Canyons

At night, I dream of the desert.

Most nights, my mind hits the dry, packed earth of southern Utah running. I first visited Utah in 2016, and had it been up to me, I would’ve never left.

The day we left, I sat on the edge of Island in the Sky, a mesa that rests on sheer sandstone cliffs that rise over 1000 feet over the rest of Canyonlands National Park. I sat there for a long time, tears rolling into my smiling mouth. The canyons that yawned before me, lit by the rising sun, were unreal in their beauty. The wind that rose up out of those deep gashes in the earth crackled through sagebrush and filled the corners of my eyes with sharp, rust-colored grit. I didn’t care.

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On the ribbon of dirt road far, far below me, I saw a car bouncing among the hoodoos. The wheels kicked up a hazy cloud of dirt; it caught the dawn and shone like a halo. I knew that to take that path, you’d have to have a couple days of provisions, extra gas, and an all-wheel-drive vehicle. We had none of those things.

Somehow, I dragged myself to my feet and made my way to the car. I cried pretty much the whole way home, all 1500 miles of it. I vowed to go back. I vowed to do everything in my power to go back, and to stay.

I failed. Heroically.

Some days are harder than others. There are days I can’t even look at pictures of the desert without feeling a canyon of my own opening up in the bottom of my chest. If Iook, there’s no way I can hold back the flash flood of grief.

But most days, I roll out of bed and pad around the little cottage we call home. I peek through the curtains and watch as the sun begins to hit our porch just so. I sit with my coffee and with my thoughts and with an empty page—and feel that maybe, for now, this could be home.

Every day I learn a bit more about what it means to be present.

This doesn’t mean that the dream is dead. Far from it. I trace the route I’d take to Moab every other day. I debate over whether or not I could do the 22 hour, 3 minute drive in one go. I hope to one day have the freedom to at least visit the desert I love so deeply several times a year. Or maybe we will end up there after all. Fate will deliver to us what she pleases.

The goal is to not let that love detract from what life is right now. I don’t want to miss the way 100-year-old crepe myrtle branches catch the light. I don’t want to ignore the sounds of the train on the levee. I hope to all I still believe to be holy that I’ll never forget how to live in want of what may, or may not, come to pass.

It’s a lesson I learn a little more with every creak of the floorboards under our feet. As this house yawns and stretches with the ever-changing Louisiana temperatures.

What a wealth of grace I’ve been granted, to have two places in this world to call home. I’m reminded of that, through shame and service, every time someone who has no home comes to our doorstep. We give what we can and I hold the moment close to my heart so that it will see—I am fortunate indeed.

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