12.25.2006,9:13 PM
Canyon Addict

Hi. My name is <mumble mumble> and I'm here today because I'm an addict. I tried to stay away, ignore it, sweep it from my mind. The Twelve-step program failed and I'm here before you, with you all today to humbly admit my addiction.

I'm addicted to canyons.
I'm a canyon addict on two wheels. <bowing head in shame and grinning>

Ever since I was knee high to a bee I've been drawn to canyons. As a youngun I wandered to the nearby creek on my own, playing in the pools of water, slipping on
worn and algae-carpeted basalt and sandstone, caught salamanders in the creek bordered by treed and grassy cliffs. In high school I drove hours to a deep valley nestled in a gorge with a wide stream and sunlit pools of water and rock, camping on the stream edges and listening to eagles and coyotes in the night. As a family, we stayed for a week or so nearly every summer in Letchworth gorge, the only gorge in New York unfettered and still untouched by human metal and rubber except for the road along it's length.

When I was 18, I hitchhiked to Arizona with John, my lover, and we hiked the Grand Canyon. Despite spraining my ankle on the way up and hitching a ride with a mule 'train', I was in awe and speechless the entire time. I remember explaining to John then how I wanted to live in the bottom of the canyon in the winter where it is warm, and the rim in the summer, where it is cooler.

Now decades later and I am thrust back to that time and that strong desire to be there, live there, ride them, watch them weather, smell their seasons and feel their annual cycles. Be a part of the most fantastical wonderful geographical monuments on this planet: the canyons.

These gouges in the planet, revealing thousands and thousands of years of our planet's evolution as it was formed and ages. It is a time capsule, a mural of what we stand and sit on, of what our very existence depends upon. Just as majestic as the highest mountains that rise above the surface, these deep cuts in the earth's crust tell a story that few read or listen to. And its all there for anyone to grasp and see. But few bother.

I mentioned to my mother on the phone yesterday that I wanted to sell everything and go find a small cabin in the canyons to live and retire. I was stunned when she responded I had said the same (wanting to be a hermit in a desert canyon) many many years ago. I don't recall telling her that, but it impressed upon me how much, and for how long, canyons have been a part of me, called me to them. Even before I first visited the canyons of the west.

While traveling across the US from Maine with my then husband and young daughter we stopped and camped for a few days in the Badlands. The moon was full and I wandered up to the top of a mesa shortly before sunset, finding a spot to sit with a panoramic view below me. I watched the sun set and the moon rise, and saw life unfold below me. A life where day overlaps night, forests mingle with desert, and many life forms I've never seen before. Antelope, rabbits, coyotes, cougar, bobcat, eagles, hawks.........

I lost myself that night, as I sat until daybreak. I felt I was 'home'. I molted the the east coast skin and what took form was a coat of down and warmth. I was 'whole', as if something deep inside had finally arisen and sprouted wings. I knew this is where I belonged; in the West, in the canyons, its streams and mountains. That night I was in another universe and walked off the mesa a different person. Even my husband noticed something was 'different'.

For years I have tried to follow the path that was expected of me; it was my duty as a mother and wife. Now I am alone and the daughter is an adult on her own. This year I fulfilled a old desire and longing: go back to the canyons. And it is only the beginning.

Now I've ridden through several canyons, in Utah, New Mexico and Texas. Riding a motorcycle in the canyons is like being strapped to a rocket flung through the solar system. You're out there, baby. In all its essence. One false move and you could fly off a cliff. Be careful on the edge; you feel as though you want to soar, but remember you don't have wings. The thrill and exhilaration are intoxicating.

Now every day I think about how I can go back, back to the color, the raw beauty, the harsh weather and naked glory. Hike down to the canyon floors where the scale of the mesas and cliffs above you confuse your senses, where it is an entirely separate universe whose boundaries are tall yardsticks of endless time. Ride the rim and overlook the edges fighting vertigo, and the scale challenges your perception. Gasp at the colors that lay and gleam before and under you. Watch as life forms its battlefields below in the confines of narrow valleys. We are also soldiers on this play field but we are mostly lost wandering aimlessly in the concrete canyons of modern cities.

Yes, I'm an addict. I can't live without that which sustains my soul and feeds my addiction. It's in my head and in my heart. It gives me meaning during my days until I can quench my thirst. I have this need, a drive, reasonable or not, to ride in, to live near those deep gouges in the earth, to become a part of the canyons.

I am a canyon addict on two wheels.

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posted by Macrobe
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