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The singer John Denver made a career out of singing about the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, most notably remembered for his song, Rocky Mountain High. It’s a terrific play on words, encapsulating the almost heady feeling one gets when we are out in the wilderness, far from the crowds and noise and bustle.
There is, indeed, something about the heights, being at the top of things, surveying the world from above. When we are atop, looking down, details below look smaller, more distant, less formidable than when we are in the valley, surrounded by the mountains and cliffs and looking up at them as obstacles to be climbed.
High on Zion, the artwork, transports the viewer to a high meadow in Zion National Park, Utah, USA. We are on the West Rim Trail, looking down and into the main area of the park, where – though we can’t see it – throngs of tourists are filling the buses that shuttle them from one end of the park to another.
Where we are, however, there are no throngs or tourists or buses. There is no crowding or jostling. There are no people with their faces pasted to their phones (unless we are foolish enough to be doing so ourselves).
What there is, however, is silence. The towering peaks that surround the tourists, embracing them and teasing them to scale, are at our feet because we have made long, steady climb to get here – an area that many tourists forgo in exchange for the more popular trails.
Outside of being in an airplane, it is the closest we get to feeling how a bird feels, soaring overhead and looking down.
Shortly, we will have to leave, because one cannot stay at the heights forever. But even as we re-enter the lower regions of the park, as we run into the buses and the shuttles and the throngs and the tourists, we carry with us the sense of solitude and peace, the tranquility of the high places, that heady feeling of freedom and joy.
A companion piece to High on Zion is Where Angels Land, also on this site.
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February 13th, 2019
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