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An abstract of light on the canyon wall of Buckskin Gulch, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah.
I captured this image on a multi-week soul searching trip that I took in January 2021. The stresses of the world, the pandemic, and the political unrest had really taken a toll on my heart and mind and where better to escape it all than in nature?
Except I needed more than just time in nature. I needed unfamiliarity. I needed something new and different. I needed places that I didn't know and places that didn't know me. Those familiar places offer comfort. I didn't need comfort, I needed rejuvenation. And above all I needed silence and solitude.
I headed to southern Utah with a few places in mind that I had always wanted to visit but never had. One of those places was Buckskin Gulch, a location that doesn't evoke thoughts of silence and solitude due to its popularity. However, during the weekday in the middle of winter the usage was very very light and I saw a total of six other people, all towards the entrance of the canyon.
At most times it felt like I had the canyon, and even the world, to myself. The draw of the towering canyon walls and intermittent sections of narrows compelled me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, wondering what was around the next bend. I was entranced by the form of the walls and the behavior of light. The flood debris suspended high overhead was a potent reminder that these walls were formed by the power of water. There's something about knowing that more than 50% of my body is made up of the thing that carved these walls, that carved the Grand Canyon, that inspires strength and persistence. That is one of the many reasons that I connect to water so deeply.
I feel lucky that I got to experience Buckskin Gulch in the way that I did. Before I knew it I was seven miles deep in the canyon and only doing the math of my pace and the amount of remaining daylight prompted me to turn around. But something happened in that canyon. I found exactly what I had been looking for but didn't feel deep down until then – silence and solitude.
I don't know what it is about those things that are so powerful to me. The feeling of having the world to myself and being able to just sit and listen to the silence is something that I don't get enough of and it honestly brought me to tears of gratitude that I was able to experience that moment in that place.
Photo © copyright by TJ Thorne.