1. I look down at my map. I look at the horizon. I search the ground for signs of footprints or a pale path woven between the prickly pear cacti. I turn left when I should have turned right. I retrace steps and try to ignore the “no service” indicator on my phone. This becomes a daily ritual.
2. The sun is starting to warm the sandstone at the bottom of the slot canyon. Lunch (no breakfast) is an everything bagel with peanut butter, a slim jim, and some salt n vinegar chips. Lots of water. I am alone on reservation land, sitting in a sunbeam at the bottom of the canyon. The silence is indescribable and I catch myself smiling, joyful in my own aloneness and grateful to be in this secret spot.
3. I tiptoe outside to my host’s hot tub. The cool air immediately gives me goosebumps and I quickly slip my naked body into the warm water. My imagination wants to convince me that scary things are going to crawl out of the bushes. I sip wine and turn my gaze up and “oh my fucking god” the stars are falling on me.
4. Horseshoe Bend. The only spot that I have grand photographic expectations of. I arrive a little past sunrise and the edge of the Glen Canyon is bustling with tourists. It seems everyone is there to get a photo. Selfie sticks and tripods and cameras of all shapes and sizes. People hanging off the edge, climbing onto unstable rocks, shouting at each other. I wonder, does anyone even see the beauty? I can’t get too close… my fear of heights wants to make my legs stop working. The Colorado River below is a deep shade of green and blue. My photos are shit. I stop taking pictures and let it be my ghost cat. I tune out the people and take in the views. I visit it again at sunset.
5. The buttes are blue. I want to laugh at how ridiculously beautiful it is. The desert is why I am here. No epiphanies or spirit guides are visioned under the blazing sun, but I fall in love. Lusty love. We take some selfies together, me and the desert, we sizzle, and I touch everything. Everything. I go off trail into the back country, nervous and not fearless, but determined anyways to explore in solitude. I want to walk forever, but the sun is setting and I still have 3 hours of driving ahead of me.
6. I cut my hand and bruise my legs. My wrists are scraped up, my forearms scratched. Cacti trauma. I feel stronger.
7. For my birthday I want to climb Cathedral Rock, which sits on one of the four energy vortices in Sedona. I set out at dawn and follow the signs. This seems promising. A wrong turn and I’m climbing a dry waterfall, shimming across a suicide ledge, trying not to slip on the ice that the sun never reaches. I climb down and I feel defeated. I go another way and find the scramble that will take me to the saddle between the spires. Another wrong turn at the top. I’m 4000 feet high and my fear of heights kicks in as I realize the predicament I’m in. I stumble and it is only by sheer luck that I don’t roll down the mountain like a runaway boulder. I make it to the saddle and eat my peanut butter bagel and some wasabi peas. A women is there, meditating. The views make me feel like a bird.