The Tenacity of Life

Few things in life impress and surprise me more than a plants’ ability to survive extreme conditions. From the ubiquitous dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) sprouting up through a tiny crack in a field of concrete, to a downed tree with one tenacious sprout struggling through contaminated, compacted soil on a construction site up towards the sun; plants can survive most anything thrown their way. I learned this most keenly while hiking through Canyon de Chelly many years ago. This dry, hot, hostile landscape on the Navajo Nation has poor, sandy soil and a dearth of water, but for all its paucity of beneficial conditions this land has supported human life for over 2,000 years. Some of the crops grown here throughout ages are corn, melons, beans, squash, apples, and peaches! With temperatures that range from 105F in summer months to -30F or colder in winter, people have lived in this area, farmed the land, and developed highly sophisticated cultures for centuries. And these people have left behind a wealth of artifacts and buildings to explore and learn from.

My spouse, brother, and I visited Canyon de Chelly in the early 1980’s. We hiked the areas we were allowed to visit (much of this land is sacred and closed to visitors) on our own or with our Navajo guide, Harold, and experienced solitute, sounds, and sights we had never experienced before. We left with a reverence for land that stayed with us. My brother, Kirk, died in 2002, but I remember that the last time we spoke with him he talked about returning to the area with us.

On our way home from Canyon de Chelly, we took some time to hike in Canyonlands National Park (Utah). This is a beautiful, unique region of our country and we spent two full days hiking there, but the memories of Canyon de Chelly have stayed with me in much more detail than any place I have experienced since.

Following are a few pictures from that wonderful trip. Enjoy!

Sacred Spider Rock, and remarkable plant life.
Buildings nestled into the cliffs, shaded by the rocks above.
If I recall correctly, this is Whitehouse Ruin.
Canyonlands, Utah. My brother is in the upper left of this picture.
More Canyonlands.
My brother and I hiking up to a hole in the rocks. Incredibly dry and hot.
My brother, Kirk.

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