A Perfect Day

2013-03-27_08-39-56_554

Here’s what goes into it:

  • hiking in very early morning stillness and solitude somewhere in southern Utah 
  • a matcha green tea shake
  • returning to the place where home is
  • reading
  • writing
  • thinking
  • becoming-happy
  • seeing my sweet dog jump in circles when I get back from a trip
  • sunshine
  • walking barefoot in the grass
  • hugs in the arms of the man I missed while I was away

Today was pretty much a perfect day. What does your perfect day look like?
Love, peace, and unexpected perfection,
Sumiko

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Possibly the Coolest Place on Earth

Of course, I’m talking about southeastern Utah. Moab, Monticello, and Canyonlands National Park. One of the greatest perks about my job is that I get to travel to gorgeous, remote places like this. And usually when I do, I arrange my schedule to visit at the end of the week so I can do a little bit of hiking along the way!

This trip was even more fun than usual, because I had company! My cousin-in-law Katy, whose 20th birthday we were celebrating, came with me!

Katy’s birthday dinner at the Sunset Grill in Moab!

I was very glad to have Katy with me. It’s a six hour drive from Salt Lake City to Blanding (where I had to work), and I’m not really good at sticking my head out the window to wake up and still managing to steer the truck. Having someone to talk to is much better! Also, Katy is pretty hilarious.

Katy has also never been hiking in southeastern Utah. So naturally, we had to go. We went into The Needles area of Canyonlands, which was spectacular to say the least. It was also HOT. In the morning it was cool and cloudy…but when we started hiking the clouds went away and the sun came out with a vengeance. Booooooo to sunshine, boo I say! Despite the (brutal) heat, we had a good time. We went hiking in late August, but if you have the choice, go between October and March. It’s much more pleasant if the sun isn’t frying your brain in its own juices.

We took lots of short breaks in shady places. Here were some of my favorite photos from the hike (which was in Lost Canyon).

Pothole pools near the beginning of the trail.

These pothole pools reminded me of the tidepools by the ocean in the town I grew up in! Throughout this whole area, I’m always reminded of how much the desert and the ocean have in common.

View to the east of The Needles.

The main road (Highway 191) is waaaaay on the other side of those mesas. The entrance to The Needles are about 22 miles off Highway 191. On the way, you can see cool petroglyphs like Newspaper Rock!

Newspaper Rock

It’s a large rock under a protective overhang full of petroglyphs. Pretty cool. There isn’t consensus on what the petroglyphs really represent, but it is still neat to go and look at it. Art that’s been around for many, many hundreds of years – it has a bit of a presence to it.

Dead tree still standing

Living tree growing out of a cliff

I love the contrast between these two trees. To me, this is what the desert is all about. A stillness that preserves what once was living for a long time, and the tenacity of life in difficult places.

Lichen growing on a rock.

And speaking of tenacity of life…isn’t lichen beautiful? I love the designs it makes. Everything in the desert, even the soil itself, is full of the unexpected. There’s cryptobiotic soil all over Canyonlands, which helps to stabilize the growing environment for other living creatures. COOL.

While we were hiking, we did get a sprinkling of rain on the slickrock.

View to the north of Lost Canyon in a thunderstorm.

This was an INCREDIBLE sight. We could see that we were hiking back into some cloud cover, so when it started sprinkling it was such a nice feeling – cooled it down for a few minutes! We sat under a boulder and watched this downpour soak the desert for a few minutes. After the rain stopped, the rock started drying immediately and it heated up pretty quickly. Once we had put another mile or so between us and the storm clouds, we turned around and watched as some of the clouds sent down ladders of rain and lightning forked downwards at the spires of lone trees growing on the rocks. The sound of thunder reverberating through the canyons was unbelievable. It was the same feeling as standing next to a bass speaker at a concert – that steady vibration that you can feel bouncing around in the inside of your chest. Amazing. And beautiful. And humbling.

I’m not a great outdoorswoman by any means, but I love the serenity that the desert imparts. As we hiked through, we were barely a blip on the radar in this enormous place. If you get a chance, go hiking in The Needles! It’s unlike any other place on earth.

Holiday-Weekend-Brain List

My brain is basically mush tonight. On any given day, I feel like I wake up with a certain amount of attention span and mental power to ration throughout the day. Today I didn’t wake up with a very large brainpower reserve, and it was basically all used up by 3:30 this afternoon…so in honor of that, I’m writing down a list of words that occur randomly in my head starting…now!

  • Harry Potter
  • Marines
  • Sharks
  • Pennies
  • Water
  • Violins
  • Ice cream
  • Cell phones
  • Dog
  • Grass
  • Window
  • Windex

(I don’t want to clean my windows…why am I thinking about that?)

  • Radio
  • Sewing
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Canyonlands
  • Family
  • Chicken curry
  • Weddings
  • Motorcycles
  • Bug spray
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Vacations
  • Paint
  • Tile
  • Plumbing
  • Nails
  • Messy
  • Laundry
Congratulations! If you made it this far and you’re really confused, you’ve just experienced what it’s like to be in my brain. Most of the time, I successfully fool most people into thinking I’m pretty smart, but today I don’t think I could even convince my dog that I know what’s going on.
Hope you all are having a lovely week after a holiday weekend!
Love, peace, and brain mush,
Sumiko

 

Perspective

You know what I like about the desert?

Perspective.

I grew up on the east coast, where a drought is where it doesn’t rain for three weeks and everything is green without trying. And it’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong. It’s totally different here.

Out here, the sheer vastness and starkness of the earth is overwhelming.

The haze of the atmosphere as the earth curves, wind-eroded sandstone, the fact that living things manage to eke enough water out of the dry soil to survive here – these things put me in my place, remind me that I am just a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck in this enormous universe.

Somehow that’s comforting. In my day-to-day life, I struggle to make a name for myself, to be a person that others respect and admire, and to make a difference to my fellow planetary inhabitants. And you know what? It’s exhausting, to constantly clamber over the molehill-mountains that we make everything out to be.

Being in the desert reminds me of my fragility and mortality. It tells me not to take myself too seriously and reminds me that most of my problems are really not that big a deal.

Perspective. Sometimes it’s a good thing.

Rocktoberfest

Sorry, please forgive the bad pun, but I am a bit of a geology nerd and I was just in geology heaven – also known as Moab, Utah – for the weekend.

Moab. Pronounced Mow-ab. Strange name, great place. Technically, I was there on a business trip, but since I’ve had a lot of business lately, Sean and I decided to take a day off on Friday and go hiking before I had to work on Saturday. As gloated about previously, we went to Arches National Park, and it was flippin’ amazing as usual.

We hiked the Devil’s Garden, and there were lots of arches. This one is Tunnel Arch.

This is Pine Tree Arch. It’s pretty darn big. Can you see Sean standing at the bottom?

This is Landscape Arch. It’s always amazing to me how certain sections of rock manage to outlast the erosion and create an arch, especially one this high and thin. Beautiful!

This is Private Arch. Can you see it, tucked in between the rock fins? You can’t see it until you’re directly in front of it on the trail.

On a side note, are you familiar with ‘planking’? Essentially, it’s when you lie flat and stiff like a plank on top of something. Sean was in the search of an Epic Plank, which was more stressful than you’d think. I stood on the ground and inwardly freaked out because my beloved was crawling on a little dinky rock fin fifty feet off the ground and oh my goodness what if the wind blew him off balance or a crow or a hawk came swooping by and startled him or what if he fell off and I couldn’t get him back to a hospital in time? Gaaaah. I was so scared that I was thinking in run-on sentences. Dreadful. I have never been afraid of heights, but apparently what I am afraid of is seeing someone I love so far off the ground. Suddenly I have turned into a complete pansy.

Anyway, my own cowardice aside, this is Double Arch. Beautiful!

We climbed across rock fins. And then some more rock fins. Rock fins are pretty much the main formation for the duration of this hike. The arches get carved into the fins from wind and sand.

It’s an astonishingly beautiful piece of the desert, the Devil’s Garden. And – a notable accomplishment for me – I did not fall into any rivers on this hike, as is my usual misstep! That was made easier by the fact that the riverbed we were walking along was mostly dry, but I’m going to take credit for my achievement anyway.

After we hiked, we had sushi. This roll is called Delicate Arch, after the most well-known arch in the park. It is wrapped in very, very thinly sliced cucumber, and it’s phenomenal. YUM.

Dear Moab: I love you. Especially now that you have a sushi restaurant. Thank you for keeping my brain from exploding with your beautiful clear desert sky and lovely, serene red rocks. Sincerely, Me.

Exploding Brains, Anyone?

My brain is quite possibly going to explode. This fall has been full of crazy-busy-insanity, miscommunication and mishaps. (If you don’t already know, I work for a state higher education agency and I travel quite a bit around rural Utah during the fall and the spring. It gets hectic.)

But tomorrow!

Tomorrow, I will NOT turn on my phone. That’s right. It’s gonna be off, baby.

Tomorrow, I will NOT check any of my five email accounts. No freakin’ way, man.

Tomorrow, I will NOT listen to voice messages and return calls. Not happenin’, dude.

Tomorrow, I will kick off my dress trousers, pull on my hiking boots, and spend the day trekking through this glorious place with my favorite person on the planet.

That’s right. I’m taking a Day Off and going hiking in Arches National Park, and spending the weekend in gorgeous Moab, Utah. It’ll be a good one.

I hope you get whatever it is you need to prevent your brains from exploding as well. ‘Cause an exploding brain is a real mess to clean up. See you all on the other side of the weekend!

Emerald Pools

One of the best things about living in Utah is the proximity to “outside.” We have a LOT of outside in this state. And most of it is very pretty.

This, however, is effing spectacular.

It’s Zion National Park, in southern Utah. And it’s most definitely worth the trip to the weirdest state in the entire U.S.

I travel a lot for work, and when I go to rural areas, my favorite thing to do in my free time is hike. These photos were taken during the fall along the Emerald Pools trail in Zion. It’s a relatively easy hike, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I usually prefer to hike somewhere near water, and this is just the ticket.

Upper Emerald Pool. This is around 9 am in November, so the light isn’t that fantastic, but the temperature is cool and comfortable, and there aren’t tourists swarming all over the place. I only saw one other person during the entire 3 hour hike.

You can definitely see why they call these three (there is a series: Lower, Middle and Upper) the Emerald Pools.

And then there’s just the sheer scale of this place. These cliffs are easily a few hundred feet high. Every time I go to Zion, I am a little bit in awe of how incredible this planet is, and how powerful the forces that shaped it like this. The canyons lend perspective to how minute and fleeting my own worries and triumphs are, and somehow that is very comforting to me.

Bottom line: if you live in Utah and you haven’t gone to Zion, November is a great time of year for it. If you don’t live in Utah, it’s worth the trip. And November is still a great time for it.

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