So, please remember
When I leave in December
I told you so in May
So I sang to my manager last week, sick of optimizing sales calls to hospitals and physicians. I had forgotten all about the hoodoos of the week before, those God-like structures shaped by the wind and the water who for a moment brought a diehard atheist like me, down to my knees. But early this morning, I was brought back to the real world by the Poet who sent me his collection of poems from his visit to Bryce Canyon sometime ago. He writes about the hoodoos and about us mortals who make our annual pilgrimages to these temples of nature:
Gods eroded to the size of men
Huddling together in the broken places of the world;
Trapped by the wind’s gambit.
Where does it come from,
This urge to walk between the towering stones
And feel small?
Deep in the heart of Bryce Canyon
There is an area called Wall Street
Where the sun has its boardrooms
And the business of the wind is done in whispers
Away from the listening ears of the clouds.
What does it mean
This fifty year old name
Applied to rocks that have lasted the millennia?
Only that this too is a place of gain and loss
Of fortunes discovered in the pure gold of the sun
Pouring down from the high places.
(The eagle rising like a stock index
Sensing the mood of the sky)
Only that you have to be very brave
Or very rich
Or very foolish
To venture here.
I am not the Poet, and I cannot write verses about the hoodoos to save my life but I can and I will go back to my little travelogue and offer up some snippets, some pictures and hopefully, a few laughs.
En route to Bryce Canyon from Zion. Frontbenchers enjoying the view. Conversation at the back somehow went from Murakami to Rushdie to Mr. Sen.
BM: Is there anything that man doesn't know?
Me: I know, he is so well rounded. (Turning to Bill) Your parents should have sent you to Shantiniketan and then you would also have turned out like him. Instead some vague Jesuit school you go to and look how you ended up.
Bill: Since I have never lived in Calcutta, I don't think my parents ever thought about that. And anyway, if it means anything, the late Mrs. Gandhi went to Shantiniketan.
Anoop: If I may interrupt, I think Bill is well on his way to being well rounded, Shantiniketan or not. Don't you think so?
Me: Thanks for reminding me that I am married to a pot bellied Bong monster.
Anoop: If I remember correctly, the choice was between a pot bellied Mallu monster and a pot bellied Bong monster. Wasn't much of a choice if you ask me.
R: Look, look doodoos doodoos. We are at Bryce.
Anoop: No, we are still 20 miles from Bryce. And the word's hoodoos. But yes, these are hoodoos.
We make a brief stop at the Bryce Canyon visitor center to figure out which hike we should take. There we discover what hoodoos really are. They are a geological term for things that the geologists do not know what to call. Who would have thought? We decide to take the Navajo Loop/Queens Garden trail and set out to Sunset Point from where the trail begins. Soon, we are climbing down the canyon, switchbacks et al, hoodoos at eye-level now.
Me: I get it.
Anoop: What do you get?
Me: These Mormons and all these religious people.
Anoop: Really? You get them? That's an achievement.
Me: Yeah, I mean if I were like this pioneer who were to stumble across this place, I could be forgiven for inventing the next big religion. Just look at this place.
Anoop: I see your point but seriously, if you were this pioneer person, spirituality is not what would cross your mind.
Me: Hmm..what would I think of then? I know!
BM: We are waiting.
Me: They are red dammit, they are red. They have no clue but they sure are Red.
Bill: Hoodoos of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your tourists!
Wall Street appears before us in full glory. The tree dating back 700 years. How did it ever get there, you wonder.
Past the Queen's court and up to the rim now to Sunrise Point where the lazy tourists with their binoculars are. Anoop suggests a fifteen minute silence, an idea aimed solely to shut me up so that others could peacefully enjoy the scenary. I shut up for about ten but can't take it any more. I point to some random hoodoos and claim that they were the inspiration for Mt Rushmore. Everyone glares at me and I am made to shut up. A good half hour later, we are back at the parking lot figuring out lunch. We decide to go to the Bryce Canyon Lodge where we are staying to see if we can get some food. At the Lodge, after an awesome lunch, we check into our cute, little cabins which we discover are about an eighth of a mile from the canyon rim.
This is as close to the canyon as one can get to stay, so Anoop starts planning out sunrise photoraphy, something which the rest of us are pretty skeptical about. Waking up at 6.15 AM is not a big deal for me, but getting out of bed at 6.15 AM sure is. We are more interested in checking out the night sky, we tell Anoop, that is supposed to be really pretty.
We spend the rest of the day driving to different vista points in the Canyon. Bryce Point from where you can see the Bryce Amphitheater is spectacular, but the rest of them are pretty much the same. We get back to the Lodge where the men claim they have some variety entertainment planned. Soon they are parading on an imaginary ramp wearing mundus that Anoop carefully brought all the way from Austin. Needless to say, Bill has no clue how to carry a mundu so it keeps coming off and almost every other minute, Anoop has to rush to the other end of the ramp to protect Bill's modesty. It definitely was entertainment for the rest of us.
Dinner happens soon after and as we step out of the restaurant, we are greeted with a sky that none of us had ever seen before. The density of stars up there is unbelievable, someone suggests that some kind of GM(Genetic Modification) must have been done. But the moon is nowhere to be seen. And so as we set out to the canyon rim for a moonlight walk among the hoodoos, our guiding light is a cellphone. None of us had a flashlight. BM leads the way with her cellphone blazing in front of her, a human chain behind her. We reach the rim but the moon still doesn't oblige. Dark shapes rising up from the canyon in the front of us lit by the stars up above.
Anoop: Akka! (Note: Akka is what Anoop calls me when he wants to be humble and sarcastic at the same time)
Anoop: I know you are awake. So why don't you stop acting and get out of bed?
Me: What time is it?
Anoop: 6.45 AM
Me: Oh shoot. Bill, wake up.
Anoop: Austin time. Same as Chicago time.
Me: Okay. Bill, wake up na?
Anoop: The pleasures of married life. You could pester your partner to wake up first.
Me: Shut up, will ya? Bill, wake up.
Anoop: He won't wake up. Are you coming to see sunrise or not?
Me: I wil see sunrise but I am not hiking down the rim.
Me: Hey, when do we have to leave for Vegas?
Anoop: 10 AM
Anoop: See ya in an hour. Or two. If I don't come in two, just wait.
We all saw sunrise. Down from Sunrise Point. But the man who hiked down to Thor's Hammer got the pictures. Here.