The Mantle of Ferocity
wesome is a highly overused word. Very few things in our lives qualify as Awe-Inspiring, full of Awe, grandiose on a scale rightfully called Awesome. Should you be lucky enough to know Utah, you will have experienced Awesome.
Hurtling west on 95, away from the small outpost of Blanding, grandeur rears into the field of vision at every turn: Comb Ridge, Butler Wash, Muley Point, Valley of the Gods, Cedar Mesa. This is the land of Bears Ears National Monument, Glen Canyon Recreation Area, the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, and a little further south in Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park. Cultural and natural treasures abound. Endless skies hover over plains of sage and coyote brush. Clouds boil up into ferocious banks of menace, sunlight breaking holes and casting spotlights on a deceptively empty stage. Colors swirl and shift; one moment a sea of wavering golds and mottled greens climb over the bloody red rocks toward a sapphire sky. Eyes blink and the scene has turned alien; moody, smudgy greys and browns flow over the road snaking into the unknowable distance of a dark and purpling fog.
Silence. Solitude. Wind. Escape.
The forces of nature are nakedly visible here, making human objects frankly laughable in their aspirations- myself included. Like the spine of some hulking volcanic beast, Comb Ridge juts up from its surroundings to a height of 700 feet, running north/ south for 80 miles, mellow canyons and washes hidden in its shadows, only the cottonwoods betraying their locations.
My friend Carson and I are joining Mother Nature here. McCarson Leigh Tafoya is an artist, photographer, Tango dancer, musician, and spirit of joy for all who know her. Carson is a rare and unique individual; her generosity and empathy create beautiful work, and her heart wraps around all who come into her life. She is also fearlessly adventurous, fortunately for me. Together, we are going to capture the idea of women’s strength amidst this landscape that is an overpowering visual of brute force at work. It strikes me, as we talk and drive, why I chose this place, this land. In feeling so small and powerless in the face of our national debacle, I wanted to put on the mantle of ferocity. I wanted intimidating power at my back, anchoring my feet. Because what armor do we as women have in which to fight these battles? Magnificent outfits? Imposing masks of beauty and seriousness? Can I make my voice and intentions forceful as Elizabeth I did- presence magnified by dazzling ornament and spectacle of dress?
I wanted to put on the mantle of ferocity. I wanted intimidating power at my back, anchoring my feet.
I experienced this analogy to the fullest, a 40 mph wind ripping at my gown and head, shredding my nerves as I tried to stand tall and resolute—a tiny force calling to an angry world. Then I gave up. Took off all my armor and majestic props, and sat in a curving womb of stone. The wind died down. The last glowing embers of sun slipped below the horizon. The warmth of the rock slowly seeped into my skin. And I learned.
I learned that strength lies within, waiting for us to be still and find it. Maybe we do need props and costumes sometimes to face the world. Maybe we need a landscape of awesome majesty to give us perspective. Maybe we need someone else to amplify our voice and be more powerful together. Maybe ferocity and frailty do coexist, and maybe that is all the force we need.
The magnificent lands of our national monuments and parks in southwest Utah reflect this duality. While they have endured for millennia, these fragile ecosystems and archeological treasures continue to be threatened by shortsighted attempts at extraction, overuse and questionable financial gain. Learn the facts and let your voice be heard: