This cow is a friend from southern Arizona, weeks ago, long gone. She’s still there – I’m the one who up and left. We pulled anchor from a new favorite place in the world, south of Sonoita, AZ, land of old oaks and juniper, campfire dinners and sunrises so pretty they seem like private art openings, intimate and secretive, stunning colors, easy to miss. We have traveled to the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks, and a short list of national monuments, state parks, and Navajo lands. It’s quite the playlist, these destinations of geology and history, connected by these byways of spectacular beauty and space. The southwest is big country to put it mildly, oceanic in its vastness and power. It seems like I saw this bovine lady a million miles and a million years ago, and to paint her feels like visiting the past.
The bigger the country, the wider the water, the longer the wind has traveled to brush the hair from my face, the smaller I feel. Native ruins along cliff walls, petroglyphs and pictographs, wild river bottoms that have sustained life for more years than my mind can truly grasp (46 years seem hard to comprehend sometimes) all erode my towering self-importance like water and sand create canyons and towers in stone. I am a speck, a fragile, wind-blown piece in this place, in this humanity, in this constantly transforming, exposed and revealing, heart-stoppingly beautiful landscape. I have little power, even less time, and so much to learn.
This shift in perspective, this shrinking of self to a grain of sandstone, is mind-warping and a little bit life-changing. I promise there’s not a single topic from folding socks to waging war that you could argue while you’re breathing in the Grand Canyon. Try to feel smug, self-righteous, or defensive. You can’t. You simply feel too awed and too tiny to speak, and you’re doing all you can not to cry or try flying or kiss the Asian gentleman next to you on the mouth because you just don’t know what else to do with all the aching beauty.
Then shift back again, from speck to universe. Here I am with my petty concerns, my hangnail and my blown out hiking boot. The oven fire that singed my hair last week. The cow knee-deep in her scrubby surroundings with big pink lips and watery eyes, at peace now that I’m not ruining her private sunrises anymore. Zoom out, bigger than Zion, and see the blue and green of land and water, the globe of life all held together by physics and forces. Keep zooming. No socks, no wars now, just a view of Earth from outer space, barely there, half lit. Big country is good for the soul. It reminds me I’m no better than this girl and no more entitled. We share a favorite place and a life we’re lucky to have, short, small, and simple.