The sun, peaking over the sweeping steppe. Like a burst. Saying, here I am. Remember me. I was gone and now I’m back. I always come back for you.
Its long shadows tracing the mesas. The layers of earth, sand, wind, creatures, time. The buttes, petroglyphs – slow, intentional stories carved like news bulletins across time – a crystal forest, felled trees that became quartz. Iron and carbon adding in texture. the painted desert. El Desierto Pintado. A radiant canvas. Each hue of orange, terra cotta, poppy, clay, earth softening into the next. Like one broad stroke. A stroke of genius, of nature, of warmth, of love.
Settlers naming it a wilderness. Travelers naming it a place to stretch our legs. Navajo naming it home – Dinétah – since time immemorial. Pronghorn too. And lizards and snakes, sage and agave, the lichen part of an exhale, while the sun keeps on feeding them.
I wept with relief.
The desert was alive. So was I.