Jay Meehan: Smoke signals | ParkRecord.com

Jay Meehan: Smoke signals

Core Samples

By Jay Meehan
Park Record columnist

"Each passing hour brings the solar system 43,000 miles closer to Globular Cluster M-13 in Hercules and still there remain misfits who insist there is no such thing as progress."
~ Ransom K. Fern

One thing is for sure. Trump is not going to use Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's soon to be acted upon review of National Monuments as a way of implementing back-door support for cleaning up air pollution on the Colorado Plateau.

No, things are going to get much worse before they get better. Coal-fired power plant emissions will thicken the air even more so as male Caucasian onslaughts upon public lands continue.

An over-the-top sweeping generalization you say? I agree. I've really got to get a handle on my obvious racial and gender biases. I've attempted this before, of course, but I keep bumping into my antecedents' history of slavery and genocide coupled with their general lack of atonement. If only I could rationalize as easily as they.

I realize in the geological long-term it is my species and not the planet that is most at risk.

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Not that I'm throwing in the towel on debates over climate change or what many of us consider sacred lands. It's just that I have this overriding need at the moment to re-imprint memories of times spent with eyes, ears, nose, and feet on the ground of this quite special uplifted-and-eroded western panorama.

No doubt anger will keep me from accomplishing this feat with any sort of moderation but I'll give it a shot. It may help that the memories are beautiful and cleansing and that, when pressed, the cerebral cortex has shown very little pushback at laying out the welcome mat.

I realize in the geological long-term it is my species and not the planet that is most at risk. I'm reminded of the Old Testament verse "You reap what you sow." I love the way biblical quotes can bolster one's points-of-view.

The earth will recover and continue upon its journey through space-time completely unaware of the comings and goings of both recent life-forms to which it has played host and the verses they have left behind. That said, somehow personal solace remains at arm's length.

I'm unsure what, if anything, jostled my satisfied yet continually plotting mindset into consciousness the particular morning in question. Whatever, it didn't take long at all to recall arriving at the campsite the evening previous after stashing our trusty craft up at Wahweap. We were now in Navajo country on the Big Rez.

Adopting a similar trail to one taken by Cactus Ed Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang, we had roughly followed the tracks of the Lake Powell & Black Mesa railroad from the Navajo Power Station at Page to Black Mesa prior to ascending to our historic campsite and catch a bit of shuteye.

It bore all the trappings of a scouting mission behind enemy lines, that much was a given. After all, we were ensconced at Navajo National Monument, the very same sanctuary where the Gang holed up following their mischievous encounter with that hated electric coal train.

This was the late '80s and back then we tree-huggers didn't feel as threatened as we do under the present administration. There was fear, of course, but, for whatever reason, we felt that the most chilling of the environmental horrors were behind us. Naïvité can do that.

Following a Ranger orientation on the Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Betatakin and Keet Seel, we hauled out Leaporn's "Indian Country" map and began to plan the following day's assault.

The carnage of the coal extraction operation on Black Mesa is hard to miss. And digest. But, finding a way to whistle past that graveyard, we headed toward a rendezvous with film folk at Tuba City. Famed documentarian Errol Morris was directing Tony Hillerman's "Dark Wind" with friends of ours as accomplices before, during, and after the fact.

By now we flaunted the swagger of "Rez Rats." We were in our element. Even the roaming packs of dogs could sense it.

The low hanging fog of our war to come provided accent but it was far from the Navajo way of “hozho naasha." They walked in beauty to a different drummer.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.