Monday, November 11, 2013

CANYONLANDS by Pauline Tamari

The white water rafting trip down the Colorado River from Moab was exhilarating. I couldn’t believe I was able to once more feel the thrill of being on the edge; taking a bite out of life, once again. 
It seemed at some point fate dictated a decree of disease that would imprison me in a static state of health debilitation. Prematurely old, sick, alone; an invalid, one who is not valid; whose life is not validated, who has no validity. I could not continue my life work, the work that fed my soul, my passions unattended. I could hardly care for myself; not for others, in and out of the hospitals where the lack of care and compassion was firmly correlated with the overwhelming humiliation from which there was no escape. Each time in the last quarter of a century the ferocious dragon who I had thought I had slain would raise its immortal head I was sure it would be the end. I was sure this last time I was on the only road left, a lonely and painful trek to the grave. 
But here I was back in life again, in the rage of this rushing water as we flow over rocks and ripples sprayed with a canopy of life-giving water, we wind our way down this magnificent alley sheltered on either side by the sand colored mountains. I feel my soul settle in serenity.  When the whitewater hits we steady ourselves, crouch on our fear and scream and yell as unencumbered teenagers on a rollercoaster. When taunted if anyone would want to venture a solo run in the kayak that is trailing the raft there are only two of us who take the bait, a young teen age boy on the trip and myself, the two polar ends of a life course each having an appetite for the taste.  
We would stop in late afternoon our raft pushed up on the side of the sandy, secluded river beach where we would camp for the night. There were no other beings, no other boats, and no other intrusive noises, nothing that grated the ears or distracted the eye, and caused sensory agony, nothing that did not belong there, except perhaps us. 
I would often float in the warm, soft, red muddy waters and let it wash over me at the end of the day. Stretched out, I would float with my face to the sun and just be. For me to just be in this force of this fearsome beauty that surrounded me, my body at peace, at one with me and the world around me, was heaven. I would set up my small tent quickly so I could take a solitary walk, a short hike in search for my soul and my being to become one, one with this awesome mystery that encased me. 
In actuality I was “one,” the other five on this rafting trip were a young couple and a father with two teenagers. When we met in Moab, Utah to begin this adventure, the others were a bit surprised that I, somewhat strange in age and even stranger to be a woman of my age who was doing this type of trip alone. I was quite used to both being strange and doing strange things alone. On this trip even our two river guides came as a pair. But for the most part I felt a comfortable ease with and a part of this rag tag group of river rafters. We had quickly learned to delight in each of our strangeness and our appetite and exuberance in this adventure. 
After an unusually superb dinner accomplished in some magical way over a fire by our river guides, with provisions so expertly concealed on our raft that the first day I began to think they forgot about bringing food, we would all sit around the fire, its light dancing shadows on the red rocks of the surrounding mountains. We talked, sang songs, heard old river stories and drank wine. I was surely back in life. 
Later I would lie on the sand outside my tent. I would think of the starched, scratchy sheets and the needles plunged in my arm, with oxygen in my nose to face one more night of sleepless agony in an antiseptic unfeeling sterile world. I shiver. I then look up at the stars above me, twinkling me messages of delight, the soft glow of the moon and the warm sand beneath me and I feel at peace and alive in that very same moment  as the silent song of serenity sings me to sleep.