Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The past few days have been a diverting series of misadventures, unlike life back home only in the sense that we are surrounded by some life-affirming, invigorating, astounding beauty. We hiked a bit, explored various gift shops, and sampled local dining fare, leaving a wake of broken crumbly crackers, drinking straw wrappers, and shattered tree ornaments wherever we go. Restaurant servers ro-sham-bo to get our table out of their zone when they see us coming. But the kids are cute enough.

Hiked along a slick icy path the other day for a few miles or so. Long, shoulder-splitting icicles hung precariously above us at points, making us feel brave and trail-worthy. Everyone seemed to handle the 25 degree temps pretty well. At one point the Little Ditchman began moaning, "My knee hurts. My elbow hurts. I hafta go to the bathroom," and I figured we better turn around and head back to the car. Then she said, "Do you dig the hole before, or after?" Pause. Huh? "Oh. It's before!"

She'd been quoting lines from Up, so, yes, she is my daughter after all.

Yesterday we drove in an easterly direction, a hundred miles or so across the vast Colorado plateau (which extends well into southern Utah.) It was a perfect, scenic American byway, blanketed with a recent snow and the remnants of the holidays in rural civic displays, surrendered to the season. If you've seen Cars, (which the Little Ditchman happened to be watching during the drive) and have balked at those over-painted, idealized stretches of southwestern highways with their perfectly carved sandstone tunnels and bright red buttes and towering hoodoos dotting the landscape, I can now attest that that Pixar-crafted vision is grounded in reality. It's all there on UT Highways 9 and 12 -pine trees, teepees, and all.

Arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park at about the same time as a mild snowfall, which was charming for the kids and yet demoralizing for us adults who found the fabled, deep canyon, natural wonder of the southwest, filled with a heavy fog. "Oh well," we thought. "Next time." As if there would be one. On the way out of the park we drove to another viewpoint, on the off chance that maybe some of the weather had lifted. We were in luck.

(We're collecting all the states!)

Today, it's back to the big family for the turning of the New Year, which will be great. (We're out of money, anyway.) I'm going to insist on one last drive through the valley to gaze up at those awesome, glorious red cliff-faces, dusted with last night's snowfall. It's stunning, though the kids aren't quite able to grasp it yet. They get out of the car and immediately look down, so as not to trip over or miss some curious twig or rock or lump of ice. I guess, as you grow, you slowly lift your head, willing to be taken aback by all that miraculous world around you -those curious twigs, rocks, and lumps of ice a thousand times the size.