Very nearly a sandstone golem

After reading Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives.”

I was practically raised by the wilderness in southern Utah. My father figured he was making the best of a bad situation (ugh! Mormons!) and while his back was still good we drove down there at every opportunity. I used to be a hater of hikes and all exertion, but after a couple of years the desert became more home than our house was.

I’ll try to paint you a picture:

There, all life is secret. It hides in cool cracks in the blinding sandstone, it burrows beneath the hot ground, pants under wiry sagebrush in the dust. There, dawn is cold and splendid, pouring lemon across the sky until it’s converted into that aching blue, the one that pools at the top of the atmosphere and is so dark at noon that it could almost be night. Just before dawn is the best time to be in a desert: sit under a twisted juniper and listen to the huge silence as the bright sky fills your eyes.

Come with me to my human-empty home; we’ll make a house in a dried-out floodhollow in the sandstone at the bottom of a wash. We’ll chimney up slot canyons to look out over the land, dance on all the Devils’ Dancefloors. Their backbones, too, if we can find them. We’ll let the sun bake us until we’re just done, until we have short ash-blond hair and skin like old leather. We’ll walk on the hot stone until our feet are the only shoes we need. We’ll listen to the echoes of jay calls, or that peculiar falling birdsong I’ve never been able to place, coming from somewhere on the walls of huge deep canyons. We’ll hunt down the old houses of the last people who truly lived here and bury their withered corn cobs under feet of mud when the next storm comes through.

We’ll build cairns in the middle of the desert for the loud ones to puzzle over, wondering who could have made them, and for what purpose, and why the only tracks nearby are those of light-footed lizards.

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