Expanse - Field Notes from the Wonderland of Moab, Utah


These spaces. What do we do with them? In them? Stammer. Shake our heads. Feel undone, overwhelmed, open-ended. We don’t know how to respond to majesty. We fumble for a camera, try to capture, frame, comprehend. We fumble for words, ideas big enough, rich enough. These visions revise us.

As if the land tells us who we are in the language of deep time. Speaks to the ache. Fear or panic at the expansiveness, the toomuchness of it migrates toward wonder. Erosional beauty reknits us.

In the unending process of our education and civilizing—our seeing and knowing ourselves, the world, and crafting of them a harmony—wilderness runs. Cuts through. Disrupts. Opens. Expands.

Arches National Park sits (erupts? unfolds?) on a kind of ledge, a twisting ascent above the world. An otherworld, that exists alongside our new years’ resolutions, our five-year plans, our empires of hustle and versions of ownership, our many maps. And thank God, fences break, trails overgrow, plates shift, maps are old news the minute they’re drawn. Wilderness spills in.

In her genre mashup masterpiece ‘The Hour of Land.’ Terry Tempest Williams asks, ‘How might these public commons brings us back to a united state of humility?...If we can learn to listen to the land, we can learn to listen to each other. This is the beginning of ceremony.’ 

I can’t think of a better read to take on an open road this summer and ask the big questions. What’s citizenship, reconciliation, reverent activism, radical neighborhood?

One of my favorite lines from the record 'Wildness' Snow Patrol dropped the week I wandered red rock country is:

This is always the way home / so you can rip that map to shreds, my dear.

There is a way that stepping into wilderness—especially as vast and strange as Utah's time-carved  desserts—relieves us. Throws in sharp relief the shelters of home and story we're constructing between us and this raw, wild world. Requires the compass that points heartward.

Nicole MelineComment