As I sit writing this the waning gibbous just less than full rises gold in the East, fighting through a haze of clouds. We are expecting storms but rain in the desert would be only a beautiful privilege to breathe, smell, and be a part of. For now, we let a warm wind wrap us in red sand. We welcome it like a puppy excited to see that we have arrived: a little much but very loving. The nightlife sings along to the beats of the breeze. We have entered into Labyrinth Canyon today by way of the Green River, and the inhabitants of this alcove where we make camp have thrown us a surprise party. Desert Varnish banners the Navajo Sandstone with patterns that read “Welcome Home!” Even for those of us who see this landscape with fresh eyes, the canyons still hold us in their arms like old lovers. I hear the cottonwoods laugh as the wind tickles their branches, their leaves sound like rain as if they are laughing because they have tricked us. No rain, in fact. Tonight, I see stars. I look up to notice that I am looking out. It is easy to forget this when you see the stars every night, until their depth sends you into vertigo.

After spending these past few days exploring the diversity of life that this seemingly barren place has to offer, I cannot help but let my thoughts swirl and overwhelm my imagination with all the possible flora and fauna that might exist across the galaxies that lay in front of me. I realize the life buzzing around me now in my sleeping bag inspires just as many questions and feels just as alien. I listen for a moment to the roar of crickets, the woo of birds and bats, the sway of the vegetation, the screams of the Woodhouse toads, the snores of my comrades all in harmony. I smile. For a place with so little water, it is so overflowing with life. I decide to save the pondering of life on other planets for another day, there is too much to ponder here. Where does this toad beside me find water in the drought? How does he not shrivel up in the hot desert sun? How often is he hungry? Does he have friends, a wife, a family? Why does he scream so loud when I am trying to sleep? I am getting sleepy. I will ask these questions tomorrow to my new friends who feel like old.

Tomorrow the sun will rise in the East where our moon is now and it will make its marriage with the sky. While we will be here on this river to receive its energy, to watch, to listen, and to learn as we are immersed in this perfect landscape and the eternal hope that it provides to those who pay attention.

One Reply to “Ponderings on the Sweet Screams of the Woodhouse Toads by Phia Swart”

  • Thanks for the vivid description. This takes me away from the repetitive day and laze on the couch to a beautiful world full of life and adventure

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