Cold night of moonlit trees invades my room.
The sleeping bag returns my body’s heat.
Of future, past, and possible I dream.
Each morning, I argue with myself.
Get up, build a fire, breakfast.
No, let me lay in warmth some minutes more.
Spring green maple
spreading above me
brings my thoughts
back to this moment.
This morning, many birds,
slight breeze, almost silent,
the softly singing creek.
Bumble, honey, and lesser bees
pace circles and fly
dusted with yellow orange.
A butterfly with slow dark wings
perches long, uncoils its tongue.
A brick-red mite struggles
to climb over the edge
of a single petal.
After racing sundown
on a long winding road,
I’m standing at Cape Royal,
a rim with no railing,
looking all the way down
to the Colorado.
A butte island nearby
shows the upper beds,
and over here the sun
reveals all the layers
down to the slanted beds,
Cambrian I believe.
Toward the sun, misty blues
too vague to photograph.
I can watch the shadows
move and grow while I stare.
The butte island turns gold,
and that piñon pine!
I snap the shutter, hoping
the colors will show true.
Queen’s Garden Trail,
bedded, jointed limestone,
blinding pink and white,
some of it melted
almost like cave formations,
chess pieces and wine goblets
flank a fantasy castle cliff.
I’m glad I have a camera.
I’d like to stop, like to draw,
like to appreciate
the sustained weirdness,
but no way. If I stop,
tiny evil flies
On hot afternoon dust I’m walking,
heavy canteen on my sunburned shoulders,
between the brilliant rust stained rocks,
each shade a blessing cursed by flies
that buzz and bite each hesitation.
I’m sitting in the hole of the North Window,
the massive arch I just drew from over there.
Here the wind keeps the flies away.
Entrada Sandstone over softer layers
makes the slender towers look like erections.
I snap a cliché view of Double Arch.
I sit inside it, experiencing
chipmunks and the sky split in three by stone,
but there’s no way to photograph this,
short of pasting together a whole roll.
Landscape Arch is truly incredible.
From below it looked like a ribbon of rock
proportioned like a rainbow,
but from up here I can see its mass,
and a crack in the middle of its span.
Back at campsite A-3, the flies have stopped.
All the people my own age or younger
have huge trucks and four children.
A piñon pine is silhouetted against
the yellow-purple-blue sky behind rocks.
The Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands
is a blessed thousand feet higher than Arches,
but still in the piñon-juniper zone.
Canyon View Arch is nearly a semicircle.
The area below looks like a contour map,
or a model made from layers of cardboard.
Drawing this scene would take many hours,
which I won’t do with buzzing Utah flies.
I photograph a view through Canyon View Arch,
blue of distant mountains, purple cliffs,
red and yellow nearby, a pleasing pallette.
Only a bit of the arch itself will show.
The White Rim is a shelf much broader
than any layer in the Grand Canyon.
From here it looks like crust around a salt lake.
with vegetation like pond scum.
A park service sign romances desert silence.
The real sound is a constant buzz of flies.
A foreign couple sit down at the edge,
discussing beauty, somehow ignoring flies.
The night is pleasant, no flies, just crickets.
I’m on the canyon rim writing by moonlight,
the layers of rock shadowy and blurred,
the Big and Little Dipper bright and clear.
My pickup with a camper shell is parked
in the campground near Medicine Bow Peak,
where the spruce fir forest thins to tundra.
I’m excited. This trail around the lake
goes a couple miles up to the summit.
From here the mountain looks like a long cliff
sloping toward its reflection in the lake,
snow fields on the rubble at the bottom.
Partway up, green leaves and yellow flowers
on a tangle of twigs hugging the ground.
On top a boulder field gently sloping,
marmots popping out to beg for food,
knowing hikers have breadcrumbs and granola.
I breathe the thin exhilarating air.
This wasn’t that hard a walk, but I’m surprised
the other hikers I meet way up here
keep moving on their way to somewhere else.
I’m staying awhile, enjoying the marmots,
living with the beauty I’ve achieved.
A fly falls on the surface, buzzing, struggling.
A mid-sized water strider seizes it.
Others pile on like a football tackle.
The first strider circles, gripping its fly,
evading some but still attracting others.
The fly stops moving, possibly poisoned.
The strider moves normally, unnoticed until
a chance meeting starts another freeforall.
This time a big one leaves with the prize,
hopping off water to avoid the crowd.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
Drawing, “North Rim”: 2009, gel pen on paper, 6 x 10 inches.