Zion Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah; 1500 hours. 24th of May.
Maybe the only thing one can be certain of is that one can’t be certain. Here I am, having traveled Guatemala-Fort Lauderdale-Los Angeles-Zion, and yet my place in Zion is still uncertain (due to unexpected spinning of hamster wheels). But can I be bothered? By being surrounded with sandstone cathedrals, piercing blue skies, and, well, (as all things appears to be) a very uncertain weather pattern? Hardly a bother. “The vegetation is bound to be complex” I think to myself, “ever changing and infinitely enticing.” On the short but splendid trip up Zion Canyon, Columbines (Aquilegia spp.) reached out of the moist canyon walls to greet the passersby. Shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum var. zionense) decorated the slick, sky-reflecting sandstone. Rain droplets began to fall then… Soft at first, hanging in the air along with cottonwood seeds making everything even more magical. The wind got stronger as the Bernoulli Effect forced the fluid air and water between the canyon walls the Virgin River has carved. Cold and wet, everyone began to scanter about, trying to find shelter. It always rains on the important days of my life. Then again, what day is less than important? The day after the present is only possible thanks to the day prior. Life is quite peculiar. One either is or isn’t, and being only makes sense if we are in movement and continuity. Any single moment without the sustenance of past experience and future dreams and aspirations ceases to make sense. Half of life is just perceptions in our minds, and my mind is only experiences woven together. Zion, place of refuge. What will I perceive? For now, gratitude. Gratitude for being alive and surrounded by millions of flying cotton bits and red towers.
Now, three weeks after this journal entry, I look back on how many successes I have enjoyed. Working for the Resource Management Department is beyond an honor. Working with the herbarium is exactly what I have wanted. I am learning everything from systematic botany to computer management and databases. I have mostly dedicated the first three weeks to office work and data entry in order to know exactly which plants are missing. Touching every sample (770 and counting) and getting to know each collectors relationship with the specimen has helped get a good handle of the species in Zion. My education prior had, in part, been in the Mojave Desert. This has given me somewhat of an advantage since some Mojave species are here in Zion as well. Many species are new, but I feel wonderful every time I see a species and can at least know its family, sometimes genus. Memories of Natural History Field Quarter at UC Santa Cruz rush back as I stroke the softly pubescent and aromatic leaves of an Artemisia tridentata, or stumble upon a magnificent array of Opunitia spp in bloom. Here and there, a more mysterious Asclepias asperula var. asperula (spider milkweed) can be found, enchanting with its absolute symmetry in 5’s. Working in an air-conditioned room in front of a computer could be perceived as a negative aspect to database work, but one can always find the awesomeness if one is willing to look for it. Access has become somewhat of a game now. The database is quite user-friendly if one is patient and probing. I have found that the Plant Ecologist that works for Zion is a master at making splendid labels for the herbarium specimens. They are so complete, that I have been able to use them to pinpoint locations of plants that are still missing in the herbarium. I have done this by seeing what he labeled as the associate species of the specimen. Some of those will be new entries to the herbarium. Small but exciting details such as these make even a potentially dull exercise quite the opposite. I am looking forward to learn GIS, GPS navigation, Plot reading, traditional rock climbing, cacti pressing, and just about any opportunity I can find. Live Love and Learn, for uncertainty is everywhere, synonymous to adventure and change.