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Freedom In The Land Called Utah


I am sitting next to friends on top of the skeleton of an excavator from the 1950s at an abandoned uranium mining site. All around us are tamarisk chokes, red rock fortifications, and the bleached steel bones of Pittsburgh’s former glory. We descend off of what we imagine the remains of a great steel Minotaur which used to rule this dead tributary, and head up the wash into a side canyon. Following old trails and roads, we find stone sculptures pitted and bored by wind, scorpions avoiding our misunderstood company, and the remains of camps left by those the scorpions take us for.

We scramble past ash mounds, graffitied rocks, and discarded tin cans to each find a perch on one of the many boulders which have in time broken and cascaded down from the high red cliffs above like magnificent apocalyptic rain. Each dwarfs what we think possible to exist surviving such a fall, yet it does and will continue to do so long after we have ceased. Our expectations cannot deny their reality.

I sit on one of these great cleaves, facing west, enjoying life as the last rays of the deadly August sun hits my cheeks. I close my eyes and hear three ravens. When I call, they call back. Their dialect is not like those back home, but we both understand and appreciate the good company. They call from on high, and I from on low. Together we fill the canyons around us with the joyful elixir of rendezvous comradery.

Those other humans with me begin to wander around, discovering where water once fell and may again, where the ancient deep sands have laid new claim to man’s tin and iron waste, seeking to bury it and create the world in its own granular image, and where hardy shades of greenery have used their roots like vices to cling first and drink second.

I stay upon my boulder. The ravens stay upon their wing. I dream of being nowhere but where I am.

There’s a place in Utah where the sun burns a bit hotter and the air smells like home. Down the Green River with her tangerine mornings lies Labyrinth Canyon and the lair of the steel Minotaur. This Labyrinth, the river’s hand at Daedalus’s task, can also in the same make and destroy and make again. True to its name, the canyon allows all to meander into its fluid center, and gives opportunity for you to meander into your own if you’re willing to disconnect from what lies above the crests of those ancient concretized dunes, and see the world for what lies within a cradle older than time itself.

This wisened world, a world holding evidence of man’s potent messages in petroglyph, graffiti, and iron beast, holds an even greater message of hope found etched by the thumping course of the Green River. That message tells not of man’s stories looking back, but of the joy, warmth, honest decision, and echoes of time found in looking ahead.

By our freedom in this world we have license to hoot n’ holler like the wild animals we are into the amphitheaters given by the river’s mind. Let those without joy or heart file a noise complaint, for the river holds no objection. She responds back in our words, whispered to us with unbridled power by her own red and rough maw. Hearing me howl and the walls rebuttal, somewhere in the distance a beaver slaps its tail upon the water. The river calls back to him as well.

The world does not discriminate against those who choose to live within it and not simply upon it. It feels good to belong to such a place. It feels good to have such a place belong to no one, for who can be deserving of such creation but the riverine creator?

Lucky for us in Utah, our land still has more creation than not, even given the efforts of our Minotaurs. Wherever you are right now, find a window. Look outside of it. There, just past where you’re looking, lies more of Utah to be found. Just past where you can see lies another labyrinth, another message of hope, another space to dream of being nowhere but where you are, where the sun burns a little hotter and the air smells like home. So go out and be free and wild as Utah makes all who live not just on it, but within. Find your freedom in the land that we call Utah.