The Syncline was wet, sanded smooth with surface wash, all the rocks bright.
Everywhere there were little tinajas, rain pools, like eyes looking upward. A plunge pool guarded by a Cooper’s hawk and a tiny, lively frog. The sunny vanilla scent of many ponderosas.
There’s a Zuni word, ołdi, for the smell of the desert right after rain.
From the western ridge of the syncline a pass looks out over Cabezón, shadowy and shadow-washed. Many ancient, rudimentary stone circles scatter their boulders on high points. Each may be the site of a vision quest; we can think of no other explanation. Below lie mineral springs. One is raised on its deposits, a breast whose nipple is a pool, perfectly round, green as an old penny.
As we walked back along the ridge, some small creature far down among the split rocks screamed at us: Squee! Squee! Squee! An ear-splitting insult that never stopped until we went away.
To the Syncline, where we watched a pair of ravens build their nest. Among the braided channels of the arroyo was a beautiful Archaic metate—a smoothly pecked, scooped-out bowl in the bedrock, say two thousand years old.
As we scrambled a rocky side canyon I came upon a desert-varnished boulder with the impression of three ferns, tidy as a museum exhibit. Probably Triassic: more than two million years. Later I went back to look for it. I found the ravens’ nest, but the ferns were lost among the trillion stones of the canyonside.
Late summer, hiking on the syncline: dozens of millipedes, the color of polished violins, in frantic, foot-waving travel. Next spring we’ll find their husks, curled in tight spirals and weathered white as chalk.
On the road out we were passed by an enormous RV. From a distance its size-to-speed ratio was exactly that of a millipede.
The Syncline: The sandstone ponds had had a flashflood through them. In the lower pools the willows were torn and full of wreckage, but the higher ones were beautiful. We went in naked on the sandy, gravely mud.
Polliwogs and froglets nibbled us. We slid down the algae-coated water chutes of the linked pools; the stream’s steady drip from pool to pool became overflow as our bodies displaced water.
So quiet! Wind in the cottonwoods, sun on the washed stone, warm breeze on bare skin. Absolute peace.