If my heart could take the shape of a landscape, it would be the canyons of Utah burning red under a seemingly endless blue sky. I was born a desert rat and though I’ve attempted to set sail on new horizons, I always find myself thirsting for the dry mesas, spires, and cliffs of my home. My love for this place is as solid as the rock formations that shape it. This is my home, my place, my identity, with iron-infused sandstone running red through my soul.
As a child I would climb boulders with my siblings as my parents cooked beans and potatoes over a camp stove. We would sit around a fire under a sky of dazzling stars, too many to comprehend. This maze of winding canyons became my permanent residence later in life when I began working for Canyonlands National Park. I advocated for this wilderness, a crusader for the cryptobiotic soil. Don’t bust the crust! Hidden granaries and prehistoric rock art from the ancestral Puebloans were tucked away in cliffs around my small house, telling stories of life, love, and survival in a world of unforgiving challenges. I walked amongst the sage and twisted junipers, feeling small next to limestone that revealed marks of an ancient ocean. I shared these stories with visitors so that they, too, may protect this place from the jaws of those hungry for natural gas. Mountain lion prints tracking my own on evening hikes reminded me that I am part of the food chain, and run-ins with rattlesnakes kept me alert and humble. You must respect the desert.
My career has taken me away once again. I traded the bristlecone pine for the lodgepole and the Green River for the Snake, and as I take in the beauty of the Tetons I feel a pang of homesickness. I imagine the red rocks slick under a dusting of snow, ice freezing in the cracks and continuing to write a geologic story that will unfold long after I am gone. I may be miles away now, but my heart is forever in Canyonlands.