Saturday, July 25, 2009

Variations on a Theme

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Today, we entered our fourth state in four days. Allow me a moment while I catch my breath.

I’m typing this from inside a tent in Mesa Verde National Park, the glow of the laptop screen attracting the occasional flying insect like a moth to flame. A few feet from me, the boys are trying to settle themselves into sleep. It’s very, very peaceful.

We’ve gotten our first glimpse of the Native American cliff dwellings for which this park is famous, but due to my spotty internet connection en route, I’m behind in my posts…I should be talking about yesterday, not today.

Which would be fine if I could just manage to remember yesterday. I shouldn’t be this tired, but the thing is, I’m hardly sleeping. I know it’s ridiculous, but I find it so hard to sleep in motel rooms and tents with my kids. Every single time they roll over, murmur in their sleep, or kick one another in the shins, I wake up. Right now, the sound of Toby wiggling in his sleeping bag calls to mind a constantly churning ocean. I get them water, or take them to the bathroom, or find the pillow they threw on the floor (why are my kids such violent sleepers?) and then I lay there, wide awake, until drifting off just in time for them to sit bolt upright again.

Every day, I’m grateful for 7 am.

I was especially grateful yesterday morning, because we were in Moab, Utah (would you look at that, my memory is coming back to me), and eating the best breakfast crepes ever at a wonderful little café called Wake and Bake. (Incidentally, I have fallen in love with Moab. Picture the little town from the Cars movie, then add Boulder’s air of adventure and outdoor recreation and Sedona or Laguna’s avant-garde art culture, and you pretty much have Moab.)

The only downfall? It had topped 100 degrees by 11 am.

But we got a fairly early start and hit Arches National Park before ten. I’d never been here before, and I can say with solemn reverence that it was nothing short of stunning. I’m not usually the type to ohh and aww over geological wonders (I’d much rather learn about the people of a place, for instance, than how old its rocks are), but Arches certainly accommodated me in keeping with my recent travel theme of perspective and scope.

Walking through its canyons (or scrambling up them, as the case may have been as I chased after errant children), I was once again made painfully aware of my insignificance. Just as I had felt inside the vast caverns of Great Basin, staring at stalagmites millions of years in the making (quick, are those the ones hanging down or the ones pointing up?) Moab’s arches reminded me that the universe does not care that I, a random human being, chose the 23rd of July, 2009 to tread upon these particular coordinates of earth. Or any other, for that matter. The arches were there countless years before me, and will likely be there countless after me.

I think, if only for my own benefit, that I need to repeat that: does not care. That’s hard for us to grasp, isn’t it? I think this may be why time as a concept feels so elusive to us, and distance, for that matter: I could barely wrap my mind around The Loneliest Highway in America, let alone the distance between a single star above my tent’s canvas and the path of its light to our planet. Our entire perspective is limited to such a tiny pin drop of experience.

We’re so self involved, the human race.

So in keeping with that theme as well, I’ll end with photos. Of me. And my family. On this date. In this place. Where, for the briefest of moments (brief to the universe, anyway…long as only a car trip with a four-year-old can be to me), my microscopic blink of an existence made contact with the impossibly long span of earth’s history, touching ground upon the smooth desert sandstone of dusty Moab…

And the first thing I can think to talk about are the crepes.

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The Double Arch, viewed from the trail.


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The older boys scrambling up said arch, while I tried in vain to keep up with them.


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They thought it would be very funny to pose as though they're falling. The incline is not very steep right there, but it sure looks it, doesn't it?


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The four of us with The Delicate Arch in the background. Sigh...we miss Daddy.
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