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HEAVEN AND HELL ON ANGELíS LANDING
(Zion National Park, Utah, Oct. 24, 2003)
by Henry Howard



High upon the Angelís Landing ridge,
I become a human spider above the Wall of No Return,
Crawling upwards,
Clawing upwards,
Inching ever so slowly upwards,
Reason reduced to madness, madness reduced to the instinct
Of taking one more step without a single misstep.

My legs kick out for the safety
Of sandstone blocks,
While my hands cling to steel chains
That weave a slender thread
Between life and death.

Gnarled pinion pine trees, gray with age,
Backs bent from the agony of holding back the gales,
Defiantly guard the dizzying void
And mark the boundary between Earth and sky.

Above me, more chains gleam mockingly,
Daring me to reach for another, and yet another,
And, when all strength is gone,
For yet one more.

Pushing my numbed feet to the summit in a daze,
I stare in awe
From the heights of another world
At tiny Earth below.

I am exhausted, I am drained.
Death has been my constant companion on this hike,
Sharing the chains with me,
Tickling the soles of my boots,
Yet I have never felt more alive!

I am exhilarated, filled with wordless joy,
And mostly I am humbled
To briefly tread upon the dwelling-place of angels
And gently touch the blue face of infinity.

 



Author's quote:

High upon the Angel's Landing trail, the air cools, the heart beats in
triple time with fear and exhilaration, and the mind walks a razor's
edge, as thin as the trail beneath one's feet. Death lurks with every
step, yet you feel more alive than any words can truly tell. On the
sloping summit ridge, you gaze in astonishment and awe from the heights
of a world beyond our own, looking down at the earth you have risked
everything to briefly leave behind. Then, all too soon, you retrace your
steps, such as they are, and return to this world newly in love with
life and the special people you share it with. Angel's Landing is a gift
from the Great Spirit and a glimpse of whatever one defines as Heaven.

 

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