Written by Sage Kohen
It was here, within the canyon of the ancients, sitting in silence by a river that glows gold and red at dusk, that a relationship was sparked that will forever propel me forward with reverence for beauty and thirst for purpose.
I first came to Zion as a young college student, eager to flee the organized chaos of the East Coast and discover a life of wild open space, endless adventure, and inner expansion. The rugged and majestic landscape of Southern Utah immersed me, body and soul, in a deep relationship with the great mystery known as life. I have never heard life speak so clearly, nor felt more at home anywhere else on the planet, as when I am engulfed by sandstone cliffs jutting forth from red earth to blue sky.
The land encompassing Southern Utah is a living treasure, a place that speaks of a time before civilization poured its asphalt roads and built its modern homes. One can easily get lost or even die of thirst — as I almost did — roaming the wilds of this red rock land. But if one is well-prepared and has respect for the wild and a thirst for beauty beyond understanding, then chances are, you can find it in your own backyard; or at least, not far from where you are now.
From Zion to Bryce Canyon, the Grand Staircase to the Grand Canyon, veins of Navajo sandstone form a landscape far surpassing any artificial creation. These places beg us to leave our cars and gadgets and brave summer’s sweltering heat to discover wonder deep in canyons etched with prehistoric stories and gurgling with verdant seeps.
There are places just beyond the pavement where a silent stillness can be felt that seems unscathed by civilization’s obsession with domination and virtual reality.
It was here, in Zion, that I learned to listen to the voice of the Earth, and thus kindled a reverence for life that has carried me across the world to learn how to live harmoniously with this sacred place we call home. This ever-unfolding journey into vibrant awareness would not have occurred had I not discovered some of my dearest friends and guides in life, who have continually inspired me to walk in beauty and respect with each step.
Living in the desert has its challenges, but one comes to value the preciousness of life when resources, like water, are scarce, and when comfort takes a back seat to adventure. Before the world of virtual reality reigned, community (human + nature) was our insurance policy, our source for meaning and pleasure, as well as our essential life support system. I only hope that we can find a happy medium that both honors our needs and the needs of the greater ecosystem supporting all life around and within us. The indigenous have a lot to teach us about living in accord with life!
The Earth is the greatest treasure we have, and I hope and pray each and every day that we collectively awaken to this realization and begin thinking long-term regarding how our behaviors affect future generations’ right to a clean, healthy, and bountiful life on a vibrant, bio-diverse Planet Earth.
Hope still remains within the open space of our inner and outer worlds, and within the wild that still flowers and flourishes despite our collective amnesia.
In closing, my reverence for Zion can be summed up in this excerpt from the book “Red,” by one of my favorite authors, Terry Tempest Williams: