My hands are wrapped around the tea cup’s warmth, still early, five fifteen, the sun will be up soon. Our first morning at home after the desert trip, and my body is still on mountain time, waking up with the sunrise. Adam and I took a long post-vaccination road trip to the desert, explored canyons and climbed rocks. Looked at flowers and lizards, a tiny rock squirrel like animal with a short tail and a trilling call, tiny tiny chipmunks, a nest of baby mice, crows laughing to one another as they played in gusts of the incoming lightning storm. Hammock time in the trees, sitting by the Green River, the Colorado, the Snake. We climbed Castleton Tower in the Utah desert, on a very windy day, type 2 fun.
And our first time exploring the rocks and climbing routes in City of Rocks in Idaho, a rolling landscape of high desert sage and juniper and cedar dotted with big granite blobs of rock popping up like mushrooms.
We walked through the goblins at Goblin Valley State Park, and climbed to the top of a mound of light colored badlands dirt, and went to the Goblin’s caves, and inspected the tracks of lizards and rodents and bugs and foxes in the morning sand. Drank gallons and gallons of mineral rich, slightly brown tinted desert water from the pump at the park. We hid from a windy rainstorm in the San Rafael Reef in the car, reading, and the lightning storm in a huge hollowed out rock. We quickly learned to get up early and be somewhere shady to rest by the heat of the afternoon. Two pairs of shorts got holes in the butt, one of them beyond repair. I wore my new “adventure hat” and the red denim studio pants each morning and evening when it got cool.
We learned to do technical canyoneering, using the rope and rock climbing harnesses to rappel down big drops. It felt like combining rock climbing with the caving we used to do in TAG, and cross country travel to find the entrances. One slot was rated PG, the end of North Iron Wash, with strange little sandstone rock ledges, climbing and chimneying up high above the canyon bottom, quite spooky. Once we reached the larger ledges, you then then traversed over to a log stuck 30 or 40 feet above the canyon floor, then rappelling off the log to the ground, and avoiding a deep dark “keeper pothole” in the process. Swimming through potholes was really fun. In one canyon we came to a rappel where a single piece of webbing with a single chain link on the end was the station, emerging from the dirt and a pile of rocks. Was it a deadman? It flexed uneasily when we pulled it, and the other option, some weathered webbing knots shoved in a crack on the side of the wall, didn’t look promising either. A turnaround point. The lizards did pushups while we ate peanut butter and jelly tortillas.
This formation is sandbanks, stacked on top of one another. This was a riverbed. This is petrified wood. This petroglyph is from ten thousand years ago. This one was from a different culture, but they added it to the panel made by the prior culture. (Is that a map, those look like rivers, maybe it is showing where all the different animals live? Or where to go in each season?)
The technical canyons guide we used, by Kelsey, had funny acronyms for everything, to save space. It was formatted like a Dr. Bronner’s label, no margins, tiny text with too many words to a line, not enough line spacing. I love a self published guidebook, even when it’s semi unreadable. They were right that “K&EP” (knee and elbow pads) would have been handy, by the end of the week of canyons my knees were bruised and scratched and abraded from the shimmying and down climbing. My knees also got really tanned compared to the rest of my legs, something I used to be embarrassed about as a teenager. It’s so good to appreciate my body now as an adult.
It feels really good to have weeks where most days I was moving — hiking or scrambling or climbing — for five to eight hours on end. We paid to take showers at the back of a campground-gas station in Moab, ate elote and fish tacos from Giliberto’s, restocked on groceries.
I felt really lonely and desolate for a few days, about a week into the desert canyons, when we hadn’t seen anyone else but us in a long while, and it was hot and windy. I’m really excited to see other vaccinated friends in person, inside, now possible upon our return. Dinners! Sewing! Making zines! Conversation late into the night. There are new babies to welcome in our friend group, and bike rides and mountain adventures to organize, things to cook. I read a lot of books, several of the C. J. Cherryh Alliance series, Mushroom at the End of the World and Rambunctious Garden. I wrote lists of ideas for ANEMONE and zine making and All Well sewing patterns and things to do around the house in a small MT notebook. Amy and I had various chats on the phone about All Well plans and projects.
In Salt Lake City we walked around Liberty Park, ate Normals ice cream several times, took walks with my cousins and their dog, rode bikes. We got to meet Derek and Brighton of Riso Geist and they co-hosted a Risograph Zine Making Workshop with us for Seattle Art Book Fair. About 50 people showed up, and the zoom chat was really awesome, full of people sharing about their work, asking interesting questions, sharing tips with one another. Derek and Brighton showed us tons of beautiful prints they’d made, tarot cards and calendars and zines, and we talked shop and ate takeout sushi after.
It’s so good to get to meet more riso friends! In person! We also got to spend time with Rachel Hays of Taxonomy Press, who is part of the riso zoom crew I hang out with. At the thrift stores in Boise with Rachel I found a wooden handled whisk, a small red plastic funnel, and a glass jar with a wavy top. Things I’ll remember the trip by, I put brush pens, paintbrushes and drawing pencils in the jar. I’ll use the funnel for dyeing fabrics and marbling. More practically, a box of 100 9x12” mailing envelopes for about a third of what they sell for online, to send out ANEMONE prints or zines in. It felt weird to go into stores for non-essential things, to browse a bit, still wearing masks, but with the protection of the vaccine for us and others. Rachel’s studio was really inspiring to see, full of prints and tools and small colorful plastic baskets. I can’t wait to see what Taxonomy Press does in Detroit, I need to visit them and Small Works.
We rode the Boise Critical Mass, organized by Boise Mutual Aid crew. Rachel had risograph printed beautiful spoke cards with flower characters shading small cyclists. Biking in a huge group is such a giddy joy. I miss the critical masses in San Francisco — we haven’t been to the Seattle one in ages, is it still happening? Adam’s bike zine is almost ready, part of the ANEMONE risograph zine residency group. My zine residency zine, about sensitivity and sensory processing, is close, too. I need to write a few more paragraphs and add a few things to the cover.
It felt really good to come home to the apartment, clean and light filled and full of our things, to put away gear and pile up laundry and make a grocery list. The mail on hold will come today, will there be any penpal letters? The first shower post-trip, putting away gear, staging things to mend, transferring all my notes and ideas from the trip notebook into a doc.