“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.”
~ Robert Frost
The time has come to leave Zion, and it smarts just as badly the at the end of the second autumn as it did the first, if not more so. Maybe because I am leaving this year with “time still on the meter,” meaning a few days ahead of Old Man Winter, before he comes barging through, blowing the 24 karat gold off the cottonwood trees like a blustering bully. Leaving Zion abrades my skin like the fickle Zion Canyon wind that changes directions to meet me head on, leaving raw exposed emotions.
I am not sure what it is about the Virgin boondock that makes me so reluctant to leave. Maybe it is because it’s the first place I ever boondocked alone for any length of time. It took me some time to feel comfortable, but once I got over the fear of noises and the rare stray headlights pointed in my direction in the dark of night, and found “my love to keep me warm” in the form of Mr. Buddy Heater, I have felt at home here. For two autumn seasons in a row, it has offered me the conveniences and small town comfort of nearby Hurricane, the camaraderie of friends around me, opportunities for endless exploration, and more visual stimulation than I have found at any other national park.
My brother Don recently asked why on earth I would stay in such an “arid” place for so long. What was the lure of “red rocks?” But it’s not just the rocks. Sheer cliff walls, pinion pine and juniper forests, and a tumbling river flowing through the blood red heart of the canyon make up a daily feast for the eyes that makes surrounding destinations look monochromatic in comparison.
As I sat there on the newly frosted November morning, the Winnie engine idling, I said aloud, “It pains me to leave you, but I am grateful for all the beauty, comfort and nurturing you have provided for me. But you are not a permanent home. And I am not a permanent person. So I must go, and hope to see you again one day….”
Then I pulled out, teary-eyed, heading toward my southward migration….leaving half my brand new leveling blocks behind. (I guess something “gold” can stay after all!) 😉
From this point on, every mile driven will be one mile closer to Texas where I face a Christmas holiday season with a 40% reduction in family members. My dear friend always tells me, “Follow your heart.” My heart is in Texas with my Mom, Don, and Stephen’s family. But my soul is in the mountains, the oceans, the red rocks of Zion, and all the places of Nature’s beauty that beckon from the bottom of the bucket. And sometimes that separation is a killer…