That subliminal quiet is stirred only by ancient winds. The rocks are timeless, squared away to outlast the human element. Passing through Juniper I observe enormous balloon clouds hovering over the tips of the mountains. Looking out across the valley below, I see the rust stained foothills where one of Southwestern Utah’s largest petroglyph sites lay, a place known as the Parowan Gap. Some say the ageless writing spans 12,000 years ago in age. I’ve heard that the Paiutes say that they were written by the Creator. Others say they were inscribed by tribes coming from the far east on their trade routes. The gap is a strange and respected place that I often find immense silence.
Moving up the steep grade of the hill into a flat opening in the Junipers, I see arrowhead chippings scattered everywhere. I’ve learned to leave the arrowheads and chippings alone, not because it is against federal law to gather them, but out of a respect I have for certain cultures around here. There’s these old fire pits, dozens of them. In some places fire pit is built on top of fire pit in the sediment, sometimes overlapping. There they are, flintknapping, cooking, grinding corn, visiting, telling jokes, telling stories around the campfire for centuries.
The arrival of the Mormons came not too long ago, about 150 years ago they entered the Parowan valley to stay. The Spanish came 200-400 years ago. The Old Spanish Trail runs through the Parowan Valley, up passed Summit, Utah. The history of these settlers, intruders, invaders is so recent in the history of the Southwest. Their presence is barely a glitch on the radar screen of America’s timespan. What happened in this valley 2,000 years ago, when folks were gathering seeds and killing the cottontails just before the winter snows? Some things will have been forgotten in these so-called modern times, when human beings are so busy they forget to listen to that ancient wind, and they become encased in a workaholic lifestyle in a tall skyscraper in Chicago or New York. Bring a New Yorker out to Southern Utah and the isolation would scare the hell out of them. Those tough street-smart gangsters from L.A. would be a cinch to track and intimidate if they were wandering through these canyons.
This land is beautiful. So much of it’s history remains untold, hidden, and the truth lays out there in the isolation and desolation. The gnarly branch of an old Bristlecone can tell many stories. If I walk passed one of these 3,000 year old trees, chances are, many humans crossed the same path to greet the tree, long before Columbus was born. This history resonates up from soil underneath all the temperary structures, buildings, roads, and cities built by this civilization, America. The truth tells the history, not the myths of America’s founding fathers, or the temporary monuments erected to honor certain persons or individuals.
I was born in Utah. I don’t want to be so naïve and ignorant of the landscape and its history. For example, Mount Rushmore is sacred to Americans, because it honors certain presidents that added providence to America’s adolescence. But I leaned that the entire area around Mount Rushmore is very significant and sacred to the Lakota people, and the sculpturing is looked upon by some to be a desecration of a holy site. All of the Black Hills are sacred to the Lokota.
What history is to be learned about Southern Utah’s past? How many undocumented events took place where I live? Before the local Wal-mart was constructed in Cedar City, I remember all the arrowheads, and bits of pottery that were laying around where that superstore now stands! Does anyone care about what happened there in that area? What about all the endangered Petroglpyphs near this big-box superstore and inside the city limits of Cedar City? As I hike the ageless hills and wander spacious valleys of the Great Basin, it really sparks an interest in me to know the truth, and to seek it. I can only ponder most of the time when I stumble across the ruins of Puebloan ancestors, the rock writings, or when climbing the storied canyons of the Colorado Plateau, deep into the beauty of Mother Earth. I realize just how fortunate I am for the opportunity to explore this place; to feel the vastness of the solitude and isolation. This is wilderness in the truest sense, full of human history, habitation, and legend. The stark blue sky and the stony vegetated earth tell the stories of what happened long ago.
This is what peace is for me. I hope the desire to seek answers and truth never fades.
Galactic blue clouds
Fill the turquoise firmament
Deep from within the belly of Mother Earth
The stories unfold.
The winds are singing –
moving the rain and thunder.
The land is so beautiful.
May it always remain beautiful.
A resistant land it is.
1 thought on “The Landscape and its History”
Nathan, this post truly inspired me. I could literally feel your words here, and what you described filled my mind with pictures of the world you live in. Thank you very much for sharing this.