Utah (part 4), Zion National Park


July 7, 2019

I woke up in Kanab, a very very small town in Utah, where I will eventually go back, or so I hope, because there is a place you can only access through a lottery due to its fragility. It is called the Wave, on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Colorado Plateau. This and the one in Australia (although I am sure there are way more all over the world) are the two I want to see. Hopefully one day, soon.

There’s no Starbucks near me, so I need to get round by stopping at a gas station and get a Cliff bar. That’ll do. And it did. Although by the time I got to Zion I was starving. But that’s another story. On my way to Zion National Park, I saw again a sign that captured my attention last night while scanning the road for animals: a deer, a buck, a something from that family. Two on the side of the road, and one actually crossed right in front on me, so I slowed down as fast as I could and let him pass. Sweet little thing. If only everyone else could do it. Anyway, the sign said “Coral Pink Sand Dunes“. Sand dunes? I’m game. I set my gps and I begin my journey to the Coral Pink Dunes. I wonder if they’re really coral pink. Then I remember that today would be my grandma’s birthday, and I once gifted her a pink coral stone before an open heart surgery she had to undergo many years ago after a stroke. I got that stone because the “pedrera”, the woman at the rocks shop, said it was the stone “linked” to the heart, a healing stone. If you believe or not in the therapeutic power of stones I do not really care, because what meant to both me and my grandma, at that time, was the symbol it brought with it. She kept it in her bra right before and after surgery and she was fine. She recovered and lived for years before she passed away in 2015. Time flies.

I do not believe in coincidences anymore. Although it may be just it, this gives me even more willpower to go see them, and they’re beautiful. I did it for grandma. The color is more orangey than pink, but still different than the dunes I’ve been to, so far. In Peru and in Colorado they were golden. In New Mexico they were bright white. Here they are coral pink, and they are as perfect as the others. I love dunes. There’s something magical in the sand. I get there at 7AM on a Sunday morning. There is no one around, what more could I ask for? I hike up reaching the rim and I look around. Once again I can hear nothing, and this deafening silence is something I’ve been cherishing for since my first time in the Mojave desert in 2011. It just can’t be explained. I sit and I sink my hands and my feet in the sand, which is cold where the sun can’t reach, and it’s getting warm little by little with the sun rising up in the sky. It’s been a while since I properly meditated. I do transcendental meditation. I took the class in 2017, my first time in LA, and the story is too long to tell, but even back then, it wasn’t by chance. It was simply meant to be. I do my twenty-minute ritual, I repeat my mantra and the sun kisses my skin without being too hard. If I had to describe the perfection of a moment, it would probably sound like this. No, it definitely would. Yes. I open my eyes and I stand up, sinking deep and falling back on the sand. I laugh, feeling stupid, but at the same time I know no one saw me so… that’s ok. I hike back down, right on time before some guys come with their quad bikes and the buggy. Amateurs. The point of being on the dunes is to hike them!

Zion is another spectacle that this Earth and nature gifted us, and it is actually better organized than both Yellowstone and Yosemite, because cars are not allowed on the trail that takes you through the various spots. People have to park in a lot before the trail begins, and you can only ride a shuttle back and forth, making it so much less chaotic and more pleasant than waiting in line in your car for hours. I always wanted to visit Zion. My preference for the Jewish culture may have something to do with it (Zion is a biblical word, in the first five books of the Old Testament –the Torah, in Hebrew, meaning a place of peace and refuge or sanctuary), but being one of the best national parks in the world, it has been on my bucket list for a very long time. The atmosphere is peaceful and the rock formations are typical, beautiful, perfect. I decide to go for a hike at the stop of the Weeping Rock area. The trail I want to hike is closed because of rocks falling, but to me “no” is the new yes, so I ignore the man made block and I start walking up the mountain. Breathless and a little worried some rocks could actually fall over my head, I keep going until I sadly find out why the trail was closed. A massive rock slide was totally blocking the passage and I could not go further. I wanted to reach a point called “hidden canyon” and I just guess it will stay hidden for a while longer, because no one will see it until that slide is fixed. It was still worth the fatigue though, because I could see that part of Zion from way above (although not as high as Angels’ Landing which is the highest point of the canyon), but also because I had to accept the fact that my fear of heights is getting stronger and stronger with time. It bothers me, but I have to accept it, I think it comes with aging. Oh, and it was worth it because that look in the eyes of those few people seeing me coming from the path where the sign said “Stop here. Trail closed. No trespassing” was priceless: a perfect blend of dissent and wonder, dislike and puzzle.

On my way out I stopped in Saint George, another town that offers some amazing views, where I spend the night and I plan on getting my oil change (again!) because the “maintenance required” light turned on last Friday night. I could have stopped somewhere else, or have reached Vegas which is so close, by George is the name of my uncle, the one who has always protected me and helped me, even when I was about to enter the world with my mom almost giving birth to me, in his car, on their way to the hospital. I take this as a way to say that in this town I’ll be safe tonight. Plus the hospital parking lots have always given me shelter these past few weeks, so I feel comfortable there. I find a city viewing point and I go watch the sunset before getting ready to spend the night in town. There is no one around for a few minutes, until a couple of teens comes up the stairs and sees me. I can hear their voices in the distance, although they whisper seeing me there, standing still leaning on the fence, facing the horizon: what is she doing? – I don’t know. What is she doing -alone-? – I don’t know, she’s just standing there. Then I can hear the clicks of the cans they opened, I turn for a second, they’re hugging, they’re kissing. I take a couple of photos of the sunset, and I just think of giving them space. Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. Enjoy it.

Four Corners, Utah (part 3)


June 6, 2019

Once again I needed a day to process. And to recover. Mentally. I was expecting the Monument Valley to be breathtakingly beautiful instead what stole my heart once again, was the landscape all around me. And Bryce. But that was almost obvious. Don’t get me wrong, seeing those rock formations is still something amazing, but …there’s a but. Arizona, just like New Mexico, is too underestimated. I don’t like this. I took my time driving back and forth through almost four States today to see as many things as possible because they were all mainly a stone thrown one from the other. Not by chance the area is called Four Corners, because it’s right within the borders of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.

Driving and visiting more than one place, together with the emotional atmosphere of Bryce Canyon at sunset, brought up so many memories, so many thoughts, so many reflections. I also had to MarieKondo a few things from my past. After realizing that all the people from the past I got in contact with during this trip, were even too busy to meet, out of town (but then, is it true?), completely ignoring my messages or simply apologizing for not making it, I decided that this was not “sparking any sort of joy” in me, therefore, I need to throw it away (that’s the Marie Kondo technique basically). The only contacts I had throughout my journey were either with people I randomly met, or suggested by mutual friends so we could spend a couple of hours together, or my “Cambridge” friend. So…I guess, enough with the past, bring it on future! What actually made me think about it, was a message from another friend from the past that, to my question: “why don’t you come visit me now that you’re all settled and rich? Lol” he answered “eh, I lost interest in America with time”. Ok, that America word? Imagine while I do the “quote” gesture with my index and middle fingers, folding them down. I wish I could meme this but anyway… the point is, I lost interest in “America” (in quotes) could simply stand for “our friendship” or “you” in general. After all, we haven’t seen for exactly 10 years now, but I must be the only one who does not get affected by time on an emotional level. I could still see you after months, years, centuries, and I would still act as if I saw you yesterday. Eh. Using my typical expression: whatever. I actually asked many friends to come see me, to visit me, because there’s always that excitement of showing them where I live, what I do, even if it’s a crappy studio and I have no career (yet). Nobody ever came. Now that the studio’s gone as well, I guess I’ll stop asking.

From the early morning spent at the Monument Valley, to lunch time at Lake Powell and the Horseshoe Bend, up to chasing the sunset at Bryce, I never stopped for a single second. The emotional state I was in lingered through the evening and the whole Bryce ride was a whole rollercoaster of “fast fast you’ll miss the pink moment”, to “slow slow, stop over here and enjoy the moment”. I took some photos to show you all, but all I wanted to do was to just stare at those vivid colors, with those unexplainable views (I mean, they can be explained it but I can’t explain the way you feel watching them!), while my “being alone feeling” is getting more and more the features of a blessing in moments like this where I can literally do whatever the heck I want because I only have myself to be accountable for. Precious. Just real bliss. I think the photos will speak better than me so here they are. Tomorrow is another day, and something else I have been waiting to visit for so long is Zion National Park, which is right around the corner. See you there.

Utah, part two


June 21, 2019

I reached Arches National Park in Moab, UT after having spent the morning posting updates and driving down South completely lost, or better, absorbed in my thoughts. I received another message from a friend yesterday, thanking me for posting pictures and showing parts of the world she lives in and that she had to add to her bucket list. It really warms my heart to read words from people that find some relief or some inspiration from what I do. I am not the best photographer, nor the best writer, I am simply reporting what I am doing, in case someone may need it, while I need it too to let it out, or it may clog my synapses.

What I am seeing is exquisite which, by given definition, means extremely beautiful and typically delicate. The red soil is already a big attraction to my eyes and my personal taste. All the colors in the darker shades of red, yellow, orange, green, brown have both an energizing and soothing effect on my emotional sphere and I can’t help but enjoy the moment, sometimes without even documenting it on social media if not after a while, and after I unfortunately forgot all the reasoning and mind-blowing thoughts I had while being present in that very moment.

Apart from showing pictures of what I see in front of me, I feel the urge to write also about what is or was going through my mind while experiencing these beauties of nature to honor the effect it has on me and represent. Who knows if this may be of help for someone out there trying to find some answers as well. I “almost” got lost while hiking down the Primitive Trail through the Devil’s Garden in the Arches National Park. I don’t really feel much ashamed about it, because the trail was not clear in its very last part and most of all, it included some rock climbing and steep areas. So what? Well, since that day back in August last year when, while hiking up the Angeles Forest, I panicked and had to go back because of a very narrow part of a trail on a cliff that made my eyes roll back and I saw black, I am now scared. I learned that to me it is so easy to walk up steep areas, but going down is hard. Mentally. I am deadly scared of falling, sliding, not having a grip or something to hold on to in case I feel unstable. My clumsiness is probably one of those sides of myself I hate the most in these moments. Being ungraceful and uncoordinated is not exactly the best description you would give of a person, and it most likely leads to mockery or simply fun jokes, referring to how awkward I may or may not look.

Long story short, after trying to climb all the way up because I saw people who actually reached the top of those reeaally high geological formations, I look around and I hesitate. I feel my legs shaking and I falter a little. I think “here it goes, my fear of death, of falling and dying alone” and I immediately go back to that day in Los Angeles, hiking back down with a sense of disappointment and frustration. This time though, I feel ok. I am confident enough to know I have my limits, I can’t keep doing things just because of my stubbornness: if I feel threatened by it, then I have to leave it. So I did. I turned around, went down using all my four “paws” to have a better grasp on rocks and bushes and got back to the trail. What’s funny is that I noticed that reaching that hard spot, I was also thinking of unwelcoming thoughts, those kinds of food you feed your mind either when you’re tired or when memories are interfering. I guess in my case it was both mixed up together to create an unhealthy potion that led to my feeling of uncertainty, being unstable on my own two legs not trusting my balance.

I still think of when, while in Seattle, I spoke to my friend Jordan and realized how I find myself similar to other people, both from a behavioral point of view and life experiences, family background and all, and the “tactics” we learned to use to cope with what we earned from these life events. I can’t help but sing in my head “when this began, I had nothing to say and I got lost in the nothingness inside of me, and I let it all out to find that I’m not the only person with these things in mind, but all the vacancy the words revealed is the only real thing that I got left to feel…” which is exactly what I’ve been clinging to since probably the second year of high school. When I talk about the importance of music in my life, how fundamental it was to get me through life, up to this moment, some people laugh. If only they knew. Anyway, this to say that once again I had to face the truth and accept that I am not special and that many before, with, and after me will be like me. Similar to a point that, for whatever reason, we find each other in the world. We are like magnets and we end up finding those who can see where we are coming from. How it happens, I wonder. I guess there must be an actual bigger picture we are not fully aware of, but I am sure I won’t let it build up inside of me like it did before. I am here searching for something, and one way or another I will find it.

Utah, part one


June 20, 2019

I forgot to say that driving back from Yellowstone I witnessed the murmuration of birds, but could not capture it for you to see. Just imagine a flock of birds twisting and turning in unison right before your eyes and the the purple-pink breathtaking sunset over the horizon. Lucky? I know. So grateful. To complete this praiseworthy experience, I had to pull over in the middle of nowhere before entering Utah, because yes it was black all over me (although not completely as the moon was so big, and shining so bright that it was almost lighting up the whole sky! I know, unbelievable, but it’s true), but had to stop and stare at the sky, as it was full of stars. I had to admire the beauty for a bit, and then I kept going.

In the morning I reached Salt Lake City, UT. Except for a quick tour downtown, an even quicker stop at Starbucks and at a gas station, I haven’t really seen the city, did not really feel like it. As soon as I got downtown I felt like searching for a place to hike, so I left. It is making me too uncomfortable to see homeless on the streets, and most of all those who are passed out, lying careless on the sidewalk with people ignoring them. It makes me feel sick, I wish I could help, but then I always remember that time in Liverpool I left food and a couple of Pounds to this guy right next to the hotel where the students I was escorting were staying. The following morning he overdosed right next to us. I felt responsible although I know what I left wasn’t enough for him to do something so extreme, but it touched me deep, and I started questioning if it is actually good for them, or rather for our conscience, to give alms instead of helping them in some other way. I wanted to do it while in LA, some PBJ sandwiches, a bottle of water and an apple in that typical brown paper lunch bag were always on my mind ready to be prepared. I just waited too long for someone to go with me and distribute everything. When I asked my “friends” there to go with me, I got mostly no’s and “yes, as soon as I’m free, too busy now”, which eventually lessened my faith in humanity, time passed, and I was too focused on surviving, so now I’m here. Hopefully I can make it up to it, soon.

Talking about “friends”, how often does it happen for two friends to end up in the same random city, hours away from where we both live, on a random day without planning it, finding it out on Instagram? It happened. I reached out, but apparently people are way too busy to meet at present, even for just a quick coffee anytime during the day. Everyone but me. If I want, I always find even 10 minutes to stop by and acknowledge the existence of people who shared part of their life, either long or short, with me. But that’s the point, if you -want- to do it, you do it, otherwise, you’re too busy. Except while in SLC! After 7 years I got the chance to meet again with one of my favorite married couples I used to work with while in Aviano, at the US Air Force base in Italy. They found the time to meet me, even for just an hour or so; we hugged, we chatted, we laughed, and then they wished me safe travels. Relatively quick but intense, just the way I like it. Thanks guys.

Before driving up North to see them, and then back down South to continue with my journey, I went hiking like I was supposed to. I found some nice trails in Big Cottonwood Canyon and started the day. I realized that driving makes you lazy. You sit there for hours and you get so accustomed to it that, although you need to stretch out, when it’s time to get off and walk you act like a little spoiled brat thinking “naaah, I don’t want to go I just want to rest”! No! Wrong. Bad girl. For instance, when you start walking, first you’re like “ugh, I’m tired” then “uhm, it starts feeling good stretching my legs”, followed by “oh, this is nice”, ending with “cool, I’d do this forever”. Because walking does not really tire me that much. My legs may be a little sore after many hours, but it feels good. I haven’t been on loooong walks since Sequoia. I hiked for I think five to six hours that day. Now I’m just going for strolls and my body is gaining weight for sitting in the car for too long. I need to fix this, because walking does me good, mostly after my surgeries –when I was crying for not being able to walk, and had to learn how to do it all over again, so I need to move. It gets addicting. I feel stupid thinking about this because then my mind takes me to my friend Andrea, who is walking like –for real! He walks with his inoperable cancer to the head of the pancreas defeating every expectations from doctors and experts. He started walking after his life saving treatments, when they sentenced him to the waiting game. I know. Hard to even just think about it. He does it for hours, though. Walking, I mean. Day after day, he walks all over Europe (for now). He wrote a book about this part of his journey on Earth, to be a loudspeaker to those in need, to those who, like him before, are not aware of what pancreatic cancer is, because it is still considered a subtle silent “motherfucking” evil carcinoma. Andrea to me (and many others of course) is a little hero and here is his page. Check him out. You must.

Therefore, after thinking about him, I felt stupid. As far as I’m concerned, I am not taking any tumor for a stroll to try and stay alive, so I should just walk and shut my mouth. I swear I do. I don’t usually talk while walking. It’s my mind that starts rambling. Andrea started walking because he did not want to die, he wanted to live and to make of the short time he has left on Earth worth living (or dying) for. I started walking because I did not want to live, and I had to figure out why. Everybody is different I guess, so please avoid any judgement. I already know all this is messed up. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here talking about it, don’t you think? Good. Moving forward. My mind took me to those philosophical questions: what is life really? What is death? Life is the opposite of death. Nope. Death lasts a moment. Life lasts for longer. Try again. Ok. What if life is like a Stargate? What if life itself is the actual portal between the cosmos, and we are all just travelers? Death –seen as the end of everything, does not really exist, and life becomes this temporary status we get while traveling between“worlds”. Someone passes through the Stargate for minutes, some for a few years, some for almost a hundred, but eventually, everyone leaves the Stargate and keeps traveling. We are only allowed a certain amount of time because on this planet we need a mortal body to travel, as if our body is our passport to enter the Stargate. So the body is the passport, not the Stargate, just to make it clear. When we’re not on Earth, or let’s say “alive on Earth” we are dead here, but we may be alive somewhere else because we’re just going through Stargates! We can’t be “non-infinite” in an infinite universe. Come on! “Matter is neither created nor destroyed” right buddy, Antoine? (Lavoisier) And neither is energy, says my other friend J.R. (Mayer), both endorsed by Albert (Einstein) eventually; so what am I even talking about here? It should be obvious! Can we please talk about it? Let’s chat. Drop a line.

On a less crazy level, one thing that actually stroke me these past two weeks is how I am falling in love with all the places I am visiting. I am seeing beauty all around me, despite a few flaws here and there, mostly created by humans, not by nature, and I am amazed at this feeling because when I get to the point of thinking “ah, I would stay here at least a little longer” I know that something got me and it scares me. It frustrates me really, because I have to leave, but I like the fact I am loving everything around me, and maybe this is what I need. I need to learn what love means, in order for me to start loving myself. That, I am sure, will make me heal, inside. I guess this Stargate was broken and the whole point of me getting here was to fix it. Explained why I am a fixer. I fix broken things. And all the broken people with their broken Stargates are attracted to me somehow. I am laughing so hard right now, at my own imagination, that if only I could be good enough to make a living out of it, I would probably hit the jackpot.

On a last, lighter note, much lighter note: am I the only one thinking that being a biped sucks? Yeah no, because, it may just be that I am simply clumsy and I always trip over my own two feet, but I would feel much more confident if I were a quadruped. In addition, when I dream of running away from something in my sleep, I always end up switching on all fours, grasping on the ground below me with my hands, gaining velocity, because while standing I couldn’t move and was stuck, now I can run away from whatever is chasing me (in my dream) and I also am doing it fast. Was I quadruped in my previous life? Jokes apart, is bipedalism a flaw in evolution, instead of this great hallmark adaptation? Ah, the joys of questioning everything and anything, along with the pleasure (or not) of never having the right answer, but a gazillion silly hypothesis. Let’s head out for the rest of Utah, shall we?