Once again, we arrive at the mouth of Horseshoe Canyon. We were here two months ago at the beginning of our journey through the Colorado Plateau. But instead of hiking, this time we paddled. Eight days ago we entered the Canyon’s walls in our kayaks, to learn more within the Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta, and Wingate rock layers. Now, they seem to welcome us back like old friends. Their desert varnish, towering alcoves, and aquiclude holes are now familiar to me. I haven’t been somewhere familiar in two months!

Though I can’t say I know this area well, it is refreshing to recognize the landscape. But it has changed. In a short two months, Horseshoe has woken up. The flowers have opened after a long hibernation, and my love for the canyon opens with them. Animal tracks decorate wet sand. Before, where I was scared to enter the canyon walls, a wave of calm now rushes through me. The plants, once brown, are now a rushing river of vivid green willows, grasses, and cottonwoods. The stream we trampled through on our first visit is now a bed of sand popping with grasses and wildflowers. Everything invites me into a warm embrace.

At the beginning, Mar asked if her love for the canyons was an affair, or true love. For me, my relationship with the canyons was never going to be an affair of love. For the canyons, my love is everlasting. I can feel that love watching Desert Trumpet emerge from the dry, frail old growth of last year into this season’s sturdy tube standing strong, the small yellow flowers swaying, in the wind’s gentle melody. I have learned that Cottonwood’s presence signifies shade and freshwater. Their leaves reach high above the other plants like a raised hand in a classroom ready to answer my question: how soon till camp? As we sit in class and fall silent, I am entranced by the canyon wren’s descending melody.

As the sun dips below the canyon’s walls, Anika, Joe, Kari, and I sit patiently. Bundled in a tent fly and sweating in my raingear (my coat of arms against the mosquitos) we are waiting for our lesson from Evening Primrose to start. They are teaching us about their reciprocal relationship with the sphynx moth and how to endure the blood thirsty mosquitoes. There are not one, not two, but seven Primroses joining us. Each flower only blooms once and only at night: a phenomenon Anika and I have been waiting to watch since the beginning of the trip. In Horseshoe Canyon two months ago, Katie pointed them out to us and told us about how they bloom. I remember us turning to one another and making a goal to learn from them.

Now, as we sit waiting and watching, my eyes trained on Primroses, I think about that moment. How our goal has come full circle right before the end of the trip. And I ponder. What triggers Primrose to bloom? Can they sense the darkness of the night sky? Or is it the cooler temperatures the night brings? I think about how smart plants are. How they have a whole spectrum of senses humans do not understand. Maybe tonight as I observe the Primroses my questions will be answered. Or maybe I will be left still wondering. Suddenly, my thoughts are interrupted by the sweet smell of the flower. I breathe in deeply, filling my lungs with their aroma. The scent shows me why the sphynx moth pollinates them. Their smell is intoxicating to the moth and attracts them to the flower. Will one come flying out of the darkness as we sit watching? The Primrose continues to open. Quivering slightly, the flower musters up all their strength to unleash their other petals. One by one, the petals break free from the bud’s grasp. The Primrose is fully open, lying flat and showing off all their petals. As the first finishes, the next starts. Each flower blooms a bit differently. Everyone has different teaching methods, each showing us a different lesson. How did I get so lucky to have a classroom in the canyons and Primrose as a teacher? Later, with some questions answered, and some I am still pondering, I fall asleep happy. Happy that Anika and I have completed our goal and happy to learn from the plants here in the canyons. Our trip is coming to a close, as my love for the canyons is just beginning to bloom.

One Reply to “End of the trip: Beginning to bloom by Mora Kozleski”

  • What a beautifully written memorial to learning, appreciation, patience, and the magic of the primrose. You made the story so tangible it felt like I was there with you. Not only could I experience the opening of the primrose bud, but I could also hear the buzz of the mosquito wings and feel the presence of the canyon walls. Thank you for such an elegant description.

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