Thursday, May 25, 2006

Our Pothole

The week before Easter is always a busy time in Moab, so I was anxious when Jana suggested we take the kids and head for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Although I love the parks, I was not enthusiastic about dealing with all the four wheelers who flood into Moab during that time. Thinking I had a surefire way to avoid the commotion of our sister city during the buildup to Jeep Safari, I told Jana I would be happy to go for the weekend, but was sure she could not find a motel room.

Pothole Point

As is generally the case when I have cooked up a scheme to avoid doing something I believe will be unpleasant, it took Jana only moments to shatter my arguments. Googling lodging in Moab, she turned up a comfortable motel room, and all my rationalizations were demolished.

As it turned out, Moab was beautiful and the Jeeps had yet to arrive en masse. Although we had a slightly blustery day in Arches on Saturday, Sunday morning broke with skies bluer than Billie Holiday. After a smooth, sun drenched run along the Colorado River and a late breakfast at the funky Eklecticafe, we were off to Canyonlands. Stopping briefly at the visitors center, we decided on Pothole Point as one of our destinations. The Pothole Point hike is a short six-tenth of a mile walk over undulating sandstone surfaces which contain small indentations scoured out by centuries of wind and water erosion.

During the rainy season, the depressions fill with water and the life which has remained dormant for long periods emerges from the soils collected in the bottom of the depressions. While the kids scampered from pothole to pothole; scanning the pools for the fairy shrimp, tadpoles, tadpole shrimp, mosquito larvae, snails, beetle larva and clam shrimp the brochure assured us live in the small, self-contained environments, Jana and I kept a close eye on them lest they wade through the pools.

As we inspected the water holes, the minute creatures came to life. The kids began to shout, "There's a snail.", and "There's beetle larvae." Becoming a little overzealous, at one point, Grange threatened to dip his finger into the water to point out a tadpole. Jana quickly advised him the brochure cautioned that oils from human skin, lotions or sunscreen pollute the water, making it uninhabitable.

Thinking of our own small community, I realized that Bluff and the Navajo Reservation to the south, are very much like the potholes we had been scrutinizing. Like the potholes, this region is a small, sometimes harsh environment with many interesting and unusual creatures. I could not help thinking of several locals as we watched the snails, shrimp and tadpoles shifting lazily in the shallow depressions. Over the years this area has attracted an odd collection of inhabitants, many of them with highly developed techniques for surviving under difficult conditions.

As I drive through Monument Valley, Chinle, Ganado and various other parts of the Reservation, seeing scattered bands of livestock with protruding ribs, I am often amazed that anything can actually survive in this broken, pushed up, worn down, dry, and wind blown environment. But survive they and we somehow do. It is the Navajo people who confound me most. Clustered in scattered camps, far from water, power and telephone lines, they manage to create comfortable, sustainable situations.

Basket weavers create intriguing textiles using not much more than a bundle of twigs gathered from the washes and riverbanks; rug weavers, collecting wool from their sheep flocks and goat herds, invent intricate designs on looms made from juniper; and entrepreneurs sell their goods in plywood and tarpaper shacks along the road during the tourist monsoon season.

From time to time something threatens to penetrate the membrane of our pool and disturb its delicate balance. Somehow, however, like the creatures of the potholes, we manage to survive year after year. Forget the television show, this is where the real survivors live.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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