Canyonlands Journal
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Noon. Now and then a slivery half-moon peeks through the bank of dark clouds scuttering across the sky. I stand at the edge of the 800-foot-deep Bullet Canyon, contemplating various descents on the steep, boulder-strewn slopes. My goal is a view of the Moon Kiva that can only be seen from a vantage point about half way down to the canyon bottom. It's a cerimonial structure built by the Ancient Puebloans who vacated the area 1000 years ago during a prolongued dought. I've been told that there's a rock art panel showing the phases of the moon above the structure and I want to see it. Don't ask me why.

The Navajo name for the moon is White Shell Lady, a goddess who controls rainfall. In this arid land, and especially in times of drought, shamen directed their prayers to evoke her help. Prayers failing, they would pierce their tongues to evoke her pity, causing her to weep, thus moisturizing the thirsty lands.

But for a small corner of my mind, I like to think I'm not superstitious. I've never carried a rabbit's foot, for example, even though we all know that a rabbit's foot is said to bring good luck. True believers tend to ignore the fact that the rabbit had a measure of bad luck in losing it.

As I'm musing about whether to start down or try another day, I tentatively ask the White Shell Lady to hold back her tears. If it rains the ascent will be treacherous as the slickrock—wind smoothed sandstone—gets wet and slippery. And then, on impulse, I head down.

At the level just below the kiva, I reach a narrow peninsula jutting out into the canyon with falloffs on either side of 500 feet. I'm looking up at the moon panel when the Lady decides that she feels great pity, unfortunately not for me, but for those lamenting the present dought conditions. There's a gust of wind, crashes of thunder, lightening, and a rain of hailstones. In a few minutes, just the amount of time I have to scramble into an alcove, the slickrock is an inch deep in slippery slush and I can't go up or down.

While the shelter is dry, little else is. The sparse soils don't hold water, and the entire downpour rushes off into channels, drops off the rims, cascading into waterfalls. In a matter of moments, the wash below that I had intended for my return trip is flash flooding – a raging torrent carrying debris. It’s as if I’m on the prow of a ship moving through an ocean storm. But in an hour or so, the flood waters will recede and I'll be able to continue to the canyon bottom.

Yes, some believe that clothes worn inside out brings good luck and even turning in a clockwise circle seven times can help, but I can't get myself to do it on these steep slopes. I do know that in order to have good luck, happiness and a long married life, you must kiss your love under the mistletoe. In case you avoid this, bad luck will follow you forever. And remembering back to that fight at a Christmas gathering several months back, I find myself wishing I had tried for a mistletoe kiss.

before the descent
turning my shirt
inside out

Moon Kiva, Bullet Canyon, Cedar Mesa

The Moon Kiva is just below the pictograph panel,
but mostly invisible from this vantage point.