Teri Orr: The music in the red rocks | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: The music in the red rocks

Teri Orr: The music in the red rocks

Teri Orr

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

For more than 30 years, Zion has been “my” Park. I discovered it when my daughter spent a year attending college in Southern Utah. I dropped her off at the dorms at the start of her sophomore year- (she had spent her first year in California at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts ), and I drove to spend the night in The Park. My friends had told me there was no reason to stay in Cedar City when one of the most beautiful places on the planet was an hour away. I am so glad I took their suggestion. It was the early ’90s.

In the ensuing years, it became a place of refuge and solace and adventure and familiarity. I would drive there during good times and sad ones. I do not come from people who camp. So, I would decamp to a small property in the shadow of the Park. I would read for hours with the rock cliffs overhead, and I would take hikes in the Park that were both gentle and spectacular. When my kids married and had children of their own, we took a family trip there. We rented a big house and floated down the icy water. We walked to the emerald pools and along the river. We saw soaring birds and vibrating red rock formations in the midday heat. That trip was filled with so much wonder and laughter.

This week, the last of those three grandchildren graduated high school.

I came to Zion with a friend who has been finding her way thru cancer for over a year now. She is a wonder of good spirit and adventure and thoughtful reflection. Along with her new husband and good friends and adult daughter, we explored trails just outside the Park where I had never been. We needed a permit – so you know it was serious. We walked mostly in water up a beautiful rugged creek on BLM land. I share that distinction because these are not National Park paved trails or those with carved steps and or steel handrails. We grabbed tree branches and navigated rocks in the water to step on and not rock or roll …our ankles. Adventure levels alter with age.

The evenings were spent on patios with food and drink and stories about how we arrived at this place, at this time, on this planet.

And the highlight came with a performance, long delayed- thank you COVID- by the Utah Symphony. The selection of the Des Canyons Aux Etoiles ( from the canyons to the stars), a slightly discordant atonal piece was perfect for how I feel about my Park.

I always encounter both a familiar and unknown Zion in all the decades I have visited. The seasons display different patterns depending upon how leafed out the spring trees are -or how many leaves have fallen in September’s transition. Rocks unexpectedly break free and crash into the creek bed. Mocking birds sing everyone’s songs. And the stars twinkle and winds make tinkling sounds in the trees.

Traveling with folks mostly my own age is different and calming and carries a kind of shorthand. We know enough to slow down and name the beauty we are seeing. We feel adventurous in our exploration of the trails -a bit like kids again. Eyes wide open at nature’s beauty and hearing whispers… these are the days we have waited for.

The land outside the Park has been developed at remarkable speed in just the past decade, but the actual town and area around the Park itself remain much the same. Kitschy and faux western with a smattering of art galleries and curio shops and metal sculpture whirligigs that turn in the wind.

It is safe here. All the guests arrive for pretty much the same purpose- not to gamble or shop or see great art inside grand cathedrals. Though in a way, the canyons become cathedrals and rock formations and sunsets are great divine art.

I am always the most at peace when I feel small and in awe. When I realize how many people have come before and all their great sacrifices to make these roads and bridges and trails. And when I realize we have no power, still, to change the colors of the leaves or the timing of the seasons.

I will be home by the time you read this- home in the park that became a city. Also beautiful and rugged and yet now so developed with so many overdeveloped personalities. Still, it is the place I love to return to when I cannot spend Sunday in My (national) Park …


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