THE OLD SONGS
by Douglas Young
9/24/97


     At the bend where cottonwoods grow, and the dry creek bed is green with storm fed grasses, natives have camped for countless centuries beneath the protecting sandstone walls of North Canyon.  For a day I manage to keep my distance, to occupy my thoughts with other nooks and crannies ...  where the game lay in the heat of the day; where springs trickle chime-like into catch basins and old passages; where the owl flies from her fracture in the cliff-face when I wander too close ...

     For a day and a rainy night I stay out of sight and sound of this meadow dotted with yucca, chola and pricklypear cactus, heavy in yellow and red fruit ... but now I'm curiously watching a yellowjacket and grasshopper vie for each one's portion of the same red morsal of cactus fruit, in this very field, watching as they push and shove, settling for opposite corners to continue their feasts.  So much moisture this year it shows everywhere.  The grasses half as tall as they were last September.  So much moisture the sun shone less and the plants just couldn't grow tall and I can walk easily through a field that was shoulder high and constrained my dog to the paths I plowed for us last fall.  Now Clue could have wandered at will and not run into cactus lurking in the tall grass.  There were no tall grasses and the cactus were visible and there was no Clue, at least not physically.

     I wander a drainage to a curious rock fence.  Homesteaders keeping cattle away from springs 80, 100 years ago?  I trace the path to a rock shelter Clue had led us to nine years back when we first entered these canyons searching for shadow plays and glyphs that speak of other ancient peoples.  And I smile.  I still see someone's work on the dirt floor of the cave, chips and flakes glistening though the sky is dark with pending rain, shifted by wind and water and creatures varied and strange but still here to tell of their space in time.  I am at peace again visiting this familiar and sheltering place and I re-learn that time is a tool for growth, a place for healing to occur, is multi-faceted and cuts through the ages and leads me back to set up evening camp singing the old songs with all my dear friends.


Some of my old friends


BACK HOME IN THE MOUNTAINS


 

     If I knew that I could I would walk it all, starting here, now.  First one foot then the other I'd keep moving 'till something caught my attention and changed my direction.  If I knew I could I'd slow my pace to more fully absorb what surrounds me like I sense the ancients did.

     I'm hurried this day by highway noises to the south and west, urban development to the north and east, the incredible speed that time has obtained.  How quickly everything is changing.  If I move too slowly I'll not be able to put my foot down on anything familiar.  If I stop to take in the view I'll see the Earth disappearing into the future from my vantage point, somewhere into an ever-expanding universe.

     But I'm here, now, on a sandstone ridge in the mountains instead of canyons in the grasslands, looking for sign left by the ancients ... pressed to pace myself in front of relentless growth.  I know I've been here before, several times, leaving bits and pieces for future beings to interpret as my presence;  symbols ground and pecked and painted and dreamed, about hunting and seasons and life and wonder.  Stories of how it was always eternal for the ancients and changing so fast for us now.  Pieces of stone and mineral and clay that show our physical world and deeds, that show how quickly we have to make do as time compresses while it expands. I think we're all Buddhist.

     And I know as I interpret a broken blade into a hunt or breakage in the making that I can no longer make my evening camp here, that this place is used differently now, and my centering comes with the thought that now is also changing.

     I speak many words of thanks and set my path to follow the ridge-top back to where I left my truck, noticeable by its lack of movement relative to the swelling evening traffic.  As I pick my way down a rocky slope looking for a gap in the flow like my friend deer down the road a favorite childhood song appears in my mind and I join in:

 

Sand Island, Utah, Hunting Panel, c 1990 DAYoung
 


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