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White Pocket,  Vermillion Cliffs Monument   

Pastel on paper   Akiko Hirano

Akiko Hirano & Tim Wong

Deep in the desert miles from nowhere lies a place where an ancient seabed has long turned into stone, a magical land where no one lives and few venture. There is no trail, no sign, not a single man-made thing. She has come here for the space and solitude.


Time moves slowly here under the blazing sun. Apart from the few clouds, the only other movement is her shadow, which somehow seems to lag behind ever so slightly. She finds her way carefully around deep sandy draws, stepping over slickrock so as not to leave her footprints. She wants her passage to be invisible.


She comes to a spot where the ground rears up like a giant wave. Layers upon layers of time petrified. Near the crest, a shallow cave stares down like the unblinking eye of Cyclops. The view is as improbable as a surreal painting, beautiful and disconcerting. Exhausted from the heat, she scrambles up the incline to seek some shade.


The cave takes her in like a womb. She sits, curled up holding her knees, looking out over the desert. A turbulent ocean frozen in red and pink; as Ed Abby would say, a land of heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break. She leans back and lays her body down, her breathing slows, she drifts into a deep sleep. In her dream, a raven with an enormous beak lands beside her, bringing a beautiful black gemstone. 


When she wakes, the sun is dipping below the western horizon. Moving fast, she retraces her way back. The air has cooled, the earth seems changed. Tiny crystals on the slickrock sparkle like stars in the fading light. She notices other things too – crisscrossing railroad lines of a beetle, erratic tracks of a mole, purposeful steps of a stalking coyote – the desert has awakened. She feels light and alive walking briskly against a soft breeze.


By the time she finds her car, a new moon has risen. She reaches into her pocket for the keys and grasps something round and smooth. In her palm, a shiny little black pebble.

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