Recently, I returned to the desert. With my family. And I found my muse. Or so it seems.
With the end of a busy arborist and fire season, we gleefully packed our bags and drove to southern Utah for three weeks of camping. Though it was November, sunshine and warmth greeted us. We daily witnessed dawn and dusk, shooting stars and vast star-scapes. We returned to old haunts and found new gems.
One morning, while running in Canyonlands National Park, I was visited (there really is no other word for it) by an acquaintance who passed away several years ago, a man who shared my passion for the history of Canyon Country. Lloyd had been among the men that helped Canyonlands become a national park over 50 years ago. I was aware that my running route likely followed an old Jeep path he had helped pioneer.
During his brief stay in my consciousness, Lloyd reminded me of a story that had intrigued both of us—separately—years earlier. He reminded me of the story of Dalton Wells. He reminded me that this story was still mine for the telling, if I would simply choose it. And, he insisted, it must be told. By someone.
I want to be that someone.
For the past five years, I have erroneously believed that in no longer living in the desert, I relinquished my right to be among its voices. Thankfully, I now realize I was mistaken. I now realize I don’t need to be in the desert to be of the desert.
I still want to tell desert stories. I need to tell desert stories. And with the current assaults on Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, the desert needs all the storytellers it can muster.
The past several years have found me immersed in researching the story of my great-uncle, Mike Miksche. This website has chronicled a bit of my effort and struggle with that tale. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that his is not my story to tell. Not now, anyway. I still need the desert…or it still needs me. I’m not sure which. But that is where I am turning my attention now. (A New York Times article helped me come to peace with stepping away from years of research and toil on the Miksche project.)
My writerly attention has returned home. To the desert. The place in which my voice first bloomed. I’m excited to resume the exploration. I’m excited to reignite the place-based love affair.