Every once in a while I chance to recall some of those rare, fleeting moments when all was exactly right with the world and the heart was so full that it seemed as if everything was shining and that all of humanity had climbed aboard the Peace Train. Those moments, for me, are like the supernovas of memory - far flung, explosive, illuminating.
There are several that come to mind almost immediately like watching Katchina dancers emerging from a kiva on a cold midnight in March at Shungapovi on the Hopi Mesas; spending a Fathers Day walking through the mud of the Paria River with my daughter Alison; hearing Country Joe & the Fish play Section 43 in person at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco back in 1967 with the first love of my life; sharing a morning with someone special in a Durango, Colorado ski lodge as the narrow gauge train came rumbling by; or emerging cold and wet from the Colorado River having run the rapids of Satan’s Gut in Cataract Canyon as the final rays of sun dipped down below the cliffs.
But the one moment I think of most often occurred nearly nine years ago, not long after moving to our present corner of the world. It was late in May and my wife and I and our youngest daughter Lindsay were returning from a camping trip at my old stomping grounds at Canyonlands National Park. It was the first time I had shared this special place with one of my kids, and I had delighted in watching her climb around the slickrock at Squaw Flat and explore the potholes in the sandstone above Big Spring.
But now we were heading home, driving east along Utah Highway 128, “the River Road”, that magnificent stretch of asphalt that runs along the banks of the Colorado River from Moab, Utah to the Dewey Bridge through some of the most magnificent scenery on earth. We were traversing the Professor Valley, surrounded by free standing red mesas and in view of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains. Both my wife and my daughter were asleep in the car as it gently rolled over the ups and downs of the lonely two lane road. A Mark Knopfler guitar solo was providing a musical backdrop for scenery that was so familiar to me and carried so many memories of years past. And I felt for several moments as if I were gliding through space and time, content with everything that I had and that I was and that I ever would ever be. And the tears welled up and the heart nearly burst at that one moment of absolute, pure nirvana.
But within a minute or so, I had to negotiate a sharp curve, and Amy and Lindsay woke up and began talking again, and we continued on past the Dewey Bridge and the old town of Cisco, to the fast lanes of the Interstate and the final leg of our journey home. For me, however, a cosmic needle had stitched all the threads of my life together on that one intensely familiar stretch of Utah road. And the power of that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life to be rerun through my mind whenever I need to brighten my day or put my life into real focus.