THE YELLOW WORLD is the high desert of southwestern Wyoming
The Yellow World is a source of sediment, a high spot on the continent that will be leveled in good time.
In the depths of a snaky arroyo that debouches into the Green River, there stands a cut bank I call the cobble wall, after the ovoid bodies of quartzite packed into a deep layer at its base. The appearance of the polished stones within the vast monotony of mud and sand is like that of a Roman mosaic discovered in a far flung mud brick town. The smooth substantive cobbles, which began as rough bits of rock broken from distant mountain exposures, were reduced to ovoid volumes in the welter of distal floods. Relict cross-bedding of the original sandstone, and the distorted pebbles of former conglomerates, are magical metamorphic fabrics that yield details of their geologic heritage.
Time’s beauty can be held in my hand: midwifed by ice wedging and snowmelt, the cobbles provide pleasure in my garden.
Above the cobble layer, sagebrush that have been undermined when a portion of the mud wall caved onto the arroyo floor hang upside down anchored by a taproot the thickness of a hangman’s rope. This trick can extend a life span, but not forever.
It’s a forest service road in a forest without trees: the shallow shifting channel demanded by the low flow of the Blacks Fork is flanked by a wide alkali flat salted with bunch grass, as if an old-fashioned chenille bedspread grows there. The surrounding bluffs and ridges deepen to charcoal blue under passing clouds and those traveling shadows tease one into contemplation of a desert life: a period waits at the end of each sentence. Keep writing, then.
July sidelines the winter worrier, cold anxiety soothed by Nature’s reassurance that we deserve to live in the sagebrush fields of Paradise. The earth’s rotation is our refresh icon: the Yellow World is restored by the arrant light of daybreak, but High Noon finds the gray chaparral and yellow escarpments white hot; the countryside is overexposed and uninviting. The reward for our endurance is the transition into twilight, when nature’s products, and man’s efforts as well, benefit from the long wavelengths of the sun’s farewell.
Clouds shed answers somewhere tonight, but not on the Yellow World, not on the drought-destroyed vitality of flowers in my garden, but theirs is a simple fatigue and no match for the weariness of consciousness, for the question of what to do with oneself.
Chance, that ruthless overseer, has designated Wyoming as the land of my exile. Its wide spaces are a fence made of distance where the temptations of civilized life cannot cross its wastes to find me.
We climb a pale road to meet night descending on one of the earth’s most simple places: Puccini instructs the silent hills what it means to be caught between obligation and desire. The red girl, as red tonight as cousin fox, vaults the acid snakeweed and blushing winged dock, her tail a feather that falls among those delicate beauties. She is unaware that a dark wild horse is grazing in the faint pooling light, cut from the dark sky when the full moon shatters the plateau rim. The west wind comes on strong: we just make it back to the truck, the hot sky flowing like taffy. A summer avalanche of dust pushes us down canyon, down home.
Coarse red weeds tangle like dredlocks on a piece of ground disfigured by man, over which the truck rolls toward the river, toward willow and birch that move like kelp in a tidal flow, adding grace of movement to a static landscape.
The red dog barks sharply at a distant passing vehicle and the puppy echoes her mousetrap behavior, causing me to question the size and shape of my psychic territory, which under scrutiny proves to be huge and somewhat comical. I used to dodge intimacy because I believed that it came with a blade and a burden, but the yellow world has shown me that it is my character that is double-edged.
An inexplicable happiness spreads across the land, evidence of the correspondence between the land and the land inside me. My existence has to this date shown no practical application, but loving the land is sufficient when so many don’t. The source of this benevolent function is unknown, but perhaps the Art Director of Life, upon noticing a dull spot in the universe, lured me to the Yellow World.
A touchy starter delays our departure, but once warmed by the sun, the red truck shudders without complaint along our uncomfortable bladed roads, over two-track hard pan and sharp rolling rock, asking no more than to enter the wilderness with enough gas to get us home.
What a wonderfully mathematical landscape is our desert; the precision of its forms seduces one into the search for non-living intelligence. Hints lie about the gentle hills, concealed in the harsh places, floating atop the river of flashing fish. Desert secrets are filed within the digs of a surly badger and demonstrated in the strict sanity of the anthill.