A Visit to Fremont Indian State Park
“I just want to go home.” Kiki said as we drove away from my sister’s house. Link concurred. I sympathized, but Fremont Indian state Park was right on the road back to our house. It seemed a shame not to stop and see the carvings made by humans hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Court of Ceremonies Trail 1/2 mile the little sign said. We’d already wandered through the exhibit room, climbed on the pit house play structure, and listened to recordings. We decided to wander along the paved path to look at rock carvings up close. It was a good choice, the marks which looked like scrawls and graffiti from a distance resolved into a more deliberate art when we got up close. Curated exhibits are useful and informative, but outside in the sun and air we could think our own thoughts and draw our own conclusions about the things we saw–one of which was this little sign. The name Court of Ceremonies was intriguing enough to draw us off of the paved walkway and up a dirt path. We trekked in search of a place that was special or sacred. As we trekked, we saw that every flat surface reachable by human hands was marked.
I wondered what those long ago people thought as they scraped pictures into the rocks. Were the artists people who sneaked off to draw because of an inner need? Were they ridiculed by their community or revered? Were the markings sacred with ceremonial importance or were they like graffiti–an impermanent human being trying to leave something in the world to say “I was here”? If I’d made us all sit for the 15 minute video, I probably would have had answers to those questions. Instead we only had speculations as we walked.
The trail split and the little sign said nothing about Court of Ceremonies, just informing us that one way was back toward the museum along a Hidden Secrets trail. We’d already climbed out of the canyon. I pictured the court of ceremonies as a place circled by walls with drawings etched into them. The path we were on did not seem likely to take us to such a place. So we turned our feet back toward the museum. We all were still aware of the two hour drive necessary to take us home. None of us wanted to exhaust ourselves with a long hike. Link in particular was glad to be headed back. He ran ahead on the trail until we could see him in the distance waving his arms and jumping. He’d found something. As I drew closer, the kids appeared to be running in circles. They were following the trails of a spiral.
There was no sign to explain this spiral or its purpose. It was far too exposed to the elements to have existed since the Native American peoples lived there. Possibly it had been restored and maintained by people who came later, such as the museum staff. We all walked the spiral. I photographed the kids in the center. Then they spiraled back out and we continued on our way, having decided to call the place Court of Ceremonies.
Sometimes having interesting questions can be as satisfying as answers.
A trick of cloud cover and daylight made the clump of yellow trees in the valley below us radiant in comparison with the surrounding landscape.
Most of the natural plants more or less ignored the fall weather, but these trees declared it. I only saw them near the man-made highway. In other areas entire hillsides were orange and yellow. It was lovely, even in pouring rain.
The kids were quiet on the drive home. They had thoughts to think and video games to play. I looked at the spare and open countryside as I drove us home. Utah is very different than the forest I visited in Tennessee. I loved the forest, but I love Utah too. There is beauty in desert landscapes where all the plants and animals have to make the most of limited resources rather than fighting over abundance. I remember the little canyon wren we saw on our hike. It jumped along the cliff face and then vanished into crevices of rock. It was perfectly at home in a place that is difficult to turn into a living space.
Back at my house, I’m realizing how much more I could do to make it a lovely place, even when my resources feel limited. The Fremont Indians scraped beauty into rock and dug their homes out of the ground. Surely I can manage to sweep more often in my centrally-heated house. I can take time to decorate and mend. I’ve already turned my house into a place that is good to come home to. I can work to make it even better.
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