Going with the Flow

Twenty-one women just spent five days floating down the Colorado River through Westwater Canyon together. Artists, writers, sisters, river guides, friends, cohorts. We were the lucky ones.

I say that every year, when one of my River Writing Journeys for Women launches and I enter the world of water and rock - red canyon walls, brilliant blue skies, smooth green water, ancient black rocks, dark star-filled nights. If rains fall, upstream or in the desert where tributaries drain into the river, the water turns cocoa-red and silt as soft as cornstarch settles on the bottom.

The nights were cool, the days sunny and just hot enough to entice us to cool off in the river. We swam, floated actually, alongside our four rafts as our women guides, Brenda, Annie, Jamie and Brie (Sheri Griffith Expeditions), maneuvered us through the canyons - Horsethief, Ruby, Westwater. We took turns playing in the inflatable duckies - small yellow kayaks that follow the motherships, two women paddling, or snubbing up behind the big yellow rafts for a free ride.

We camped beneath grandfather cottonwoods. Saw great egrets, band-tail pigeons, whiptailed lizards, spotted sandpipers, great blue herons, bighorn sheep, mule deer, river otters, ringtailed cats, hawks and bald eagles. Warmwater catfish and chum and carp hugged the dark holes close to shore. We never really saw them, but they were there. Like the sisterhood of river women that grew during our five days together - an invisible bond, as strong as the desires that brought us together, as undeniable as the coolness of the clay we sculpted. Not something to be seen, only to be felt.

We sculpted with grey Colorado River clay, dug up by Roxanne and Rose. Two amazing women artists, mother and daughter, from the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico, who were my featured guests. They brought red clay from Minnesota with them, too. And drawing paper for contour drawings of the curvaceous black schist rocks, and the layers of Entrada sandstone and the spires of the Wingate sandstone.

We swam, floated, wrote, sculpted, drew, laughed, ate outrageously delicious meals, laughed some more. Circled under the stars and shared our stories. We honored the morning silence and allowed the landscape to speak to us...

Our feet stir the sand and wisps of ancient earth rise, spiraling into the air like miniature dustdevils. Roxanne brings pinch pots to the circle. We hold the sand in our hands, ooh and aah at its solidness, marvel when she polishes its belly with a stone as smooth as the bottom of a baby's foot. Our feet stir the sand and our hands hold the pot and the black rocks stand witness. Overhead, young eagles ride the wind. In the morning, not even the tracks of our feet remain.

"Sculpt your face in the sand each morning," suggested Roxanne. "See how it changes each day."

That is the purpose of a trip like this - to change. Back into a deeper understanding of who we are - creatures of nature, at home on the edge of the river, at home with each other, at home with ourselves. Yet, even as we experience this change, this reawakening of our senses, we are comforted by the ancientness of this place. Life endures. Life thrives. Life is joyful. Life is good. Life, at its best, is simple. Nature is our home.

More "River Writing and Sculpting" photos!


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