Dry Falls Lake – Essay

The ground was mostly a dark, oxidized sand and basalt gravel with sporadic rock formations like cairns.  This gave me a feeling of desolation, hinting someone had been there, only to find they had gone.  We walked on an improvised trail through the sagebrush and Blue Bunch wheat grass guided by our topo-maps, which, I felt at the time, couldn’t be less alive.  We continued until our surroundings seemed to match the elevations on the map as well as what we remembered from our digital-orthogonal view.  In my mind our “destination” was the exact site of the water but James must have had another idea.  He immediately climbed to higher elevation and Chickee remained somewhere in between.  Our arrival was initially unclear, not having crossed any universal threshold.  I headed closer to the water and began to write.  I took note of good visual angles for photographs.  I also noted a color theme.  It was somewhere in this time I became certain we had reached our first location.  I came across a Praying Mantis, the Native American symbol of stillness, and it reminded me to remain open and observe this place with patience.  None of us spoke for another hour but we all became certain.

A Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterfly, brown with creamy yellow bands on its wings, signified moisture since they breed in swamps and wetlands.  We were indeed at the site of Dry Falls Lake, somewhat of a cultural hub in comparison with the other locations.  We were witness to the basic formula that water supports life.  Many fishermen sat, waiting in their boats for a Trout to pull their line.  The backdrop to this comparatively lively scene is the sheer rock face that is the 400 foot tall and 3.5 mile wide former waterfall.  And this too, had plenty of goings on to observe.  Crows and Ravens flew from one nook to the next.  This wall of rock is a perfect habitat for anyone with wings and hollow bones.

Somewhere amidst my observations I became aware of my tendency to focus on life, or the signs of life.  Until having settled into the environment of Dry Falls Lake, I was noticing merely the signs, feeling as though this was an empty and lonely landscape.  Actually, I suspect the fact that there were people, animal activity, a variation in plant life and water, is why I was so certain we had reached a destination at all.  Had we marked on our maps any of the coordinates along our walk before the lake, I may have taken significantly more time to accept that we had reached our location.  The activity at the lake made it less difficult to assign meaning to what I saw.  I didn’t need to search for signs, or speculate the history very much at all.  Arriving at a place where life was unfolding before our eyes made for a quick transformation of space into place.

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