Adobe Town, Red Desert – Wyoming

Two weekends ago my brother, mother, Rowan and I drove several hours south of Route 80 on dirt roads to come across sweeping wilderness vistas – with antelope and wild horse herds standing like sentinels along the way.  We were part of a group paying homage to Wyoming’s Red Desert – the Adobe Town area in south western Wyoming to be exact:  one of the last great wilderness areas in the country which is public land in dispute.  In recent months my mother has become one of the citizen activists working to preserve some of this wilderness, which is quickly being consumed by oil and gas interests.

To come into an area where from horizon to horizon there is no human activity is both rare and profound.  Dozens of wildflower species fill the land, with biological soil intact (which takes over one hundred years to form).  Just stepping on the land felt like a violation of it’s rare peace – and yet even as a group of drive-by humans the landscape’s quiet ways reverberate in my psyche and heart even still.  And what a gift to even briefly share a wilderness experience with Rowan:  Silence.  Huge sky.  A view of the horizon intact.  Glimpse of hawks.  Smell of wildflowers and sage brush so strong it fills your head.  A quiet encounter with flowers and ants.  Nothing more to do but silently walk along the edge of an ancient precipice, feeling awe.

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Half Moon, Antelope and Why We Need the Wild

Walking with mom and Rowan I caught an unexpected glance of the moon – bright white in the cloudless Wyoming sky.  Something about the glance brought with it a lump in my throat, a quick, sideward pang that I marked for later plumbing.  In the moment there were glimpses of wildness, wilderness, sagebrush and wild roots of lifestyles past mixed with the felt pull of domestication of culture, family life and mothering.  We walk the borders of wilderness with “Monopoly Hill,” the literal name of the neighborhood just north of my parents’ home.  For a moment I feel like a fish out of water in a wild landscape being sucked dry by new inhabitants still intent on green lawns and 5,000 square foot domiciles.  With only 500,000 people in this state there is so much open space and so few outposts of civilization – it is hard not walk the edge of wilderness, even when our human outposts seem to mix in kitschy, bizarre ways with the land.

The borders between wild and domesticated abound – antelope and half moon right out my doorstep. Flat brown grassland, cottonwoods and antelope encounters tug my propensity for dissolving awareness into Earth.  I run to the end of the road and climb a hill to square off with an antelope at the top of a ridge, half moon above.  We stare each other down, a scene right out of a Vision Quest, horns silhouetting sky, pink spiny flowers underfoot. The batter of my soul bakes outwards into a hot, wide horizon.

The pith is this:  one never has to travel far to encounter the wilderness within.  And why so essential?  To connect with our origins, to delve into the fertile plains of imagination, to recall parts of oneself subsumed by the vast human landscape of cars, computers, indoor environments and work removed from land.  This was the pang surfaced by half moon glance – knowing my dance between domestication and the Wild, and knowing how essential and life-affirming it is to stay grounded in wild, earth-rooted awareness.

The ‘structure’ of our often overly domesticated days also needs loosening from time to time.  While structure of practice and routine is the essential container through which magic of a life well-lived can arise, we also need the literal diving off road’s end into open space in order to continually encounter the fresh, verdant, ever-changing landscape of the unknown.  Beckoning us towards mystery, wilderness is a reminder of the infinite unchartered territories within and between – the unexplored, untamed, uninterrupted processes of nature reminding us of our true place in the Cosmos.  So too this exists within Soul and Psyche – a space capable of touching into infinity:  cells buzzing, genes coursing through millions of years, and awareness extending so far in all directions the curve of Earth in space is felt like the breeze against curving skin.

Antelope calls forth my memories of ancientness.  One of Earth’s most ancient species now taken to the plains of Wyoming and Utah and finding their home outside of Monopoly Hill.  Quiet stillness on the horizon, vigilant, roaming free, at home in the wide expanse of high desert – so too can I navigate my days.  A lesson much needed as I live in the light of running after my toddler, vision myopic, scope as small as my 20 pound son and his tiny fingers’ reach.  “Step back,” says the Antelope.  Witness the wide expanse of the big picture of life – generations past, present and future.  Gaze at the horizon of present moment, free of human clutter yet also awake and at home navigating the plains of our days.