Friday, November 16, 2012


“This is the desert after all”, I thought to myself as Grange and I sped along Interstate 70 towards Salina, Utah. He and I were heading for a wrestling tournament, the first of the season, and to get there we were traversing Utah east to west. My competitive period has long since expired, but Grange’s is just blossoming, so these days I am coach, cheerleader, driver, financial backer and emotional supporter; dad.
Bluff, UT Cottonwood Tree

Central Utah’s undulating, split, broken, up and down, rust-colored landscape was spectacular in the early evening. Asymmetrical rock castles, fortresses and temples emerged at every turn. Sandstone barricades pushed hundreds of feet into the air. Clouds raced across the skies, casting billowing shadows that cascaded across the land and painted an ever-changing, spectacularly visual, panorama. It was easy to see why landscape artists found this geography so inspiring. This is enchanted ground.

It has been dry in this part of the country, painfully dry. Parched is a term that comes to mind. Vegetation, always in short supply along this route, is almost unknown. A large front was, however, moving in. Snow would blanket the middle band of Utah before the night was over and I was hoping to miss the messiness by arriving at our intended destination before the surge. Icy pavement and storming semi tractor-trailers are a combination I avoid whenever possible.

At that point, however, the road was smooth, dry and well maintained, so we sailed through deep canyons and broad valleys with ease. “Like a bobsled on ice,” I thought to myself, and then hoped the analogy would not prove accurate. As we made our way west, the turquoise sky turned gray, then black. All the while, I scanned the horizon for a patch of green. There was none to be found.

As we crested the summit of a large, undulating hill, off in the distance I could see a swatch of shimmering gold highlighted against the increasing darkness. “Ah ha, a cottonwood,” I advised myself. In fact, it was a grove of cottonwoods, an entire family of settlers that had found a seep or underground aquifer. Somehow they or their ancestors had discovered the scarce resources necessary to thrive in this barren land and there they stood, majestic.

It made me think of the early pioneers who established Bluff, of the Navajo and of the community’s modern-day inhabitants too. Here, in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, where cactus, yucca and low scrubby plants predominate, these individuals also found the nutrients needed to form roots, leaf out and raise saplings. How or why is not easy to determine. In some cases it may have been as simple as fate, seeds deposited, a foothold gained, sunlight collected and limbs projected. For others, the explanation is more complex, spiritual maybe, at times clearly irrational. Whatever the reason, Bluff has grown its own grove in the center of this red rock desert.

Glancing over at Grange resting peacefully in the passenger seat next to me, I felt pleased my own seedlings had sprouted and nourished themselves in this trying climate. Not long hence, however, they will transplant themselves into a different environment, extending their feelers and engrafting onto another world. Their roots will, however, be forever grounded in the stark, natural beauty of the desert Southwest.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

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