well outside the park radius; open a book and she’d immediately start talking about some inconsequential town we were passing through.
We spent much time in inconsequential towns “provisioning.” Fellow passengers astounded me by walking out with bags of food at every stop. It’s the US people, you won’t go hungry. I’d get a cold iced tea and munch the granola bar I brought from home and call it lunch. Twice, I a bought a bag of cherries; each bag lasted several days. On top of “provisioning,” getting ice cream seemed a top priority for many; frankly, I’d rather drink.