My son and I set up camp on
a high plateau overlooking the distant
Monument Valley (of John Wayne fame).
We look forward to our all-day
hike through Natural Bridges, Utah
with its three Permian sandstone bridges
rising high across a very narrow
valley of pinyon pine-laced cliffs
bearing small ancestral Puebloan ruins
tucked deep within built by rural
desert dwellers, almost a thousand years
ago, who tended crops of corn and squash
and varieties of beans, even from mesquite.
We rise early to pack our lunches along with
plenty of water to slake our desert-thirst.
We first walk under Owachomo Bridge,
a thin span of sandstone blending with sky,
and after pausing to watch a green lizard
frantically scurry right under our feet,
we continue onward and under a second
bridge with the name of Kachina or “dancing
spirit” of the rain-praying Hopi people.
We pause again at Horse Collar Ruins
to drink cool water and munch on a
sandwich or two, all the while listening
to notes of a canyon wren singing just
as he had for the ancient people of these
very ruins, seven hundred years ago.
On we trudge in desert heat to a bridge
called Sipapu or entrance to the spirit world,
as our minds drift back in time until we
reach our juniper-scented camp, much later,
as a Utah sun lowers in the sky and
fuses together the endless flow of time.
By Richard F. Fleck
Photos by Richard Sean Fleck