Alone and surrounded by an expanse of dry green brush, sharp maroon rocks and the hot white sand of a dried up riverbed, we took off our clothes.
It started with our backpacks – 35 pounds of leaden weight dropped off with a simple click of a buckle. Next came our sweat-stained shirts, ripped off in haste, anticipating the relief from the murderous glare of the desert sun. Our boots were next, followed quickly by our socks and shorts. We stood for a moment in silence, bare feet in smooth sand, our eyes closed and tilted toward the sun, wearing nothing but our sports bras and underwear.
A light breeze ran through the canyon.
We awoke from our brief reverie and quietly got to work on setting up our tent, putting our food in bear canisters and unpacking what we needed for dinner. There was a rustic routine to it all, we could now do it in absolute silence. Four ravens circled overhead, cawing lazily and searching for their next meal. Across the stream there was a towering tree, mirrored by two others on our side of the creek, with delicate pea-green leaves that grasped at the pale sky.
Suddenly, our work was done. The tent was constructed, the food was safe, the hike was over.
We waded into the stream. I let the coolness of the water rise up to my ankles, my calves, my knees. I bent over and stuck my whole head in the water, running my fingers through the tangles of my unwashed hair.
“What time is it?” I asked.
Glancing at her watch, my friend responded, “It’s four o’clock.”
“And no one’s here,” I mused.
Then I took off my sports bra and my underwear and sat down amid the rocks and the water. She did the same. After a moment, I laughed and the canyons echoed my booming delight back to me. My friend joined in. We splashed around and felt invincible, as though we were now, and always had been, a necessary part of this landscape. The idea that we had always been here, naked and running around in a knee-deep stream while ravens cawed overhead and trees reached toward the sky, seemed obvious, essential, ineffable. The idea that we would always be here was clear.
We laid back down in the stream, our heads resting on rocks and dirt. I opened my eyes to see the pale blue sky, the blazing canyon walls, the small circles of green leaves reaching above. I was struck by its simple magnificence, the unimposing grandeur, the vast humility of the nature that surrounded me, created over millions of years of erosion and evolution and cultivation to become this simple setting:
A cavernous canyon with one shallow stream, three tall trees, four circling ravens and two naked girls lying alone in the blistering desert sun.