Letter from Utah: Part 4 of 12Posted: February 24, 2008
>This post is part 4 in a series of 12. You can download the entire essay by clicking here, or you can read the serial installments as they appear.
On Tuesday we drive south. Kip spends most of the week sitting next to me with the atlas in his lap. I do all the driving, which is my preference, and he doesn’t drive at all—or hasn’t in about a decade. We pass through Monicello, Blanding, Bluff and Mexican Hat, moving on toward Monument Valley, which lies within the borders of the Navajo nation along the eastern part of Utah’s border with Arizona. There, we stop at a grocery store, buy some lunch and other rations, stand along the side of the road and take a few pictures—none of them will capture it, I know. I rush us on through to the next town, disappointing my boyfriend, I fear.
This trip, these hours with nothing but Bjork and the Scala Choir and Dolly Parton on the stereo, the flat open highway, it all has me obsessed with surfaces, with the line—visible or invisible, actual or imagined—that separates one thing from another, one matter from the next. Miles of deep black ocean is separated from the endless blue sky by only the smallest molecular skin. Where the light falls onto the facade of the stone, what do the molecules do there? At the atomic level, do they become each other—the way our memories of two distinct moments can fuse to become a single experience. Can you mark the alchemical moment? Are surfaces beginnings or ends?
Perhaps they are their own breed entirely.
If I peel away this layer of rock, exposing it to the air, and the light falls on that fresh piece of stone, which, arguably, hasn’t seen light in millions of years, does that change anything? I imagine our car as seen from above—shifting back exponentially, like changing lenses on a microscope, back, and back further still, until we are a speck traveling the edge of the planet, along the thin, unverifiable instant when earth becomes air.
Here we are again at surfaces.