November 2011— In Greek mythology as well astronomy, it is common knowledge that Orion the hunter, madly in love with an unrequiting Merope, chases her and her six sisters of Pleiades across the sky. Together with his dogs, Canus Major and Canus Minor, Orion also hunts other creatures of the night sky such as Taurus and Lepus. Pleiades will rise first, with Orion following, fervently chasing the ladies all night and never quite reaching them.
In the northern hemisphere, Orion is often considered a “winter” constellation; it is most visible at this time, dominating the night sky.
My first view of the uninterrupted night time desert sky came in the fall of 2000 when I first came to southern Utah. That winter was spent under the stars, with a uncompromised view, save perhaps a juniper tree. Soon enough Orion was up and over our heads. His yearly south north migrations (or is it ours?) reached its apex as I chased students around the desert, busted fires and lost myself in the service of others. Orion, Taurus, and Pleiades all became synonymous with the Utah desert. I still find the summer night sky a bit foreign. There is much daylight and the dark hours are most often spent asleep.
In October of 2000 I drove into Wayne County, UT for the first time, not intending to stay long. I had other aspirations, bigger fish to fry than working with adjudicated youth. I was wrong. What I though would be six months turned into seven years. Now I have returned to be nurtured once again. As I lie under the stars at Lost Spring, Pleiades once again rises over the Canyonlands and starts to make its journey across the sky.
More than anywhere else, the Utah desert helped me heal. After years of transient living, it urged me to stay. The sadness and grief that came from loosing my dad was finally laid to rest by time, the serenity and beauty of the desert and the Henry Mountains. The healing involved learning to love and feel attachment again even if for a generally inanimate object or place. It was a stepping stone, a safe love, one that can’t be denied or rejected. It was part of the journey toward the loving and inevitable hurting that human interactions can so often cause. I came and went with the seasons, a migrant. I rooted myself and called the high desert of sage, sandstone and windswept juniper home. I would always come back for another season, knowing that my love for the place was merely part of the journey towards the feelings Orion had for Merope (albeit unrequited.) Orion would begin his winter dominance and I would return, rekindling old friendships and feeling out new ones.
So it seems fitting, that I come back as the fall winds blow, the days are short and Orion raises his club at the the nighttime sky. These days it is work that pulls me away from the Utah desert, a job I love elsewhere. I am wrapping up my project here and even though Orion is beginning to crest the horizon at nine I will be leaving soon, though with Orion, I forever have a reminder of this place in the sky.