Kneeling beside the water, I listen to the trickling trill of Mill Creek as it weaves its way to falls below. I cup the water in my hands and let it gently spill back into itself, watching as it continues on in search of other, bigger waters.
It is here that I begin to quiet my mind to the parking-lotted, Walmart-infested, junk-yarded world that this water will cross before reaching those bigger waters. I quiet my mind to the cartoon-like Jeeps struggling their way up Potato Salad Hill.
As I amble about, I crush sage between my hands and rub it up the outsides of my forearms. Leaning down, I take a closer look at a small patch of cryptobiotic soil. I pick up a warm stone and focus on the transfer of its heat into the palm of my hand.
Here, just above the falls of Left Hand, I begin to feel the vastness of the canyon. I begin to imagine what it may have been like 10, 20, 50 or even 2,000 years ago.
My attention turns to the panorama of vertical Navajo sandstone mass, and my sense of scale is further clarified. I investigate the different movements and line breaks within the enormous walls. Amidst a portion of desert varnish, I notice a cluster of petroglyphs that I have missed on previous visits to this stretch of the canyon.
As I study these ancient drawings, I feel an overwhelming sense of sacredness and truth. It’s a secret handshake, a whisper. For a moment, I feel chosen, the unbelievably lucky winner of enlightenment.
Stepping away from the canyon wall, I tilt my head back, letting the desert sun warm my face. Upon navigating my way back to the trail, my moment of spiritual clarity and purpose is shattered.
(Cue Ennio Morricone spaghetti western score here.)
A lone, dirty, stretched-out crew sock.
I had counted five on my walk up Mill Creek Canyon to the falls. This one brings the total to six. Six socks, each in varying degrees of dried-out, petrified crustiness. One, quite possibly the longest, Navy blue tube sock I have ever seen. With many of the days last week reaching 100 degrees or more, I can understand not wanting your foot inside a sock like that. Go ahead… find a nice rock in the shade to sit down on and take your socks off. Give your toes some air, man, by all means. Dangle ‘em in the creek and cool those bad boys off.
But then go on and take them with you.
I guess I had just assumed everyone knew that socks are reusable, but maybe Fruit of the Loom needs to print that on the packaging. In the meantime, I will spare you the effort and save you some money: You can wash your socks and wear them again!
What’s most mystifying is that it appears as though in each of these six cases, the culprit has taken one sock home, while leaving the other up here in the canyon for the rest of us to step over as though it is another prickly pear cactus or pile of coyote scat.
This is why Left Hand has become the green room of a rock and roll club. Complete with graffiti on the walls, beer cans, broken glass, water bottles, slingshot underwear, Skittles wrappers, gym socks, suntan lotion, cigarette butts and two dozen half-naked groupies, it’s like sitting backstage at a Poison concert.
I’ll be the first to admit that my instinct is to talk trash (pun intended, yoink) and shake my finger at the Missouri license plate parked at the end of Powerhouse Lane or the group of teenagers that flip-flop it up to the falls everyday to jump off the cliffs.
However, maybe the best way to bring about change is to lead by example.
Edward Abby wrote, “The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.”
So, let me be a defender. Let this be my battle cry. While pointing my finger probably won’t make a difference, bringing a trash bag along will. And, while I’m at it, I think I’ll grab that T-shirt and pair of whitey-tighties up Right Hand, just below the Cowboy Jacuzzi.
Kyle Harvey is a songwriter, artist, poet and dreamer. He is married with two children. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.