Happenings October 2005
by Rory Tyler
The Glory of the
One Who moves all things
Penetrates all the universe, reflecting
In one part more and in another less.
Dante – The
Paradise, Canto I, Lines 1-3
I rose early at the brink of a mesa
overlooking a vast expanse of wild desert, the sun at my
back. It felt like the edge of an epiphany, the verge of
a better awakening. It was the Light. Acute and conspicuous.
Tangible and distinct. I searched a while for words to
describe the nature of a comprehension I could sense, but
just could not name, then surrendered my thoughts to the
luster of the morning.
the sun climbed higher, the lucent canyon contours
began to diminish and fade. The penetrating and precise
became blunt and blurred. What had been obvious became
obscure. The long-sighted promise of impending revelation
disintegrated into a squinting myopia, peering vainly
into ever-thickening veils of light. Details lost discretion,
slurred into latency, then hid themselves inside the
I’m sure there are scientific explanations for the impeccable intensity
of the first light and the way it decays – refractions, reflections,
dust counts, and so on – but none convey the sense of life and
promise repeating, dawn after dawn, of the early morning moments. The
question stayed on my mind - what makes that hour so special?
As sometimes happens, an intriguing hypothesis appeared from an unexpected
source - Forrest Carter’s fictionalized biography of the great
Apache freedom fighter and war shaman, Geronimo. It’s called Watch
for Me on the Mountain. (Carter also wrote the delightful The Education
of Little Tree and the Josey Wales stories that Clint Eastwood made famous.)
According to Carter, the Apaches believed that the world we live in is
a shadow world, a fragment of a greater reality that our spirit-self
enters to gain experience and strength.
At one point in the book, Geronimo makes a mark on the ground in the
evening twilight, then asks a young warrior to identify an object on
a stump a hundred yards away. He guesses that it is a stick, a dead snake,
or perhaps only a twisted shadow. In the morning, with an equal amount
of light, he easily identifies it as a crooked stick with a knot in it.
Geronimo explains the morning light. “It is not the same kind of
light. Light is life. When it is born in the morning, it is like youth
coming into the shadow world to deal with the physical shadows. It must
see physical things distinctly. When light is old, it is like the old
person getting ready to leave the shadow world. The physical things are
not important then. And so the light, and vision, blurs and is not distinct.
It means nothing now for the old. If they have strengthened their spirit
minds, they turn their sight inward and the spirit things grow sharp
and distinct, for this is the world where they are going. If they have
not strengthened their spirit minds” – Geronimo shrugged – “then
they are lost there, too…in a twilight they cannot see before
darkness.” So the lesson here is, if you want to see all of anything
you ought to see it in the earliest morning, before the good of light’s
intellect becomes older, wiser, and unconcerned with the shadows of the
One easy place to ‘see it all’ is from the South Window viewpoint
in the Windows section of Arches National Park. The Windows is the highest
part of the park and the South Window viewpoint provides unobstructed
vistas up to the La Sal Mountains and down into the heart of Canyonlands
National Park. It takes about forty minutes to drive there from town.
It’s only about a quarter mile walk from the trailhead to the viewpoint.
(If you want to cheat yourself out of a walk, stop instead at Balanced
Rock or Panorama Point.)
A second option is the Upheaval Dome Trail in Canyonlands National
Park. The trailhead is an hour’s drive from town. The first part of the
trail is easy to find and well-marked. You can get a good view in the
first ¼ mile, but it is well-worth hiking ¾ of a mile to
the second viewpoint where you can scan 270 degrees of mountains, chasms,
and mazes. (The ‘cheats’ on this one are the Green River
Overlook in the national park or Deadhorse Point State Park, which is
only a forty-minute drive and is, after all is said and done, still the
best view around.)
A more ambitious hiker might look to Amasa Back for enlightenment (pun
intended). The trailhead is only six miles from Moab on Kane Creek Road,
but figure on a half-hour of uphill hiking by headlamp and starlight
just to clear the canyon walls. Once you’re on the crest of this
river-carved peninsula the views are relentlessly breathtaking in every
direction. Most hikers take the bike/four-wheel trail that turns north
(to the right). Adventure-prone walkers, once they’ve emerged from
the canyon, should consider exploring the untrailed tracts to the south
and east. Sorry! No cheating for a view on Amasa Back.
Of course, any of these walks is worth doing any time of day…but
what would Geronimo say?
Rory Tyler is available for cowboy
poetry/campfire song gatherings which include lore, science,
history and lies of the Moab area. (Suitable for all
age groups). Rates are negotiable. Give Rory a call at