Traveling through the West, it is the beauty, desolation, and vastness that inspire me most. The sky and geography of Utah and Idaho collude to create soaring, lasting impressions. They seduce me, whispering ancient tales and promising a blur of stories of high plains, dusty buttes, painted plateaus, river rapids, and arid summer days.
There you stood, rare and bright. Defying the odds. Shining in a field far away. Flourishing in a wide open world. Sparkling in the foreground of my dreams.
I still see you, sunny and true. Unfolding under the sky. Craning for a mountain view. Growing taller everyday. Promising petals on a path I might have missed.
Written by Mark Johnson, September 6, 2019
For a few minutes last Sunday, I was up on the roof. No, I wasn’t cleaning the debris out of my gutters. My husband Tom and I, along with John and Sharon (two lifelong friends visiting from St. Louis), were on a two-day, Flagstaff sightseeing mission, seeking northern Arizona’s coolest and highest spots.
On a rare, seventy-degree-and-mostly-sunny afternoon, we boarded the Agassiz Chairlift (elevation 9,500 feet in the San Francisco Peaks) and rode above the tall pines another 2,000 feet to the top of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort.
Of course, this excursion was just for summer thrills. There wasn’t any of the frozen white stuff in late July. In fact, if there had been snow, I would have been far away for two reasons:
#1 … Unlike our friends from St. Louis who learned to ski when they lived in Europe, I’m not a snow bunny. Though Tom and I are in good shape for guys in their sixties, neither of us has skied much. On a personal note, I don’t care to risk broken bones on slippery slopes. I’m not interested in more pain or tempting fate. I figure it’ll arrive soon enough without me paving the way for a new and expensive relationship with an orthopedic surgeon. Besides, I already have a cardiologist and wouldn’t want him to get jealous.
#2 … I’ve endured enough cold and snowy Chicago days and nights to last a lifetime. To be precise, thirty-seven winters back in the relative flatness of northeastern Illinois. Think sub-zero temperatures and howling winds in December and January and repeated rounds of snow-blowing to clear your western-exposed driveway in February and you’ll have the right mental image.
In all seriousness, Tom and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with John and Sharon. It had been nearly five years since we’d seen them. And, naturally, both the chairlift ride and the mountain scenery in our home state were breathtaking.
Hmmm … now that I think about it, perhaps our Rocky Mountain experience and my choice of adjectives have more to do with the thinner air I felt pumping in and out of my lungs at a high altitude than the actual view.
Either way, you can be sure I followed the rules on this sign. I did no running on Sunday. Just some light walking and a little heavy breathing until it was time for us to board the chairlift for the return trip, descend the mountainside, and climb down from Arizona’s magnificent and majestic roof.