Canyonlands- Taimur Ahmad ’16

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

– John Muir

Red, White, and Blue: southern Utah in winter. Red rock Canyonlands stretching out in all directions, capped by an electric blue sky and blanketed in snow. The stranger pulled into town in his red pick-up, parking out front of the Kokopelli motel. It was the off-season, so there were plenty of rooms to choose from. He’d driven over from Vegas in a ten-hour push, dipping into a corner of Arizona on the way. The plan was to keep on going through the Martian wasteland of “No service for the next (read: you will die if you run out of gas) XX miles” signs into western Colorado, before finishing up the drive a little north of Boulder.

Now, this stranger was no Cowboy. There are no Stetsons here, no ten-gallon hats. Just an honest young man exploring the American West. A fellow with an attraction to wild places and friendly small towns. He had dinner at the BBQ joint and then took a stroll despite the temperatures being in the single digits. One of the best things about the town of Moab (for that was where he was) was how easy it was to stumble upon the past. Why, not 100 yards down the road and across the street were some old Indian petroglyphs, some thousand years old, painted onto the Canyon wall.

Southern Utah is Canyonland. The town is in a Canyon. The road runs through a Canyon. The only place that is not Canyon is the Mesa. There is not much middle ground. Unless, of course, you are inside a Mesa, which is what is between two Canyons…

At any rate, the plan for the trip was to check out the famous Mesa known as the Island in the Sky (which is the grandest name ever given to a Mesa). Now this Island was not literally an Island. A better name for it would be a Notair. An Island, of course, is that which is distinguished from water. But, as everyone knows, there is little water in southern Utah. Therefore, no water being present, there are only two elements: air and land. Since the name Island is taken, and since most assuredly the Island in the Sky was indeed land, somehow it had to be distinguished from that which it is not, namely air. So therefore the Island in the Sky was not an Island but a Not-air. This only leaves the problem of what to call the inside of the Notair, that troublesome middle ground between Canyon and sky. The inside of a Notair is not air, but not land either, since it is rock suspended in air. It is also most assuredly not water. So what it is then, what it must be, of course, is an Is. Thus southern Utah has only three environments: The Canyon, The Notair, and The Is.

So: the plan was to visit the Notair. But, as with all good plans, lots of things went wrong.


The First Thing that went wrong was that the big red pick-up truck was frozen to the ground. Alas, this problem was easily solved, for those who live in Moab are aware that such things often happen. Summers are scorching. Winters are also scorching, except it is really really cold.

Luckily for Ali there was a Real Cowboy on hand to help him defreeze his red pick-up truck from the ground. Also luckily for him this Real Cowboy was actually a Real Cowgirl, who was wearing a Stetson but not riding a horse. So she was halfway there at least. Anyway, she was local enough to keep a hammer in the trunk of her car. A few thwacks of the hammer sufficed to unfreeze the red pick-up truck.

“Why, ma’am, I am much obliged to you. I was planning on heading over to the Island in the Sky today, and when I came out here and saw this I thought I might just be stuck here until Spring. Name’s Ali, by the way.” This was Ali trying to speak like a Cowboy, because, rather unfortunately for the expedience of his endeavors, the Real Cowgirl was rather pretty too.

Misha (for that was her name. Russian originally – quite scandalous!) easily saw through Ali’s limp attempt at flirtation and allowed a quick smile. “Mine’s Misha. It vas nothing really, happens all the time out here. Although you did certainly manage to arrive right in the middle of a cold snap. Might vant to consider better boots… those look a little vorn.” Misha the Real Cowgirl had looked at Ali’s feet and seen a most remarkable sight: a wool-socked big toe beginning to crawl its way out of Ali’s right boot!

“Oh, they’re perfectly warm, they just, uh, leak a little bit.”

“Vell, stay dry then. Have a good von.”

Misha drove off in her steed-that-was-not-a-horse. Ali found himself wondering if Misha had a horse. Or cows. Or if she might like to go to dinner with him tonight. Fortunately for Ali, Moab is a town of but 5,000 some souls, normally flooded with tourists but in those most frigidly scorching of winters cut down to the hardy locals, who could be found in shocking regularity at a) the local watering hole; b) the local Chinese restaurant (providing 34% of the town’s diversity as well!); or c) burrowed into their own homes. Thus it seemed destined that Ali and Misha would meet once again, in the not so distant future…

Ah! Love, Love that melts the gross ice frozen to Ali’s red pick-up truck! Love! Love, that melts an arctic Russian heart! That brings a scandalously Fecund Spring following a most Gnarly Winter! Ah, glorious glorious Cliché, which makes Love into either Love or LOVE, or some variant thereof!

Regardless, in all reality Ali was not in love (though Misha was pretty bangin’, it must be said). Rather, Ali was in infatuation with a Russian girl who had melted his (heart) tires. Thus, with the energy that only meeting a most bodacious new chick can bring, young Ali set off to the Notair.


What was Ali looking for at the Notair? Quite simply, the Notair is a place of surpassing, otherworldly beauty. There is something there, an energy that exists only in places unsoiled by human vanity, places which Have Not Changed for a Very Long Time. So, in layman’s terms, he was looking for beauty, wonder, a good hike, some crisp air, jaw dropping views, and general spiritual regeneration and love. No joke: the Notair will make a spirit soar. Or in the case of the local Canyonland birds, glide.

But then, most fortunately, the Second Thing that went wrong happened. Ali had driven in his red pick-up truck for about an hour and had just gotten into the national park. To keep those most indiscriminate of plant eaters off the parkland, the wise rangers had installed a cattle guard on the road. So what sublime luck for Ali that such an excellent opportunity for something to go wrong occurred: A Herd of Cows, mooing contentedly, most delightfully perplexed as to how to access the greener grasses which they absolutely knew were under the foot deep layer of snow cover in Canyonlands National Park.   They were also forming a solid bovine wall of cow. And yet the visitors’ center was so tantalizingly close! Why, on this perfectly flat and nigh-impossible-to-judge-distances sort of terrain it seemed just a cow’s moo away! Ali, who was not a Cowboy, revved the red pick-up truck most vigorously and wished sexy Misha was in the drivers seat (he had no gender insecurities, what a man!). He started forward, slowly trying to push the Herd of Cows away from the road, but they turned and in their utter indignation seemed ready to rally and lead a war party against this offensive red beast encroaching upon their philosophical and scientific deliberations.

Ali decided it was time for a more diplomatic approach. Getting out of the red pick-up truck and slowly approaching the Chief Bovine with his hands held high up in the air, he announced: “I am NOT a Cowboy. I just want to get to the Grand Notair. Could I go through, please?”

“Ah, yes, a most understandable request, but I have to say, we are deep in deliberation here. Our most distinguished mathematicians have calculated the widths of these cattle guard bars and alas, they are too wide for our ferocious hooves! One solution, perhaps: Your body could serve as a bridge, and then, once my Herd has crossed, you too will be free to go. But until then we must ponder this conundrum and block the path of your red pick-up truck.”

“What? That would kill me!”

“Unlikely, physiologically speaking. It is however true that you might not be able to walk around and enjoy your day on the Notair after our stampeding.”

“Can you not just let me walk through? I’ll leave the truck here.”

“Ah, such innocence! That building you espy is not a mere moo away, but a good ten miles. Not too bad a walk, obviously, but it is also likely that as soon as you get there you will have to turn around and return to your red pick-up truck if you wish to arrive back in Moab before 5 A.M. Of course, we will cease our deliberations here around 10 P.M for a drink at the local watering hole ourselves. Until then we are impassable, unless you are lucky and some Cowboy comes along.”


“Yes, most unfortunate. But why the desire to enter that building when the most beautiful, most sublime part of this here Notair is just down that side trail off to your left?”

“Ah, you mean, that faint and at times invisible line going off to the Canyon rim?”

And that is exactly what the Chief Bovine meant.


Thus, the Third Thing happened: Ali took the advice of Cows, who, though truly an elevated species of mammal, often also have different conceptions of possibility than their bipedal co-mammals. But Ali, like many dashing young men, had a hot streak in him and loved adventure. So temporarily saying goodbye to the Herd of Cows (drinks at 10:30, don’t be late!) and his beloved red pick-up truck, he struck off boldly into the moderately unknown, where many Cows but few men and somewhat more women had gone before. Who needs maps!? They totally take away from the sense of adventure.

It was but a mere moo away to the rim of the Canyon and Ali savored the feeling of being between two worlds: he was at the proverbial beach, where the water (air) and the land (actually land) met. He could feel the winds lap at the bit of Notair he stood on like so many waves, eager as a passel of puppies excited for their evening walk. A good 1,000 feet (but really, it was 1,000 feet) below him he could see what the wise rangers called The Needles, and further on, The Maze: both distinct sections of the Canyon, one of towering rock spires and the other of miniature Canyons, wending and winding their way in patterns both beautiful and confusing.

And it was beautiful. He saw the Canyon birds riding the thermals, and he felt as if his own soul might just take leave of his chest and join them. Maybe here in the Canyonlands, he thought, he could complete his quest: to find a place of primal beauty, to want nothing but to be where he was, to flit between the edges of worlds and finally, when the time came, to let go, and be reborn with the sun in a new place, a new world, and a new life.

The only thing that could’ve made it better was if Misha had been standing next to him, one foot planted atop a small boulder, one hand shading her ice-blue eyes, gazing out into the distance. But Misha was not there, and Ali was chomping at the bit, so he boldly strode forward towards his adventure for the day only to find… a death-inviting descent of doom! Or put more mildly, a really narrow, winding track that just barely hugged the Canyon wall as it plunged down the cliffside. Faced with this daunting prospect (and completely perplexed as to how the Herd of Cows made it down and back up), Ali was fired up. Here lies an adventure!

Ali strode forward and began the long descent. Every step was treacherous, but the day was sunny and encouraging. A foot off to the side lay a really long fall and certain death, and yet the world slowly revolving around Ali didn’t really seem to care. The hardy low growing evergreens didn’t care. The birds gliding about didn’t care. The Herd of Cows certainly didn’t care, nor did the red rock or the sun or the microscopic organisms, nor the larger ones like the occasional jackrabbit. One even said in passing, “Young man, do be careful. There is a rather large Is lower down the trail, and you human types can quite easily get lost in it.”

“An Is? What’s that?”

“The space that is neither Canyon nor Notair, obviously… You must not be from around here.”

The Jack Rabbit was right, Ali had to concede, but his curiosity was piqued. Whatever that Is was, it had to be something worth seeing.


And so he came to the Is. What a lucky day for Ali it must have been: Meeting the sumptuous Misha, having Three Whole Things go wrong, enjoying the beautiful weather. Even better, the Fourth, Fifth, and even Sixth thing were about to go horribly, horribly wrong. Four: Ali enters the Is. Five: Ali gets lost in the Is. Six: Ali stays in the Is.


In many ways, (wo)man is a poor architect. S(he) has built soaring towers of crystal, large metal canisters that can travel through space, and foods so modified and twisted that they seem the stuff of horror movies. Splendiferous accomplishments, surely. But rather wan and lacking compared to what Earth can do without trying even a little bit. In the sentinels of stone in the Canyonlands and in the nearby Arches, in the single, delicate, impossibly small flower or blade of grass, in the sound of the wind caressing the leaves of a tree, in the stillness of a fresh snowfall, or the superfluous oddity of the innumerable bugs that crawl, slither, and hop across the ground, Earth makes a statement that nothing (wo)man can do will ever come close. Because Earth does not even have to try, and the smallest of her efforts is something more complex and wondrous than any person could imagine.

So thought Misha as she drove her vehicle over to Canyonlands to deal with reports of a Herd of Cows blocking the main entrance. The wise rangers had espied what appeared to be a line of cars at the cattle guard and immediately realized that the Chief Bovine must have an intent to wage gastronomic war on the grasses of the Canyonlands. First they called up Thomas the Dude, the most famous Cowboy this side of the Green River. But he was dealing with the Mad Cow Gang, who, in a most villainous manner, was attempting to rob the Moab grain and feed store. Next they called Misha, and she being occupied only by paper work, was happy to come and exercise her skills as a Cowgirl.

The confrontation was brief and spectacular. Picture: a car door swings open and into the snow one spurred boot is firmly planted. It was like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, except Misha was neither ugly nor bad, and there were cows. The Herd of Cows looks up from their deliberations. “Moooooohhhh no! It’s Misha!”

“That’s right. Look, can’t you just let the people through?”

“Never! Not when the sweet, sweet grass of the Canyonlands is but a mere moo away!”

“Vell, all right then.” Misha reaches around to her back and pulls out a giant 22-gauge double-barrel sawed-off shotgun.

“Oh, manure,” mutters the Chief Bovine. “Moooooove!” As a mass the Herd of Cows attempts to flee, but, being a Herd, they all flee in the same direction, namely towards the cattle guard, which, being impassable for them, prevents any actual fleeing from taking place.

BANGNABOOMBBANG, went Misha’s weapon, firing into the air. The Herd of Cows stopped. “Look, why don’t you just go back to your pasture (in the other direction) and I’ll buy you all a round of drinks tonight.”

“Ah, yes, erm, most reasonable. Well, ah, I guess we’ll see you tonight.” The Herd moved off.

The waiting cars were able to drive into the park now, but Misha noticed one car by the side of the road, unoccupied. She quickly realized it was the red pick-up truck, Ali’s dear and darling. But where was Ali, with his falling-apart boots and lack of local know-how? A glance around the surrounding environs revealed a line of hoof-and-foot prints leading off to the terrifying descent of doom trail that Misha herself had dared to descend only once. And what a descent that had been! Misha distinctly remembered the big Is halfway down and how she had gone too far into it and how in the heart of the Is was a pulsing, beating presence, one so ancient, so inhuman, that it robbed her of her senses and left her slack-jawed and frozen, barely able to crawl on her hands and knees, scraping the skin off, uncaring in her terror, clawing back towards the outside world, desperate, incoherent.

Well, thought Misha, Ali went down there and probably went into the Is. The Cows don’t find that Is disturbing at all, but then again they are Cows… Ali is about to be in for a Potentially Traumatic Experience. I should probably go and save him…


Ali had indeed gone into the Is, and absolutely loved it. It had appeared at first as just a fissure in the rock, but slipping in between the smooth, curved joints of sandstone he quickly came into a world that was not quite Canyon and not quite Notair. The entrance was the shape of fire frozen into red rock, the sharp edges of the flames then sanded down to a smoothness only brought about by lifetimes of wind and water.   The Is looked like a cave from the outside, but as he strode inwards Ali, looking up towards the roof, saw not rock but the sky. A gentle light was radiating from the walls, walls warm to the touch despite the winter chill. There were trickles of water along with the complacent sighing of the wind, and Ali realized that that must be what an Is is: a confluence of the elements, a place made of stone, sculpted by wind and water, capped by sky and radiating a life-energy that he could easily bask in forever. The Is was the place where all nature came together. There were green growing things, little insects, field mice. He could feel the rush of air as a spirit came in or went back out. He could not talk. He could not understand the chatter of the mice. But he could feel, and what he could feel was a presence. The Is was not benign, nor was it malicious. It simply Was. And the Is, in its Being (and just that – simply the verb of Being), had that same profundity which Ali so happily sought in the Canyons and Mountains. Notions of purpose were irrelevant. Notions of living and dying melded into one. Ali saw how his own body’s matter, its energy, was part of an immense pool of Being. He saw how life was but a loan of that energy, and how like a great wheel beings came, went, lived, and died. The Is, like other places where the elements converge, was a center of Being.

Ali saw a Cow making its way back towards the entrance, and tried to turn around and follow it out. But he found that he could not. He found that he had no more control over his being in the Is than a plastic bag has when caught in a windstorm. And he couldn’t really seem to care about this lack of control, either. In the Is, he just Was.

Why can an animal leave the Is, or a plant grow from it into the sunlight above, but not a person? And how did Misha get out? Animals, unlike Ali and Misha and other humans, are not divorced from the Is. The act of Being is inherent in natural living things, like the Herd of Cows. So, for a Cow, being in an Is, they simply Are, much as they simply Are in the outside world as well. But (wo)man is different. (S)he does more than just be: S(he) tries, she actively attempts to live his or her life. And Misha, though so sensitive, so alive to the beauty of the natural world, was also a true Human Being: a woman with a razor-sharp focus and a will of adamant. She had a plan, and goals, and was going to succeed. And just Being wouldn’t cut it for such needs. So she fought.

Ali – and pretty much all people for that matter – would have fought too, but he’d been caught too quickly, ensnared. He found his way to the center of the Is, his footsteps making no sound on the soft sandstone floor below him. His path had led him to a circular chamber open to the sky, rock walls shooting up a thousand feet to the Notair’s surface above. A water-carved sandstone channel formed a circle of water within the circle of stone. Stepping over the stream and into the utmost center he felt not a weight but a hum, a vibration coming from the air all around him. He stood there.


Misha had met the Cow Ali had seen in the Is and her suspicions were quickly confirmed: Ali was fucked. Well, at least in a manner of speaking: He wouldn’t die down there right away, just sort of stand in the center of the Is, feeding off the life-energy and spending his entire life in a vegetative state of pure existence until it actually was time for him to die. Humans just can’t have it both ways: Either you Do Things, or you just kind of stand there forever. Reaching the fissure, Misha sighed and put down her monstrous shotgun. It wouldn’t be much use in there. Misha was scared. She’d only just made it out last time. She might not make it out this time, and she wasn’t ready to give up on living quite yet. But as her pulse vibrated through her veins the immortal words of John Wayne pushed their way into her mind: “Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.”


Ali was still vegetating most contentedly when Misha stumbled into the central chamber of the Is. She was breathing heavily and looked a little freaked out. Inner peace and a life of pure existence were waging a ferociously passive-aggressive war with her innate human desire to Do Things, and at the moment they were at a stalemate. Misha knew she did not have long before she wound up like Ali. She lurched up to Ali and grabbed him by the shoulders. He looked at her, saying nothing, but also clearly pleased. Misha couldn’t say anything either which meant that the conversation she was trying to have looked curiously like a really one-sided modern dance. Body language being ineffectual, Misha grabbed Ali underneath his arms and began to drag him out of the Is. He didn’t resist exactly, but he also wouldn’t really move, either. Log-like, he slumped in Misha’s arms, his heels dragging on the stone floor. Their progress was painfully slow, too slow. Misha could feel the incoherent omgimnevergoingtogetoutofhere terror begin to creep into her heart and she felt like screaming. The force of her mental shout must’ve been pretty loud because Ali gave a little start, like he’d been pricked by a thorn.

Observant Misha noticed this. Misha started bombarding Ali’s conscious with images: “Cows! Drinks at 10:30! An eternity of just Being! Wait, no, not that one… uh, the red pick-up truck!” Nothing seemed to be working… Misha suddenly wished she were at home. She’d kick off her boots and hang up her Stetson and put her obscene shotgun into an umbrella bucket. She’d read a few pages of her book and have a snack and some tea. She’d go upstairs, disrobe, and have a steamy, long, hot, wonderful shower… And then Ali looked like he’d been pricked again.

Misha was pissed, and maybe a teensy bit flattered, but mostly pissed. And come on – she had a total right to be pissed! This asshole of a dude, stuck in eternal Being, and the thing that pricks him awake is his prick? The pissed-offedness rolled off her and Ali gave another start. “That’s right you sonofabitch, get me out of your redundant and uninteresting male mind and get a move-on.” Ali turned slowly and, looking at Misha, came awake a bit. Misha slapped him hard across the face, grabbed his hand, and yanked. This time Ali began to trot after her.

The fear was back, slithering into her limbs, stiffening her joints as her anger turned into a purpose: escape. Misha stumbled. Ali was looking more and more aware, but also confused. Misha was dragging her feet now, slowly losing her will to resist the Is. Ali walked rather complacently next to her, now and then putting out a hand to touch the rock, a leaf, some water, oblivious to Misha’s struggle. Misha stumbled again, and fell. Ali stood still. He could just barely make out a trickle of light coming in from the far distant fissure in the Is. And then a whisper, a sigh half heard and half felt, echoing around the sandstone, radiating from the central chamber. The presence from the center was calling. It cared neither for their presence or absence, but calling in all its Being it invoked that corner of the human heart that is still untamed by Humanity. Ali turned, and took a step back. Misha was curled up in a ball on the ground, quaking with the effort of fighting her desire to go back to the central chamber and stay there, doing nothing but Being. Ali took another step towards the center, and another. Misha rolled to her knees and pushed. She struggled, she fought, she was snarling, feral, she was pure will. Way more of a macho woman than that old-timer Atlas, she took an impossible weight on her shoulders and with a heave worthy of the Gods, shrugged it off. She stood, bent, beaten down, defiant, and saw Ali receding into the distance. She spat and narrowed her eyes. She stalked down the path, the light from the fissure dimming, the voice from the center becoming stronger, Canyonland birds gliding past, field-mice not giving a damn, plants just doing their thing, she stalked down that path, she grabbed Ali, she turned him around, and looked him square in the eyes. Ali’s eyes focused on hers: a warm brown on an icy greyblue. He looked over her shoulder towards the fissure, and, hand in hand, they began to walk out. The voice did not bid them farewell, it did not urge them to stay. The light grew stronger as they walked out of the Is, and slipping between the sandstone fissure they stepped into a late afternoon sky and promptly walked right into the Chief Bovine.

“Ah, Misha, I see you found Mr. red pick-up truck. We met earlier today, by the way. Ahem, ah, young man, this is Misha, a most worthy Cowgirl, and ah, I do believe, ah, you must, please, forgive me the discourtesy, but I never caught your own name.”

“I… uh… I, you see, for a while I was Ali, and then, I was, rather, that is to say, I Was, and ah, I’m not sure how long I Was for, but then Misha came and got me and now I am not Was, but Am, and in my Am-ing I am, once again, Ali. Which is something of a relief, I have to say.”

“Ohoho, had a bit too much of the Is, did you? Ah, well, it all works out in the end. The other seven humans who went in there (I mean, us Cows go all the time), why, hmmm, three of them are probably still in there somewhere, and Misha now counts as two because she came out twice, and you are one more who has come out, and my own human son-in-law also went in and came out, because he was married to my lovely Cow Queen daughter, who was his guide.”

“So, uh, you send people there and aren’t bothered when they don’t come out?”

“Why, I don’t send anyone there! You were the first who I ever directed down this here descent of doom trail. I had no idea you were going to go into the Is, and, well, the Is is quite wonderful, why should anycow not go in it?”

Thus Ali came to realize what Misha had known for a long time: that to simply Be, and in just Being fulfill one’s life, is the province of animals and plants, of water and stone and sky – but not of men. Oh, and don’t take advice from Cows, either.


Like on most cold winter nights in Moab, the local watering hole, which was named The Local Watering Hole or LWH for short, was crowded and busy. The LWH was used to accommodating all manner of lowlifes, cowboys, bovines, humans, aristocrats, adventurers, and various microorganisms. The establishment, as it turns out, was run by the Chief Bovine’s beautiful Cow Queen daughter and her human husband, Frank the bartender.

Misha had been pretty shaken after the ordeal and Ali couldn’t really blame her. The Chief Bovine had given them a cow-back ride back up the descent of doom trail and dropped them off at the red pick-up truck, therefore answering the earlier question of how Cows can manage such a trail: they are surprisingly dainty creatures.

There were still a few hours of daylight left when Misha and Ali arrived at the red pick-up truck. Ali turned towards Misha.

“Hey… thanks.”

“Vhat was I supposed to do, leave you there?”

“No! But it was good of you. I owe you.”

“Don’t vorry about it… lets just get back to town.”

“I was sort of hoping to, you know, finish the day up, despite it all… I think I’m going to go check out the tip of the Notair. The view is so famous.”

“And vhat vill you do this time? Fall of the edge of the Notair?”

“I’d rather hope not. Look, I’m not totally helpless, OK? I can’t thank you enough for what you did today, but I’m heading out to the point.”

Misha gave a quick laugh. “Ha! Not totally helpless. Fine. I guess it is my fault you were able to drive out here in the first place. I’ll head down there too then. That view really is special.”

Misha got back into her car and threw her absurd shotgun into the trunk. Ali and Misha drove down the road that edged along the rim of the Notair until they got to a trail, flat and safe, which would take them to the very uttermost point of the Notair. They started the brief one-mile round-trip hike down the totally chill trail and soon arrived at the point.

Majesty. Unspeakable, unwritable. A meeting of red rock and blue sky, stretching out to an inconceivable distance. Neither inherently good nor bad. Seeking nothing, doing nothing, just Being. And essential, too. Misha is a woman of special character and force. And yet those like her are all too often sucked dry by their need to Do, the small tears starting in the inside and expanding until the body is broken and the mind empty. Those like Misha, who push for the sake of pushing, who achieve because they feel that they must, will often do Great Things. But they will also be hurt.

And so: Misha looks out over Majesty and is balanced. Misha is Misha of the stupid shotgun, of the more-macho-than Atlas attitude. But Misha is also Misha of the wind in the pines, of the tender young shoot breaking the soil in May. Misha is Misha who looks at Ali and understands why he smiles, looking out over something so much greater than either of them could ever possibly achieve. Misha knows that no matter her struggles and accomplishments, this place of wild beauty will demand nothing from her, but simply Be there for her and Ali and all others with eyes to see – and this is a great comfort. For in the end, though the world may blow itself up with nuclear weapons or be overrun by a horrible plague of gremlins, Earth will endure. Eons will pass. Eternity will revolve around an axis and, slowly, Being will continue.

And so Misha looks at Ali and smiles, because though she is tired, though she knows that after resting a bit she will return to the fray, she also knows that there is always Ali out there, who for all his stumbling into Ises and hiking with holes in his boots will look at something amazing and say, “Ain’t that something?” And when he walks back to his car and snuggles into his bed and goes on with his life, Ali won’t forget. He will wake up everyday and say, “Come what may, I have seen something in those wild places, felt something, and I know it was something worth feeling.” Ali has found what he was looking for.

In a most superbly Western manner, Misha and Ali drove off into the sunset, back to the chilly, isolated, wonderful little town of Moab, and parked in front of the LWH. Entering into the saloon they noticed that the Herd of Cows was playing a game of poker in the back. Thomas the Dude was clearly losing to the Chief Bovine, who as it turns out was a skilled bluffer and managed to mislead his opponents nearly every time. Humans sat and chatted, ate and drank and did what humans do in bars. A hummingbird was complaining to Frank the bartender that his sugar-water wasn’t sugary enough.

It was into this most everyday Moab scene that Misha and Ali walked in. “Misha! Ali!” called the Chief Bovine. “Have a round on the Herd! You guys look like you could use a pick-me-up.”

Misha and Ali settled down at a table. Ali quickly got into a conversation with a fellow at the table over who had just spent his day in Arches National Park. No, he hadn’t gone into any Ises, but he definitely thought Ali should check out the park tomorrow. Misha let the scene wash over her as she nursed her rum and coke (nine parts coke – despite it all, Misha is something of a lightweight). Misha caught Ali’s eye.

“So. Velcome to Moab.”

“You know, I really like it here. It’s a little different.”

“Sure. The vork is steady and the country beautiful. I could do vorse.”

“Well, if you’re feeling up to it, I think I’ll go check out the Arches tomorrow, and I’d love to have you along. It will be Saturday after all, and Thomas the Dude seems to have dealt with the Mad Cow Gang pretty completely, so, if you wanted…”

Misha grinned, and just as she was about to answer, the Chief Bovine won his game of poker and let out a moo of pure triumph. The moo carried out into the cold night sky. It shot up towards the moon and, landing in space, settled among the ever-glinting vault of stars.

Image Source: Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon by Nagaraju Hanchanahal