August 31, 2010

Summer Road Trip - Bullfrog, Utah & Meteor Showers

On this day in Utah, I, hold your breath, slept in. It just seemed like a good idea, or, maybe I am lazy. I think, in my life, I have always felt the danger of laziness. My mother is the poster child of "Not Lazy". She and my father raised five kids in a rural area while both working full time and we were always doing stuff. This is not to say she pushed us into activities because she wanted us to be cultured and educated but because she wanted us to have fun and discover things we loved. Well, unless you consider raising dairy goats as an education in "culture". We also had a lot of chores and a lot of time to play. My mom is not what you would traditionally consider an overachiever either, but this is what she did, or more like, the expectations of normal achievement for her were cow-jumped-over-the-moon achievement. This is not also to say that she expected us to get amazing grades and be the star at everything we did, because she did not. But, how can you really believe that your science project is "good enough" when you saw her sweat and toil and stay up late making Halloween costumes fit for Broadway? She set the stage very early on, how going-the-extra-100-miles is not really "extra" at all, its normal.
So, I have the conflicted relationship with sleeping in. Part of me likes sleep and part of me likes to get up because there are things I need to and even want to do. But, unless I am sick, really sick, not just a cold, I always feel guilty about sleeping in. Today was not an exception. After I get up, I consider what I am going to do on this cloudless, sunny day in Utah. I could find a hike. I could go for a drive. I could go swimming in the lake. But really, I feel like reading. I picked up a fiction novel in the JFK airport during my layover and I started reading it on the plane. My mind keeps running through all the excuses to spend the day reading: the book is really good, it is fiction and I haven't read fiction in a while, people have been telling me my itinerary is jammed packed with activity already, I deserve a break? I deserve to relax? Do I even know the meaning of this word? Isn't "relax" just another way to say "lazy"? Have I ever actually relaxed and not felt guilty about it? Yes, I have, exactly one time in my life. I actually went somewhere to relax exactly once, my honeymoon. But that's a once in a lifetime thing.
The road "off property"
Honestly, I find road trip driving and hiking very relaxing. Or maybe the better word is soothing. But what is this relaxing all about anyway? Sitting around doing nothing? I have never found that fun or, desirable. Okay, so reading a book is not doing nothing, its just sitting around. And I could read outside because I really don't want to sit inside the house all day anyway. My mind conflicted, I head out to the back porch with my book and sit in a chair for as long as I can stand the strong sun, at which time, I spend the rest of the day following the shade spots around the yard with my chair and water bottle and my book. I did spend, perhaps an hour, inside reading during the hottest part of the day. But this is so uninteresting. And, by the way, the book was very interesting.

When Becki got home from work, we went on a short hike, the Pedestals hike. Becki drove us "off property" and on this side road, a shortcut to some areas east of here. The road turned into fine, dirt and there was a small, temporary creek running across it. I guess the proper term is a "wash". Becki gets out of the car and inspects the level of water. "Its too high, I don't think I can cross over. I wish we had brought the truck." I guess the thunderstorm yesterday made things a little wet in surprising places. Turns out, the trailhead was actually behind us already, we had passed it.
So we get out and hike across the red-orange, Utah desert toward the large outcropping of naturally poured rock formations. The little trail pamphlet promised us "pedestals" of smaller rock formations. We follow along the "trail" of park ranger made rock piles that supposedly mark the trail. We cross several washes that looked like they had been dried up for hundreds of years. Really, do they ever have water in them? We are loyally accompanied by Pancake who is quite happy to chase whatever desert creatures are scattering about. The dirt is more like sand in most places, making it a little slow going. Its really hot out. Its really dry. I am really hungry. My lunch had been really light since I was just sitting around lazily, all day. But it is really nice to get out and walk around.
This landscape troubles my photographer's eye. It is beautiful, but has not inspired me to photograph, so I kind of force it. Maybe it is the flatness, or the sorry looking desert plants, or the crumbling rock walls? Maybe its just that I am really, freaking hungry, so much that I am starting to feel light-headed. I begin to drag. I wish I could run around with energy and excitement like Pancake. I never thought, in my life, I would wish to run around like a pancake. We continue to follow the rock pile trail, but we don't really see anything that I would describe to someone as a "pedestal". There are some nice, sparse, clusters of wildflowers here and there. The sun is getting low in the sky and the shadows are getting long. We decide to head back.  I trudge, my feet feeling like heavy weights, my arms dangling. The car seems so far away. My blood sugar level must be low? But we make it eventually. Pancake is very thirsty and Becki gives whatever water she has left. I am famished as we head back. I am excited for some food.
Tonight we are eating out in the only restaurant in Bullfrog, an establishment which is not open in the winter. The three of us pile into Mike's truck with an additional guest, their neighbor, Chris. After the very, very short ride to the Lodge, we sit at a nice window seat for dinner, the huge Lake Powell, like an enormous trough, below us. Chris, with his baseball hat on, sits across from me in his rather worn and very casual clothes. Chris is from, well, I don't remember where he is from, maybe he didn't tell me, but he was born in Southern California and he decided that he is a Seattle Seahawks fan. He kind of has an accent and he likes living in this remoteness, away from all the traffic and people. I guess he doesn't get bored here. I am beginning to really appreciate the variety of the San Francisco Bay area. If you want ocean, or redwoods, or oak forests, or mountains, or bare hills, or city streets you got it. There is variety in landscape, people, events, entertainment, dining, jobs and culture. But it does have lots of traffic and a very high cost of living. The fact that people like Chris really desire this environment intrigues me, I can really respect their want and need for this place. It is not a place where you just "end up" in. You are not here because your family is here or you grew up here. You come to Bullfrog because this is where you want to be. Why you stay here may be a different reason.
Our table is crowded with appetizers and dinner plates and we all eat large amounts of food. Then we go back to Becki's and prepare to watch the meteor shower. Tonight is supposed to be the best night for the meteors, although the best time is supposed to be at 3am. It is a bit unreasonable for Becki and Mike to stay up this late, so we head out again, to a side road away from the lights of Bullfrog and park ourselves in our campfire chairs with our faces towards the sky. The air is warm and the breeze is gentle. We see satellites and airplanes. We see meteors of varying degrees of brightness and spectacular-ness. Some look like dimly glowing, distant baseballs that seem to appear out of nowhere and then disappear. Some look like huge, glittering streaks of white fire, larger than any star and streak across the whole sky.
A Meteor Over Bullfrog
I love stars, they are so magical for me. Stargazing leaves me in awe. The world seems so over-explained, labeled and categorized in so many ways, that we forget to regard its beauty and even though the stars can be approached from a very scientific perspective, but it doesn't matter to me, they never fail to leave me without words to describe them. On this night, the Milky Way stretches its arm across the moonless sky in a magnificent splendor, creating the most amazing cathedral ceiling for the world. Yet at the same time you wonder, if the night sky can be this spectacular, what other amazing things have we yet to discover or see or experience beyond this? Surely, It must exist. And not knowing what It is, that It is yet to be known, leaves me with excited hope and a sense of divinity so great, that I can not help feeling supremely joyful that there is so much more to this world, to my world, to my experience of the world, than they thoughts in my head.

The Night Sky at 3am
We watch the sky until Becki is falling asleep and our necks can't take anymore. Back at the house, I set the alarm on my cell phone for 3am. When that hour comes I go out the the front of Becki's house and gaze at the sky again. There is a meteor a minute, more like the baseball kind, originating from all different parts of the sky. It comes from so far away, traveling for thousands of years, then it appears in our sky for a brief second, and someone might witness it, or not, and then it is done, gone, extinguished forever.

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