Flash of sunlight called summer


Imagine: I was a squinting cavefish emerging from years in the dark. There was warm air and leaves on every tree.

After a winter of whites and browns, the greens were construction-paper surreal.

My blood was thick and my body heavy. The Smartwool shirt I was wearing from early morning Steamboat scratched my skin.

Stripping down to a tank top, shorts and flip-flops, the sun immediately started to attack my skin.

It was my first visit to Southern Utah. I had a book, a map and some advice from my roommate who grew up in Utah.

I stopped on some public land not far from Moab and set up camp.

It was nice to see my tent again, that green womb. On my way to Utah, I made a mental list of the camping equipment I needed to replace this season. At the top of that list was a new sleeping bag.

I bought my bag eight years ago. Since then, flying campfire sparks have burned little holes into the fabric. The insulation has worn away to dust. It's time for a new one, but as soon as anything is so broken down that it needs to be destroyed, I'm in love with it.

I threw my sleeping bag into the tent and lay on top of it. This is great. It's good for one more season.

The cliffs around my campsite were darkening as the sun went down. Everything I owned already was covered in dust. My body was adjusting to the heat.

I put my hands behind my head and announced that I was moving to Utah. I wanted to become this place and watch it change the way I dress and walk and think.

I made some Instant India/boil-in-bag meal, then headed into Moab to find a job and an apartment.

Moab must be such a great place, I thought, tucked away at the bottom of the desert. A remote village full of sun-dried old men in cut off jeans and long white beards.

I pulled into town in the middle of an antique car show. The sidewalks were lined with lawn chairs and families digging into coolers for Li'l Smokies and pimento cheese spread.

I made a halfhearted, unsuccessful attempt to find a dirty locals' bar on my way back to my car.

I watched the sun go down and waited for the desert to come to life. There is nothing more sacred to me than the peeling back of the desert quiet as the ground cools.

Two guys on mountain bikes raced each other through my camp to their tent nearby.

"That was sick," one said.

"Whatever," replied the other.

They cracked some 3.2 beer and began a nightlong recap of every trail and ledge they'd ever ridden in their lives.

My headlamp started to look like it might make a good slingshot.

I got up early for a hike. As I walked, the sun dried me out, and the water I drank emptied me of the entire winter.

Around me were the lines from wind's and water's hands scraping against stone for centuries; towers of rock stacked like piles of clay spun and shaped on a potter's wheel.

Late in the afternoon, I wandered back to my campsite.

Sun-bleached and exhausted, I ate and enjoyed the quiet before the mountain bikers returned.

When I got back to Steamboat, the first thing I did was grab a pen and paper to make a list of all the places I wanted to go in the short flash of sunlight that Steamboat calls summer.

I arranged my camping gear near the door of my bedroom so that I could leave on a moment's notice.

Then I sat on my bed to wait for what I know is only a month away.


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