Monday, March 12, 2012

Pink Lightning Over the San Juan













In the spring of 2001, JB and I were exploring the southwest, living out of a van and trying to keep from doing each other bodily harm. We'd spent the day on Cedar Mesa before heading to the Mokee Dugway, a dirt road (not for the faint of heart) that snakes its way along the edge of the mesa and down to the Valley of the Gods below. We'd taken this road many times and each time we said, 'Never again.'  But, there we were, arguing over who would drive and who would ride shotgun. Truth be told, I like to drive. And, if we were to go over the edge, I'd have no one to blame but myself.

Eventually, we arrived at the bottom, all in one piece, then took a break to check out a habitation site JB had spotted from above. In canyon country, that's what riding shotgun is all about, spotting habitation sites and the ruins of cliff dwellings tucked into canyon walls. He's better at it than I am. But then, he's had more practice.

Note: JB has been living in Moab, Utah for five and a half years now. During this time, he's been on 423 day hikes - he's a Virgo, he keeps track - several of them ten miles long. This is in Canyon Country. And he's almost 65 (he told me I could say that). Darn his desert hideBack to my story:

A little further down the highway that runs through this valley, there's a side road which leads to Goosenecks State Park. There, at an overlook, the San Juan River winds through a gorge with a view that's almost a mirror image of the beautiful and breathtaking road we'd just come down. We arrived late in the evening, in time to take a look before dusk settled in.


Aerial View of the San Juan, not at all unlike the Mokee Dugway.

We walked down a small, rocky path leading to a ledge and a somewhat closer view of the river. One could say we like living on the edge, or our version of it, anyway. While we were there, a storm started brewing. We could see it developing on the mesa across the river and, despite having some concerns, decided to watch for a few minutes. Awestruck by the pink lightning (that might be a poor choice of words), we stood there a bit longer than wisdom would dictate, proving Mr. Shakespeare right:  "What fools these mortals be."

Hugging the rock wall, we followed the path back to the top as quickly as that path would allow. By this time, we could feel our skin starting to tingle from the electrically charged air. Once we were safely ensconced in the car, we sat in silence and watched as, all across the distant mesa, deep pink lightning flashed again and again and again, against the darkening sky.







P.S. Today would have been Jack Kerouac's birthday.  You might think me mad (I won't refute it), but, sometimes, I feel as though he's here and we silently talk. Today, I touched a book of his poetry and... I started to cry. I heard him say, "You can cry a thousand tears, sweetie, and it's still going to be just perfect."








 Images from Google

81 comments:

  1. My wife and I will be heading to the Big Bend country of Texas in mid-April for a bit of camping, hiking, communing with the blooming cacti, and visiting with my older son and his family who 'habitate' in Presidio. My next trip further west will be to Dinosaur National Monument, either in June or September.

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    1. Big Bend is some pretty cool country. There's a nice campground at the southernmost end of it, Cottonwood, I believe it's called. Great place, but watch out for the gang of javelinas. Be sure to stop in old Terlingua. But, maybe you already know that. :) I've never been to Dinosaur, but the way One Fly talks about it and the pics he has posted, made me put it on my to-do list. It all sounds like some good fun!

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  2. Wow, I guess you do like living on the edge. But how else would you see and experience so much of what's out there? And talking with Jack...you could do worse! He had an interesting message for you.

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    1. Nancy, Life is an adventure, that's for certain. And Jack makes a nice companion, with some sage advice. I think there might be a pun there.

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  3. Hello Teresa:
    How exciting it is to read this account and how humbled we feel knowing that what you describe here is so much outside of our own experience. But how splendid too it is that in the retelling of this tale, some ten years on, we gain an insight into something of the undoubted adventure of your life and into a place and a terrain which we can never hope to witness for ourselves. Thank you so much.

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    1. The southwest is a part of my consciousness now. It completely captured my heart. Now, when I visit, I get to see it all over again with fresh eyes. I'm glad to be able to share it with you.

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  4. Love that pink lightening... Startin to get that travel bug...eh???

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  5. Teresa,
    The lightning shot is stunning and the Mokee Dugway reminds me of the Serpent Mounds in Ohio...both photos are wonderful and btw, I like driving as well but so does my husband so I seem to lose out!

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    1. I've not stopped at the Serpent Mounds. I'll have to do so next time through. I've liked being behind the wheel all my life. JB always gladly relinquished control over the wheel. He makes a good navigator, and ruin spotter. :)

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  6. Teresa tells no lies. This is an amazing area. If you've not been there and could - - well go you will never regret it.

    BTY-for any blogger who uses Blogger who comes by and you have your word verification enabled please disable it. Thanks for not doing so here TE.

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    1. Hey you, I thought you might be able to relate to this. It's a beautiful place, isn't it? Around every corner, down every canyon, beauty everywhere!

      That new WV is a pain in the you-know-what. I'm grateful that I've not had any spam.

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  7. What a breathtaking journey you take the reader on, Teresa. I could almost feel that pink lightening and the crinkle in the air.

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    1. It made my scalp tingle, that's for sure. It's a great place. Thanks, Penny.

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  8. Jack was my first literary hero. The Beats,On the Road, Bid Sur, Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels - I read it all. He was way cool in a detached Buddha way. I saw him do an interview in France - he was revered there too. The French know how to treat writers of all genres. He was of Breton descent - A Celt (me too). Keep rolling in that good night Mon Cher Jack !!

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    1. Hi Paul. Yep, me too. I've read pretty much every word he wrote and a few bios to boot. Love him, plain and simple.

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  9. Such a magical place, Moab.

    A picture of my wife and I standing on Musselman Arch hung in my office for years.

    Something about the place makes you want to challenge nature, or at least make peace with it.

    Eternal thanks to Edward Abbey and his vision

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    1. It's a great town and so much to do. Edward Abbey understood how essential these places are for our souls.

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  10. This sounds absolutely awesome, the kind of experience I would always remember. I love the Southwest and it's so long since I've been. And to see an amazing storm too.. wow.... I'm jealous.

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    1. Cedar Mesa, in the SE corner of Utah, is stunning country. A playground for nature lovers of the highest magnitude. Lightning in the desert is a special sight.

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  11. I love this! My husband and I will be heading to the southwest when he retires, soon.

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    1. Will that be a visit or a permanent move? Quite different than your New England. Either way, I hope you have a marvelous adventure!

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  12. I know you said the southwest but I have to google where in the southwest ... not complaining just ... well, complaining.. HAHaaaaaa... reckon I should know where you are talking about but I don't.

    I've not done much desert stuff but this trip that I'm leaving on Friday... I'ma gonna do a bit... great to read stories like this - makes me want to do explore the desert even more!

    I didn't know it was Jack's birthday! I think I'll go read a quote or three in honor thereof!

    Beautiful beautiful picture...

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    1. Southern Utah. Make sure you put it on your itinerary. Highway 95 from Blanding to Natural Bridges is some pretty stunning scenery, and then on from there. A beautiful area. There are Many in Utah. It's a gorgeous state.

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    2. Thanks ... copied this information. Utah is considered the southwest? I saw the reference to JB in Moab but didn't realize ... are you sure? Haaaaa

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  13. So much to do, so little time, right? This story and the "edge-iness" of it reminded me of that true story of the young man who had to cut his own are off. It's so easy to get caught in a storm so quickly there. I loved Edward Abbey's book about the canyons.

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    1. Indeed. That incident happened not to far from Moab. The canyon where he came out at, Horseshoe, was the first canyon hike JB and I went on, way back in 1991. Good movie. Tough story.

      Abbey's "Desert Solitude" is sort of a Bible for desert rats and those who want to really experience the desert. Yes, it's a Great book.

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  14. Amazing photo...and delightful story. I hear there is going to be a play making the rounds about your buddy Jack. Hope it makes a stop in your neck of the woods.

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    1. I wonder who will play him? I'm always suspicious of characterizations like that, especially people I'm so fond of. I hope they do it with Love. Thanks for the heads up.

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  15. You have lived such an adventurous, Kerouac, conscious, pink lightning life!! Perfection, baby! Perfection! :):)

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    1. Being on the road always makes me feel Kerouac-y, especially when traveling down old Route 66. It's been fun, and I trust I'll have many more adventures on the road. :) Thanks!!

      Give that sweet Karma a hug for me.

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    1. Thanks, Bob. Nice to see you here again!

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  17. What an excellent interlude! I can see why it has stuck in your memory.

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    1. It's such a good memory to have. I have a bunch. :)

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  18. Great story and photos, reading here makes me homesick for traveling in the southwest. We've been digging through our travel photographs today.

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    1. Well, nothing will spark the old wanderlust like photos. Spring in the SW is the perfect time to go.... :)

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  19. Yep. Just perfect. Always. Love your words.

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    1. Thank you, Joan. As we head into spring, you are gently moving into autumn. I love that. And, as always, I am so glad for our connection.

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  20. Hej Teresa! A beautiful picture. It must have been a wonderful tour with JB.
    Well, Jack Kerouac was born in 1922, so he would have been 90 now and maybe still a handsome man. He was extremely handsome. And a wonderful writer. Someone we looked up to and dreamed about. Congratulations, Jack Kerouac.
    Have a nice day.
    Grethe ´)

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    1. Hello Grethe! Oh, yes, very handsome. I'm planning to do some re-reading, starting with my favorite, Dharma Bums.

      Canyon Country was always an adventure. JB was good at seeing to that! ;) It sounds like your spring is a wee bit ahead of ours, but the snow is pretty much gone and temps in the 60's all week here. Yeah!

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  21. I Have An Image of Jack sat atop a cloud throwing down thunderbolts!Lighting The Way For Travelers.

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    1. Oooh, that's a great Kerouac-y image! I can well imagine it to be true. Thanks for that, Tony!

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  22. Your writing inspired me to go in search of the places you mention (sadly, at this stage, only via Google Earth). But what magnificent country it is and your words and images do it full justice.

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    1. Thank you so much, Alan. It is a beautiful part of this country. You've been a bit of a traveling man, too, and your recent adventure sounds Very enticing.

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  23. This sure got my wanderlust chugging. A lifetime of desire to wander the southwest...hopefully one day it will happen. Where do the years go!? Lucky Lady you are. That winding road view actually made me swoon...no telling what the 'real thing' might do for me. Um,Yum. Thank you for sharing all your adventures, Teresa; helps to sooth my great need.

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    1. It's a beautiful country we live in and this corner of it sings to me. The years seem to go by quickly, but when I look back it's a vast network of experiences and, now that I think about it, the canyons are a good metaphor for it. It's good to be fully aware of each moment, wherever we find ourselves.

      Have a good day!

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  24. It's good that the shared experience has stayed in your memory so vividly. Sometimes bitterness over things gone wrong can obliterate even the best times.

    You stick with Jack and you won't go wrong.

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    1. Friko, We had a bitter spell, but somehow we decided that we'd rather be friends than not be. It's worked out well that way for some time now.

      I was thinking today, that Jack may well be the best "relationship" I've had. :)

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  25. Did you live in Moab? When you discovered the sites did you plot them out and take photos? A grand adventure indeed! Love the ancients -- barbara

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    1. I spent time in southern Utah every spring for many years and then, while living in Santa Fe (for about eight years), went up there a few times a year to hike and camp.

      We had an understanding, after studying topo maps and info provided through various sources, where ruins and habitation sites might be, but it was also a bit of just exploring and seeing what revealed itself, sometimes just because we liked the looks of a particular canyon, and were almost without fail rewarded with a ruin, or an alcove from the basketmaker era. We were just there because the history intrigued us and we loved photographing them, plus there's so much beauty everywhere you look. They were splendid hikes. It's an amazing place.

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  26. Your story certainly stirred my memories of the southwest and my love of the deserts. Would that I could leave for there yet tonight!

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    1. It's a place that, once inside us, doesn't let go, and there's nothing quite like springtime in canyon country.

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  27. That's my kind of trip, except for the dirt road into the canyon part. I can't drive those unless I'm drinking, and I can't ride shotgun because I'm leaning so hard away from the edge that I can't see anything. But that's some pretty fine country.

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    1. It certainly is. I can see Dave has his work cut out for him, driving and riding shotgun. :) The Mokee Dugway road tests the most seasoned canyon traveler. And it's worth every inch.

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  28. A beautiful photo, and this brief glimpse into one of your adventures makes me so curious. Who you were, who you have been, who you are! Wonderful writing.

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    1. Thank you, Bill. The photo is not my own, but illustrates well the view we had. I think my blog is an ever-emerging picture of who I am, and who I have been. It's a bit of an amalgamation, thus, there's my childhood, my years at Ansel (my old farmhouse in the country during the 90's), the art gallery years in Santa Fe, and now, here at Lonewolf, the major parts that speak the most strongly to who I am, and somehow all fit together. There are so many wonderful ways to Be in this world and still so much to See!

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  29. Pink lightning! The world certainly is an amazing place.

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    1. It certainly is. Your recent visit to Costa Rica yielded some wonderful views.

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  30. Dear Teresa,
    Your respond to Bill enlightened me. Slowly, you are revealing your own life here on your blog. That's what I've been trying to do on mine, which I set out to make into an on-line memoir. Looking back I find meaning. Is that happening for you?

    Peace.

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    1. Well, I think it is certainly a part of this Grand Adventure called Life. As I write, I see myself more clearly. And, I'm having fun. There isn't a planned rhyme or reason to my posts. I write about what shows up and as I feel nudged to do so. Somehow, it is becoming a picture of my life. I wonder if the "meaning" isn't inherent in both the events and the remembering?

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    2. Dear Teresa,
      You've given me something to ponder. Meaning inherent in event and remembering. Yes. I think so. What surprises me daily is how much memory there is. The more so perhaps because of my age.

      Peace.

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    3. And what I find so interesting is that, as I write, these memories emerge even more clearly and I get to discover more about myself, both then and, perhaps more important, now.

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    4. Dear Teresa,
      I wrote a posting on Tuesday and I was amazed at all I could remember. How vivid it was. And as you say, I discovered something about myself then and about myself now. Meaning seems threaded throughout.

      Peace.

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  31. A reat story, never seen pink lightening that I remember.Jack lives in our hearts and souls.

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    1. Hi Steve, It's a beautiful sight. I've seen deep violet lightning, too, almost pink, but more to the purple side. The desert probably has something to do with the color....

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  32. "Darn his desert hide" It's these little verbal gems, that you just seem to leave lying about, that keeps me coming back :)

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    1. Why, thank you, mr. t. I'm glad you do. And hope you'll continue.

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  33. Great post, as always, but the end was my favorite part. So sweet. And true. Perfect.

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  34. Teresa, I had started to enter a comment last night, but got sidetracked. That's a beautiful photo. I like to do the driving in the back country. Being caught out in a thunderstorm is quite scary. I once was climbing boulders in Palo Duro Canyon State Park and a storm came up and my hair stood on ends. I came down real fast.

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    1. Not my photo, Jack, but it does illustrate what we saw. It was spectacular.

      There's something about being behind the wheel.... I may have control issues.

      JB and I camped at Palo Duro once. But no storm. :)

      Thanks, Jack.

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  35. lived your fab tale through your eyes/words, thank you :)

    you know jack was a canadian boy, from la belle province [quebec], right?

    i have a link to his daughter, or is it granddaughter?, i forget, on my page...

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. Jack's parents were from Quebec, yes, but Jack himself was born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts.

      His only daughter is Jan, who died in 1996. Perhaps you have a link to her. She did some writing.

      Thanks for the kind words about my post.

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  36. "A white sports coat and a pink bolt of lightnin..." I guess you weren't "all dressed up for the ball" that day, were you? I once had lightning strike within thirty or so feet from my car. I smelled sulphur. (literally)Being in the natural world as often as you have has helped shape your capacity to see down the river and around the bend. I was just thinking about how many people never directly touch the earth these days. Little wonder we are warped.

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    1. I was just thinking about this very thing, how the natural world has shaped my life, allowing me to see "down the river and around the bend." It's starting to come in very handy. We live in a world of beautiful ideas, starting with the trees in my yard....

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  37. Wish I was there watching the euphoric drama against the endless depth of the sky and the wrinkles of His tangibility as creases against Mother Earth. What a director and producer God is!! The eyes are given to see, and to pine the wonders of His presence in our lives.

    Touch you may, see you may...but to weave that moment into an article is the beauty of your perception. Nature nurtures. God bless.

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    1. "To pine the wonders of His presence in our lives," is a lovely line. Nature nurtures. Oh yes. Thank you.

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  38. You do live on the edge. When the sky darkens, and the lightening strikes, I don't like being out in the open. You did capture a beautiful image though.

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    1. Alas, it is not my image, but it does illustrate the beauty we saw. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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