Even when we expect change, there is always a period of adjustment. That new arrangement of furniture in the living room, for example: it looks nice enough, but I’ve dropped my book four times now, moving to set it on the side table that now sits across the room.
Contact lenses now, but I still reflexively reach up to adjust phantom glasses. And despite Audrey’s move to another city, I still call with an invitation to coffee. Eventually, these changes will transform from minor inconveniences to my new normal. Yet now and again I am hindered in this transformation by a good memory and a powerful sense of nostalgia.
I’m not suggesting that I feel nostalgic for my previous furniture arrangement. I am thinking of something on a greater scale―the changes of an entire town, for example. I first came to Moab when I was nine years old. At that time, John and Sonya still served pancakes at Milt’s, there was not yet a Starbucks in town and the corner store on Main was still, well, a corner store.
Moab residents can now order a tall, extra-hot, whole-milk, double-shot latte and the corner store now sells gelato, not band-aids.
I have adjusted to these minor shifts, year after year, accepting, absorbing and at last, appreciating them. My most recent visit, however, was the first in some time having only just recently moved back from the East coast.
I had heard bits of information: that has been built, this is new.
Despite this warning, I nearly swerved off Slickrock Trail as I reached the top of Dragon’s Back and saw before me a line of cable, leading to a thick pole mounted in the rock.
What on Earth is that? I wondered.
I kept riding, and passed another. Then another. Then a long, narrow bridge spanning across two fins. Then I spotted a small cluster of people beneath a canopy.
A sun canopy? Out here?
I slowed to a stop and killed the engine. I watched as each person was fitted in, then gently nudged off to glide along the cable. A faint, high-pitched whir wavered through the quiet desert. Here, at this high point on a technical, out of reach trail I watched a small group zip from sandstone fin to fin. For the rest of the day I felt shaken.
The last I had heard, these zip-lines were only a proposal. Sometime it might be built―possibly. Now it sat atop Swiss Cheese Ridge and stretched across the Slickrock trail, complete and fully operational. I had not expected this change. I was struggling to adjust.
Later in the afternoon we all sat on the deck, wilting. It was too hot for the usual past-times so we sat instead, waiting for the cool of the evening. At last my brother broke the silence.
“Let’s go on the river,” he suggested. We looked at him skeptically―we came to the desert to bike or hike. We had only been on the river once, more than a decade ago.
“C’mon,” he urged. “I’ve got a buddy with a paddle board and kayak, and we’ve got the canoe.” Only somewhat enthusiastically we drove up the River Road, unloaded the gear and set off in the water. It would be a slow trip, one person mused, what with the water levels fairly low. We’ve never done this before, I thought. Why the sudden interest in desert water sports?