In effort to disappear from the snow-globe reality of resort life, we scurried to the desert in search of a change of scenery, of pace, and a stay from the grind of hospitality and thankless non-tippers whose children trip over each other at the feet of frazzled ski instructors. We were four single women to bask in a little extra sun and revel in rust-dirt covered clothes.
In the alpine environment, we are shielded, walled in from the long expanse, but, in the desert, sight extends for miles, and I find it unnerving. There is something that rattles me about open space – it feels exposed and vulnerable. As if you wanted to run but there’s nowhere to hide, and this must say something about my current state of being.
I always bring the same Edward Abbey novel to Moab and never read it. It’s become a strange tradition – its presence sits in the front seat of my car as an ode to an, albeit problematic, idol. A man who never minced words, gruff as they may be, and whose dedication to a landscape outlived himself. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, landscape endures and we become a part of it.
We waited out the rain at the campsite in our car with headlamps and Unita beers. Feet crouched up against the dash, layered in camp clothes, I sipped slowly and resolutely. When the rain tapered, we started a fire amidst the drizzle and fanned the flames fervently, content with our work. We grilled sausages and used our pocket knives to spread mustard across toast, the fat and cheese dripping from our fingers that we sucked with pleasure. No one around to notice if it was lady-like or not.
In the morning, we unashamedly ate donuts and drank left over beer. We pulled ourselves up the slab towards Delicate Arch and reveled in its formation. We walked along the tourist-laden streets and ate breakfast. Finally, we admitted that it was time to head back to our jobs and drove away from our chosen isolation.
There’s much more stumbling around my mind about public lands and pleasure and the desert with all of its uncomfortable symbolism. It hasn’t surfaced yet. Only that something in me feels wild every time I visit this place. Something feels unshackled, unfettered, and strange thoughts freely make themselves at home within me. I return feeling content in my loneliness, not necessarily hopeful about our land but committed to it.
Moab makes me question myself and, for this reason, I continue to return.