Going Deeper in Southern Utah and Why I am Taking a Hiatus from Blogging

Self-Portrait ©Lynne Buchanan
I made this portrait while I was in Santa Fe.  I was walking down Canyon Road and I came across this window in a curio shop and it was perfect, especially with the reflections of the car and house though the engraved piece of stone in the window is what really spoke to me.  The inscription from Joseph Campbell reads, "The Big Question is whether you are going to be able to say a heart yes to your adventure."

Santa Fe River at Dusk ©Lynne Buchanan

In Santa Fe, I was able to find dynamic balance and inner peace as I stood in the river in Nature Conservancy land.    I also experienced deep love for nature and gratitude for the beauty she provides for us to enjoy when I celebrated the existence of an ideal Dahlia and became one with it as I made the photograph below.
Ideal Dahlia ©Lynne Buchanan
These natural experiences are ones that everyone can enjoy on any level.  They do not necessarily require delving beneath the surface of things to appreciate them.

In Southern Utah things began to shift for me and my experiences of nature are becoming much deeper.  It takes a long time to process images each day and write these blogs and though blogs are quite personal in nature, one still writes them expecting that at least a few people might read them.  This does add a filter of some sort and I have arrived at a phase in my journey where I need to wholeheartedly embrace being on the journey in the most fundamental, uncensored, primitive level.  The acts of both writing and photographing can no longer be done with the expectation of sharing them, though after I have returned and assimilated all my experiences I hope to share them again in a  more polished manner.  Perhaps in another week things will shift again and I will be able to write for you again, my reader, if you are out there.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share some photographs of my experience in Southern Utah which has been the portal to this new level, so that you will understand why I am taking a break from blogging.  This is my private journey into the center of my being, a journey that calls each and every one of us.  There is no need to go anywhere to take this journey.  For me though, I had to arrive at a place in the world where there are steps down to canyons that compress all outside appearances, a tunnel into who I am which appears to be continually shifting.

Escalante Sunset ©Lynne Buchanan
Two nights ago I sat on these rocks and could see no one else in sight.  I was all alone in this magical setting and I felt the energy of the earth deeply in my bones.  I took out my native american flute and played for quite some time.  I am not very good yet, but that didn't matter.  I was playing my song and it was being echoed by the rocks around me.  After I finished playing, I did not photograph or move.  I just was, in total harmony with the universe.  Then the sky began putting on the most phenomenal show.  Different bands of rock began to light up and graphic clouds formed that unified the heavens and the earth.  I began moving about on the rocks.  Different areas lit up at different times as the sun's position changed and the colors were bright yellow in some places and soft roses and pinks in others.

Escalante Bathed in Orange and Rose-Colored Light ©Lynne Buchanan

I couldn't believe my eyes.  Then, I looked behind me and I saw what the local Escalante residents referred to as an epic sunset that night.  I crossed the dirt road and ran up the hillside shouting thank you to the universe, just as Dewitt Jones taught me to do in Molokai last April.  I did not worry whether I deserved to see such beauty.  I just drank it all in.  There were tears in my eyes.  It was almost too much to take but not accepting such a gift would have been complete foolishness and so I enjoyed every last moment until the sun went down, murmuring my gratitude the whole time.

Epic Sunset ©Lynne Buchanan

Whether or not you believe this was the most amazing sunset ever is unimportant.  For me it was, and it changed who I am.  I was alone with divinity and became part of it, if only for the hour I spent in this incredible place.  Each of us needs to experience this or something like this for ourselves and then when we have we can all connect again as vessels who have been filled up with spirit.  Once something like this happens, your perception of your place in the universe shifts forever–at least mine did.  I recognized I was so small compared to all the vastness surrounding me.  The landscape seemed to go on and on forever.  And yet, I also knew that I was an equal and important part of the planet.  My place was just as significant as each small tree on the horizon and because I opened my heart and soul to this, I suddenly felt worthy in just the right, small way that comes from respecting Mother Nature and being in alignment with what is.

The next day, I went deeper still.  I had hired Rick, of Escalante Outfitters, to take me to the slot canyons.  We spent about seven hours together wandering in the desert and never saw a single soul.

Rick in Harris Wash ©Lynne Buchanan
Rick is an amazing guide.  He knows every square inch of the desert without a map.  He has wandered it for years, flown over it, and is one of two people responsible for search and rescue in all of Garfield County, which stretches from Zion to Lake Powell.  When Rick realized I was traveling solo on this journey, he became a little concerned as he has seen too many things. Although, in the back of my mind, I have known that a single female traveling alone across the country and venturing into very remote areas has its risks, I had never actually let myself consciously consider just how dangerous it could be.  Part of the reason I have been blogging, is that I thought if I stopped someone might realize there was a problem.  Now I see the rescue people need to have a much more exact idea of where you are if you are going to be found, so I am checking in with people where I stay or leaving word with family members or friends each day.  After our excursions, Rick felt much better about my going it alone and saw that I have acquired common sense over the years, plus I am cautious and don't want to injure myself.  Below are a couple of photographs of the slot canyons, which were not nearly as deep as the last time I  was there since about six feet of dirt were pushed through them by the recent floods (same storm system that hit Boulder).  The walls were narrower too, since we were going through the portion that was usually higher up.  I could have been disappointed not to experience the towering canyons, but this was a different experience and I fully embraced it for what it was.
Me in a Slot Canyon (photo by Rick)

Narrowing Canyon Walls ©Lynne Buchanan
Slot Canyon Sculpted Forms ©Lynne Buchanan

Slot Canyon with Six Feet of Earth Washed In
©Lynne Buchanan

Going into the slot canyons is always a surreal experience.  You feel the pressure of the walls around you, the force with which the layers of sand were compressed into walls over time, just as the layers of our shifting personalities ultimate coalesce into what we call our Self.  It is real yes, but it is tenuous and can be broken apart easily by the stresses of life, just as the roots of trees can cause fractures in the walls or the force of water rushing through these canyons can bury them or cause pieces to break free.  The slot canyons were definitely like a portal for me.  Although I made some images, I made far fewer than I expected and spent much of the day on a walkabout with Rick just experiencing where I was without worrying whether I needed a road map to get back out.  I went deeper than I ever could have alone, while being totally free to explore whatever nook or cranny called my attention, and we spoke of the meaning of life the whole way.  This is the best kind of guide one could ever hope for...

That night I drove to Bryce, as I had planned on visiting Bryce Canyon.  Of course that was not to be as politicians are holding our national parks hostage.  Although it was a minor inconvenience for me, my heart went out to all the people who are losing valuable income and will have to take out loans (that they may or may not be able to get) to make ends meet.  In these remote places the national parks and tourism industry are often the only way to earn a living wage.  I learned from Rick that it takes three years to get a permit on the Colorado River.  Those guides invest a lot of money and then they purchase provisions and now that aren't able to go and will never be able to recoup their expenses.  I should not forget to mention how upset the European tourists are and what an embarrassment our failing system of government has become.  I actually got blamed by some visitors at breakfast yesterday morning, as if politicians would ever listen to the public instead of businesses and other blocs with power.  Whew.  Anyway, I could have taken the Ruby's Inn Shuttle with a lot of  disgruntled people to the rim of Bryce Canyon for a peak.  Instead I chose to go off and explore Red Canyon on my own.

I took a five mile round trip hike to an amazing overlook of Losee Canyon, which is a hybrid of a mini Grand Canyon and a mini Bryce.  The weather was very changeable.   It had snowed several inches during the night.  As I walked it alternated between overcast skies, sleet, and snow.  When I got to the top, the sun broke through for a bit and I saw a bit of blue sky.  I was so excited I started making a few photographs and then I noticed storm clouds on the horizon, so I ran back down the trail to my trusty Prius.  As you enjoy these photographs, remember that you do not have to be in a National Park to find beauty.  It is all around us every day.  Good-bye for now and say yes to your adventure!!

The Edge of the Losee Canyon Overlook ©Lynne Buchanan

Clouds Rolling In Over Losee Canyon ©Lynne Buchanan

Small Tree, Big Storm Coming ©Lynne Buchanan