Recently, I came across this photo while scrolling through an old album on my computer. It was taken on the Angel’s Landing trail at Zion National Park in 2003, using the timer on my camera, and it reveals a narrative of my life at that time.
I spent the winter and spring of 2003 in various pursuits, having finally finished my doctoral dissertation: working on job applications, getting my EMT certification, teaching a class on children’s lit, and volunteering at the local Forest Service office to learn how to be a writer-editor. Having spent nearly ten years of my life working on a degree that I was no longer planning to use to advance a career, I was now trying to figure out What’s Next. I sent out about 17 job applications, mostly for writer-editor positions with the Forest Service and BLM (though there was one for a low-paying museum tech position with the National Archives at the Ronald Reagan library– another story for later). In short, I was feeling aimless and depressed in a post-partum kind of way.
By April, I was getting restless and decided to drive down to the southwest to attend an Ani Difranco concert in Tucson. All the better, the timing happened to coincide with the renegade Vegas wedding of a couple friends from California and I got to be a witness. The beginning of what turned out to be a 3-week trip involved hopping from friend to friend: Hagerman, Idaho; Gila, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Vegas, and Bryce Canyon. Then I was off on my own: once again feeling aimless and lost. A whim pulled me to Mesa Verde NP, where I camped in my car, waking up to 3 inches of snow all over everything. While touring the museum at the park, I came across an exhibit panel about the symbols used by the Anasazi inhabitants of the canyon. The spiral with one serrated edge was one of the significant symbols, and it represented a transition, emergence from the below world to the above– or the opposite, depending on the direction of the spiral.
This information grabbed me in a visceral way. The earrings I had been wearing every day for several months consisted of the same spiral used by the Anasazi to represent transition and change, and that was exactly what I was going through, both in a large sense and on a smaller level with the road trip. The Mesa Verde stop marked a change between restlessness and discomfort of travel; after this I felt more comfortable being a nomad, just living with the few possessions I had along, and more appreciative of seeing and experiencing what was out there. A few days later, I ended up at Zion canyon, where I parked the car, set up the tent, and took the shuttle bus everywhere in the park, exploring all its corners. That’s when I took this photo.
As a footnote, about a month later, Scott and I went to an EMT conference in Corvallis for a few days. When we were checking out of the hotel, my spiral earrings were missing, and I couldn’t find them anywhere in the room or the car. When we got home to Dayville, there was a message on the answering machine from the chief of interpretation at John Day Fossil Beds, asking me to come in for an interview. That led to the job I had for five years, until I made the next change and moved to Klamath Falls.
Now I’m in a transition time again, as the grant that funds my current job winds down and I wonder What’s Next. I suppose that’s why this photo grabbed me as I shuffled through my old digital album.
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