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Canyonland Sunset   Pastel on paper  Akiko Hirano

Akiko Hirano & Tim Wong

For a moment, she is disoriented. She slowly opens her eyes and sees nothing but pink stone towers framing a purple pre-dawn sky. The air is cold, but she feels warm. Where am I? She wonders. And what’s that, a big raven siiting on the rock watching me? This must be a dream. She tries to move and realizes she is lying in a sleeping bag. She smiles. She remembers.

Yesterday, she hiked over miles of slickrock and canyons to come to this place, deep in a vast maze of stone in the Utah desert. Strange rock columns stacked upon columns, stretching from horizon to horizon. There were no other people, no animals, no wind, no sound. She watched the sun slowly sinking behind the distant mesas, the western sky brilliant orange. Everything in her world turned golden.

Raven  Photo  Tim Wong

Last night, she saw the Milky Way. Not the hazy clouds of faint stars she used to see in the city, but millions upon millions of brilliant lights. The brightest ones burned like tiny beacons. Around them were more stars, less bright but no less clear. And beyond those, an ocean of ever fainter stars filled every square inch of the dark expanse. Occasionally, the blinking lights of a transcontinental airliner streaked across the ocean of stars, the only visible reminder of the man-made world. She drifted off to sleep counting stars in Scorpio while Orion slowly moved across the night sky. 

In half an hour, the sun will rise. She climbs out of her sleeping bag and desperately wants water. She takes a sip from her 3-gallon water bag, then carefully measures out a capful for brushing teeth and pours a tiny cupful into an aluminum pot to make instant coffee. In this bone dry land, she has learned the importance of water. That water bag will be her most precious possession for days.

As she sits on a rock sipping coffee, the land takes shape in an amber glow. The top of the distant rock columns lights up first. A curtain of golden light slowly slides down each tower in unison like a cover being pulled down, light spreading towards her over the sage plain like tide coming in. The purplish sky brightens and gives way to pink and blue. She feels the warmth of the rising sun on her back as a light breeze starts to blow.

Caw, caw! She is startled by a pair of ravens passing so low overhead she hears their wing beats. Watching them swooping and soaring over the desert, she feels their joy. She shares their secret as the only witnesses to this beautiful new day unfolding.


Caw, caw! Yes, you have a good day too!


Canyonland Dawn  Pastel on paper  Akiko Hirano

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