In the Mancos Valley, I hiked some foothills which lap the northern scarp of Mesa Verde in southwest Colorado. The steep slopes of these foothills, called Summit Ridge, wore on their shoulders a loose, black garment of shale. A pinion-juniper woodland of shaggy-barked pines and waxy berries clung to the ridges.
As I mounted the long rise, a wind spun up the western base of the foothill and cooled my cheek in the gloaming of a hot, late August. I hiked to the edge of the southern promontory on the first in a series of hills that rode out to Mesa Verde. I took a seat on a bench formed by a juniper root. I looked southwest through the wide valley defined by the cliffs of Mesa Verde and the notch of Hermano Peak, the southernmost summit in the Sleeping Ute Range. The Mesa Verde escarpment and the southern pediment of Sleeping Ute formed the illusion of a saddle. Through that sweeping transom, the far off Carrizo Mountains floated on the Navajo lands of Arizona.
In the foreground, the broad and flat Montezuma Valley rolled out its P-J woodland like shag carpet at my feet. There, the town of Cortez spread out liberally, the great metroplex of Montezuma County. It nudged up against the base of Sleeping Ute, a warrior god lying prone with his arms crossed and his great jaw turned toward the west as he gathered storm clouds in the crossed arms of his bosom. His knees made the middling summits of the range, and the stubborn laccolithic rock of Hermano Peak made his big toe, which pointed toward the zenith of the sky. He would rise up one day and fight for his people.
Another God seemed right then to seduce me. Her hip the gentle curve of the Carrizo Mountains, deep southwest. It is ecstasy, no doubt, as I shade under the ample bough of a juniper and watch its berries hang still in an eternal wind. And one drops and kisses my chest like lips.
How beautiful God’s long, black legs wander as veins of shale between the trees. I am loved by this. And yet it does not know that it loves. The greatest gifts we give one another are the ones we don’t even know that we give. A hummingbird hovers overhead. Its lavender crest shimmers iridescent like eye shadow on a city woman.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just