My Dublin Bay roses bloom every spring capturing my heart. This year they seem so profound that I had to write a poem about them. I dropped my shovel, and my pruners and ran inside to do just that so as not to loose my inspiration.
There is a place tucked in a red rock canyon in SW Utah where at any given time approximately 1,500 homeless dogs, horses, goats, pigs, bunnies, birds, and injured wildlife can live the rest of their days in peace and safety. Some might even find a forever home beyond its boundaries. Others may be released back to the wild. That place would be Best Friends Animal Sanctuary– probably the largest no-kill shelter of its kind in the world.
I would have never discovered this place had it not been for the suggestion of fellow blogger Pam of “I Choose This.” On a rainy day during a visit to Zion National Park in April, travel buddy Jean and I headed out of the park to explore the surrounding environs. After checking out the quaint town of Kanab and grabbing a cuppa, we drove the 7 miles to check out Best Friends. Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the day to arrange a tour but we did enjoy their gift shop and learning about the place which occupies 3700. It’s a stunning setting.
Best Friends relies on an army of volunteers and donations to keep it running. There are clinics, comfortable housing for every type of animal on the premises. Their are also outreach facilities in Los Angleles and New York City. This organization was also instrumental in saving many lost animals during Hurricane Katrina.
The one area we could visit was Angels Rest, the final resting place for animals that had crossed the rainbow bridge either at the sanctuary or beyond Best Friends boundaries. I had seen a lot of magnificent scenery on this trip but this beautiful pet cemetery tugged on my heartstrings and made me tear up. Imagine a red mesa with acres of little memorials to animals that had been loved. Owners, for a donation had personalized their headstones with all kinds of messages and memorabilia like collars and toys. Then there the hundreds of memorial wind chimes lilting their soothing melodies on the desert breeze. The last area we saw was the bird cemetery with a multitude of tiny markers honoring their memory.
If you are in the area Best Friends is worth a visit and if you can’t make it in person, donate! It’s a good cause I hope to get back there someday for a tour.
On a side note, two days after I returned from Utah my sweet little twin nine-month-old kitten Zoey (ZoZo we affectionately called her) was hit by a car. Zoey was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of kitties- a little four-legged sprite the used to follow me around the yard and entertain me with her antics with acrobatic finesse in trees and on the clothesline. Then there was the thundering around the house at night with her twin, Zander, and her obsidian black mom-cat, Zinnia. (See my post Zinnia’s Kittens) We were devestated. I thought I might honor her memory by purchasing and hanging a personalized wind chime at Angel’s Rest. Then I thought better of it. Zoey would prefer to have one hung right over her grave in the backyard. Now I have my own Angels Rest.
What is the metric of decision-making in our lives? What bearing do we follow? How do we hear our inner guidance among the cacophony of others? How does one approach risk? Navigating one’s life is tricky business.
Artist/author Elle Luna addresses this very topic in her recent book “The Crossroad of ShouldandMust, Find & Follow Your Passion.” I was listening to her interview on the Beyond podcast and perked up my ears. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone address this issue in such a concise way. Rather than head vs heart or gut vs brain she defines the quandry as what you SHOULD do VS what you MUST do. This could be as huge as choosing a profession to choosing to take a break and read for 30 minutes, or should I finish this blog post or go out and work in the garden? (I chose the former.)
I purchased the book and have been very pleased with both the content and its presentation, a mixture of type, Luna’s illustrations, handwritten text, and memorable quotes in a recycled tag board binding. It’s a quick reference to navigating the yearnings of one’s soul.
Age has made that process easier for me to distinguish between the voices of head and heart as I have the luxury of looking back over decades. Still, it is always nice to have a guidebook when you have lost your way. I’ve added it to my bookshelf alongside The Artist’s Way and Austin Kleon’s books. It’s worth a read- especially if you’re a creative type.
Check it out!
At the Crossroads
having tasted the straight, well-traveled road of should
It all started in early March during a phone call with my 40 years- long- time friend, Jean. It had been a particularly long winter for both of us. Add the cold at her home in Juneau, Alaska and she was really at her wit’s end. “I want to go to Zion National Park but nobody will go with me!” She wailed. I paused, thought for a short moment I found myself saying “I’ll go with you.” BAM!- 48 hours later we had the trip booked. April 25th we met in Las Vegas with thousands of other winter refugees looking for a break, picked up our rental car, and were off. (Hey- did you know that a Prius makes no noise when you start it up? We thought the darn thing was broken!)
Entering Zion is like entering the Yosemite of the Southwest. Replace the silver granite splendor of the Yosemite Valley with sandstone cliffs and spires of all hues of oranges and tan and you have the wonderland of Zion. It’s a hiker’s paradise and we took full advantage, even in the drizzle of the first day. Besides the glory of being out in such splendor, I found the cheery attitude of the other hikers equally wonderful. People were generally jazzed to be out of their Covid prisons.
The last time I was in Zion I was 10 years old on a camping trip with my family. The only memory I had of that trip was swinging my skinny legs in a cool river on a 100-degree day. That very river, the Virgin River was one of the first things we saw when entering the park. I found such nostalgia in walking along that river looking back at my childhood self-such a sweet memory.
We hiked almost all the trails in the valley that were open (several were closed due to rock falls). The most well-known and dangerous hike is Angels Landing, a 1500 foot huff up to the most iconic view in the park. The last quarter mile or so is a tedious climb where you have to hold onto chains to prevent falling to an early death (as 13 hikers have since 2000). In places, you are walking on a knife ridge only a few feet wide. Add to that there is the coordination of the masses of hikers that are going up and down on a one-way trail. Somehow the spirit of friendly cooperation prevailed and we got up and down with no incident. The view from the top was breathtaking. Looking down we spotted condors riding the thermals below.
We did take the second sprizzly day to explore beyond Zion canyon. Kolob, on the western side of the park, is higher in elevation and equally dazzling. We were warned, however, by park staff not to attempt the main hikes due to the muddy, slippery trails. Good advice. We hiked the ½ mile roundtrip from the viewpoint and it was like walking on toothpaste. In the afternoon we explored the quaint town of Kanab and environs and finally the impressive Best Friends animal Sanctuary- more on that in a later post. The return drive through the west canyon Drive was one of the most jaw-dropping gorgeous roads I’ve ever been on
On our final day, we hiked the Narrows, one of the most famous hikes in the world. You have to slog through the headwaters of the Virgin River. The river flows through a slot canyon of soaring sandstone walls, waterfalls, and hanging gardens. Since we were there relatively early in the year with the water being at times up to the waist and 42 degrees F we rented dry suit waders in town, special water shoes, and a stabilizing stick to prevent a dunking. At first, we were with quite a band of others but as we headed up the crowd thinned as we headed upstream. In all, we hiked about 8 miles in and out. It was at times quite a challenge pushing against the current and stumbling over a rocky bottom but hey, what an unforgettable experience!
Ironically the most challenging part of our Zion visit was navigating the Zion NP shuttle. During this time of Covid, they offer limited ridership for social distancing. You have to secure your tickets at 5 PM the night before from the Recreation.Gov app. There is about a 15-minute window before all the tickets are gone. This can be an extremely frustrating experience. If you are up in the park during this window with no cell or WIFI it’s even more hair-tearing. They do allow walk-ons after 2 PM. You do have the option of renting an electric bike beyond the park border in Springdale or securing a private shuttle but these options are expensive.
Despite the shuttle challenges and the surprising number of other visitors, we found Zion to be an amazing experience. It was a perfect week long escape after months of lockdown and so good for the soul to be among such grandeur.
It was great to get away, take some risks, and feel the pleasure of life again. Try it. The world is waiting for you.