Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Night in Havasupai

Ever wonder what demons come out after dark? They posses the living, steal their rationality. Sometimes it happens to people in paradise as well. The fringes of daylight introduce a different way of looking, and seeing. It all began with an exploration of the night, in Havasupai. I was to meet a couple of friends, and they with a couple of their friends. And eventually a couple more of their friends. I had arrived well before dark. I enjoyed a few beers, and a sandwich. As dusk approached I began to examine Hualapai Hilltop at night.  I prepared a long exposure series featuring the flashlights of hikers emerging from the canyon depths.  The sky was dark, and the only ambient light that fell was from the stars.

Then they arrived. My two friends, and their two friends. I had not met them before, and in the dark illuminated by a simple headlamp, their faces bobbed in and out of unrecognizable clarity. They left no impression on me, and I had no grasp of what they actually looked like.  As it turned out the next morning, they did indeed look completely different.  That's how the demons work, they operate in that realm of uncertainty. The day had come and gone, and we had sunken deep into the canyon.  Darkness is darker in the canyon.  The light from the atmosphere, or moon or stars fail to reach the inner depths. What lies in shadow during the day, likes like pitch at night. Space, unrecognizable space. A flashlight will allow you to move around. It will lead you like an orb through a tunnel.  Another two of their friends arrived. I didn't know them either, a thin girl, and her husband Brian. An impish fellow, an extrovert speaking constantly in different accents. Mostly East Indian. "Very very goot. Very goot."  He was likened to say on many occasions. Shortly after dinner I noticed the moon had broken the darkness. At least on one side of the canyon. The other side still had large voids.  But the clouds. The clouds were glowing. It was unmistakable. A fight had begun between the light and the dark.  The moon had risen and flowed into the canyon, illuminating the clouds, which in return refracted the light into ambient light. It began filling the canyon.  It was time to get to the falls to capture the struggle.

The moon was playing with the clouds, and mist from the falls. The clouds slowly, persistently receding, the water incessantly pounding. This unworldly scene was unfolding, and emoting a peculiar energy. The power and struggle of nature against it's elements. With no regard for me or mankind. I tried illuminating the falls with a flashlight but the mist played games with the wind and light. An odd reaction occurred. The water droplets became lightning bugs. Darting and dodging afloat on the air currents generated by the energy of the falls. It was time to return to camp, my mood elevated. My sense of wonderment deeply affected. As I moved between light and shadow, I was reminded a headlamp was still necessary. Excessive contrast in the shadows hid unseen perils. I could easily turn an ankle. The closer I got to camp, the energy began to change. I heard music, techno music. An impish figure emerged, spinning glow sticks. Strangely out of place in nature, a rave. Fueled by alcohol, and visual candy. A hand began to reach out, grab me and pull me in.

Suddenly a glow stick hit the ground and rolled into a tent. This unleashed an angry creature. A man in the neighboring camp trying to sleep lurched out as if it were a lion from a cave. It attacked the imp. A struggle ensued. Demons fighting between the fringes of light and dark. Rolling on the sand arms were flying, voices raised. "Ken, stop it Ken..." "Brian, No Brian!" As if the needle scratching a record, the music stopped. Campers gathered around the demons in a ring. Dust and fury, legs and arms. It was unclear who had the advantage. Then the movement ended. Ken had lost, and was pinned face down in a Half Nelson. Adrenaline pumping, we all awaited the next move. The crowd began to banter, and for a moment it was unclear if a riot were to begin. Alas the two factions pulled the demons apart, and each returned to their respective shadows. Quietly grumbling until darkness and sleep arrested the camp. I had written before about this paradise of Havasupai. For all the beauty and nature, this little canyon, suffers from the evil spirits of mankind. They lead you down dangerous paths, of mine shafts and murder. Each time I visit I'm reminded how man has become at odds with nature. The balance has been upset. In this microcosm every step has profound repercussions. And I worry about our fate as we propel ourselves in orders of magnitude toward the future. We have become the demons, and I fear that future, and the darkness of that unknown.

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