We just returned from Moab, UT. Of all the photos I took of Arches National Park and the red rock desert landscape, the photos I'm sharing could be from anywhere. However, when I see them, I'm reminded of a story I want to share with you:
One afternoon, I left the heat of the Mill Creek Trail, a paved pedestrian path running through Moab, and instead began following a narrow, sandy trail through a dry scrub woods. I walked slowly holding my camera still as I maneuvered to squeeze through openings where bushes and tall grasses infringed. Suddenly, rounding a bend, I came upon 2 homeless men sitting under a tree. The bearded one, sitting like a Yogi, began quoting scripture. I stopped to give him my attention. He spoke of calm and cunning and finally warned me of "serpents." I felt a chill as I wondered whether he was talking literally or metaphorically. He pointed toward the high, swaying grasses fringing the path, and as I waved goodbye, he murmured, "Unsafe." I continued on my way, now watching the ground more carefully in case a snake lay coiled, waiting for me. Paths began forking off from the one I was following until I began to lose my sense of direction. I smelled the next homeless camp before I saw it, the sour scent of sweat mixing with the sweet smoke of marijuana. Five men huddled on their haunches, passing a bottle and a joint as I approached. "Hello, " I greeted them, looking each one in the eyes. To a man, they stood immediately and mumbled polite greetings. I wondered if these men were the "serpents" in the first man's prophesy. But, they were solicitous - perhaps I reminded them of another woman - a mother or grandmother, a sister, wife, or friend who had once loved them. Several spoke a quiet warning, "No place for a lady..." "You could come upon danger." (Though no mention of serpents, thank goodness.) I asked them to point me in the direction of safety, and they did. In a short while I left the enclosure of the dim woods.
The first thing I saw when I emerged onto the paved trail once again were sunflowers blooming in bright profusion at the edge of a gritty, graffitied bridge underpass. For some reason, my mother came into my mind and the homeless men who knocked on our back door when I was a child. They were called "hobos" back then. She would leave them waiting on the porch while she made a baloney sandwich on buttered white bread, cut a slab of cake or pie, and poured strong black coffee into an old chipped mug. They always thanked her as they sat on the steps to eat. I was afraid of those men, though my mother never spoke of them as dangerous. This day, in Moab, UT, 60+ years after my mother's matter of fact charity, perhaps I reaped her good karma.
I encountered sunflowers on this day.
I saw no serpents.