After being laid off midwinter, in spring 2001 I was wandering the western slopes of the Rockies performing wherever a venue would have me. Met a lot of nice people and was enjoying the road life more than I expected I would, making just enough money to buy gas and food and to stay in the occasional motel to have a shower and sleep deeply on an actual bed beneath actual sheets and down comforters. Eventually I wandered westward beyond the mountains into slickrock country and saw a sign pointing to Arches National Monument. Having never been there I decided to take a break to go hiking as aimlessly among strange, weather-worn sandstone landscapes as I had been driving among majestic craggy peaks.
No one else was there. No vehicles in the parking lot. No RVs parked in camping slots. No tent campers. No hikers on the trails that I could see. No park rangers scrutinizing visitors. So I parked, dropped the day fee in the box, grabbed the day pack and set out. It started snowing about an hour into the hike, lending a flatly-lighted, hugely quiet and serene feel to the landscape. A strange terrain hinting of many ways to transport across unseen boundaries to who knows where or when. In the distance a portal peeked around a fat pillar of sandstone, beckoning–no, daring me to walk on through to the other side.
An eerie invitation.
Looking through, the other side looked a little brighter and not so red as the rock on the side of approach. A thrill raced up my spine as I stepped through, hoping for something incredibly intense to happen as I did. But nothing changed outwardly. Only inward changes were sensed and they were oddly subdued. Downslope I spotted an ancient creature sitting still and silent as far as I could tell, but I knew better. It was thrumming alive so I approached.
It didn't respond to my presence. It didn't have to. Sight and fragrance of it were all I needed. So I lingered without disturbing the fine coating of snow surrounding its root mass.
Silence and solitude wrapped us in peace and joy, both very aware in different ways as time ticked on unmeasured. The snowstorm never worsened during the entire hike, providing a new wilderness environment never before experienced and not yet enjoyed again since. I was less than two months laid off from the fabulous dot com job which had opened the way for me to move west to the mountains. I had enough savings to keep me going another four months with no dire pressures beyond responding to an occasional employment prospect's iinvitation to an interview. Dozing a bit, I dreamed lightly but clearly of a way forward no matter what the past held frozen in time. Still there, just not moving anymore, maybe.
Waking beneath a light dusting of snow and moving on at an ultra-leisurely pace, sights of the unexpected unfolded around each twist in the trail, the best kind of sights, around and around and back up slope to the parking area with its pavement and signs and such. Still no one else around. Not a sound. Not a wisp of unnatural activity. No wind at all. I reveled in that thick, abiding silence, gazing back over ground just covered but concealed so well among deep folds and furrows of slickrock.
Nothing super spiritual or supernatural happened during that hike, as is always the case. Just a settling of deeply soothing internal and external solace which caused a bit of healing not desperately needed, but very much appreciated. Life was not perfect but it was still so good.
Nature's salve infused on the far side of a snow portal.