My Desert Odyssey
30 years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I met a woman from Taos, NM through friends. Rebecca led groups of women into the desert so that they could experience being alone in nature for 72 hours.
I was intrigued; I’d lived in the city for 10 years and hadn’t spent that kind of time camping since I was a kid.
My ex-husband had been spooked by nature. I loved the city, but I hungered for a wild landscape. My friend Patrice came with me to a camping store – he recommended I go for a jacket with a hood, but I preferred the cut and color of another.
I didn’t really think too much about what I was getting into, nor did I understand the concept of a “vision quest”. I signed on for 2 weeks in New Mexico and Utah, knowing no one except the gal I’d briefly met.
Nowadays, Rebecca would be advertised on line, but at the time she gathered people through word of mouth.
I flew into Albequeque and made my way to Taos with a redheaded local dental hygienist named Gay. She told me three other women were also hygienists, friends of hers from conventions. They came from TX, Vancouver and a Boston suburb.
The Canadian brought a friend and the other women hailed from CA and NM. I was the youngest and a bit of a novelty since I lived in NYC.
I can and should write at length about the journey and the spectacular landscape, once we left Taos and headed for Escalante. If you’ve been to that part of the States, you know that it’s holy, gorgeous and haunting.
It was May and I’d thought it would be warm, but by the time we reached Utah, the temperature chilled. We were led into our campsite by a few cowboys with mules to carry our food and supplies. The cowboys warned us rain was coming and if it poured we had best “head for the hills!” I couldn’t believe they actually said that, city girl that I was.
We planned to be in Escalante for 9 days. Three days to prepare and choose our separate sites, three days alone and three days to process and celebrate in community.
We camped at the mouth of a waterfall where watercress sprouted. Rebecca knew the desert well. As predicted by the cowboys, it began to rain incessantly.
By the second day, I realized Patrice had been right to advise a hood. We huddled and shared stories. On the third day it hailed and we balked. Would our journeys be aborted? On the fourth day, the sun broke with blinding brilliance.
These magnificent land formations glow with secrets of long ago. The earth sculptures evoke the hand of a creator, even if you don’t believe in one. Their perfection seems random without a great design, so they tease out wonder, reflection and awe.
It causes me tremendous pain to think that sacred earth is now prey for opportunists. I have tremendous respect for the First Nation people who have fought so hard to preserve Escalante, Bear’s Ears and other parts of the United States that deserve a light footstep.
So many U.S. citizens continue to turn a blind eye to this systematic reneging and the government’s disrespect of the indigenous people. Cattle ranchers and oil drillers are not the original dwellers of those national monuments.
I’ve lost touch with all those women I traveled with; I used to chat with Alexandra from Vancouver, but she died after a long battle with cancer.
Since our journey was in 1987, there was no electronic trail to keep us in touch. But I have no doubt that every woman who took her individual quest when I did felt that same pierce in the heart when President Trump signed away the protection of this land.
My sympathy is deep for the native people who consider the land sacred. I do not share their pedigree, but I know they are right.
These landscapes are divine and we ignore this truth at our peril. So many human beings are ignorant of the divinity within each of them. Nature reconnects us to our divinity, when we allow it.
Thank you, beautiful Escalante for giving me an experience of a lifetime. May the people unite and prevail to value our most precious resources.
Since President Trump made this declaration with Mercury Retrograde and a challenged Gemini Moon by Saturn’s opposition, his “vision” will not go as planned.
Not the usual look for the Chelsea girl in 1987, but it worked in the desert