I drive into Monument Valley from the north. I’ve tracked the misty rain all day down 191 through southeast Utah. Near the Valley of the Gods, the sun breaks free of its chains and laps just the face of a red, sandstone cliff in silvering varnish. Farther off, the mummified monoliths which imbue the valley with its relict nature reach out from the storm. The sun shines full as the sky pummels the world into ambiguous slurry.
Then it becomes blue like night. I pull over, the monuments cocooning in swaths of swirling steam. Thunder cracks are muted, but it drums its fingers on the land as it stalks closer, hidden in the shrouds. There is a dancing incandescence, here, there, in the upper regions, and the crackling and yawning follows, like giants crumbling the mountains behind the ghost clouds. The monoliths struggle not to merge into thunder, as snowy white strato-form pours over the shoulders of the chimney plugs like stoles. Soon, the monuments are slathered in storm, overwhelmed by a periodic embrace. I pull over and watch the storm play out, a lone fly as my companion, seeking shelter in the heavy atmosphere of my terrarium truck cab. Winds rock my axels.
I begin to wonder whether my truck’s safe from a flash flood. The ground I’m on is a little low so I pull out and drive, but rains flay deep into every skin. I can’t see the front of my hood. Lightning jabs its tongue into the middle of the road.
Arroyos assume their alter egos as they swell with white water. The horizon disappears. A dead tee shirt lies on the highway, run over by an insane pickup. This floor of an ancient sea reverts to its ancestral form in the desert monsoon.
After about 90 minutes, the rains relent. Water coalesces in tide pools cast metallic by the contrast of the red world around them. A cloud remnant swirls around the prayer transmitter, Agathla Peak, farther south along the highway. I’ll be in Kayenta soon. There, I’ll grab a room and sleep a few hours. The planetoid beauty, the disorienting madness of Monument Valley set fire by lightning, will pass with sleep, and in the morning the world’s old skin will grow back again.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just