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The Delicate and the Undelicate

Nature has thousands of cycles in motion at all times, weather patterns, hibernating bears, star alignments, caterpillars on their way to be a butterfly, even long, long cycles like the 17 years of dormancy for the cicadas. We humans, at least us female ones, are subject to a cycle too. I always rail against it, sometimes with frothy, rabid, vehemency, a color and suit that isn’t in my normal deck of life’s emotions. It sneaks up on me every month. I’m happily playing along with a couple of aces, a red king, a queen of spades and a ten in my hand, and then out of nowhere I’m dealt a purple square root of Chucky card. WHAT THE F***! Pardon my language, but there’s no sugar coating this. One day I’m fine, the next, frothy.

It’s like being dropped into a new country with all the wrong currency. Hello Republic of Relationship, I’m Lin. I have two pennies of patience and a hundred dollar bill of irritability – can you make change? To put the icing on the cake, and not the good kind, the sickeningly sweet and almost plastic tasting icing you get on drug store cakes, Allison and I now SHARE the timing of our cycles. My frothy day or three overlaps with her sensitive days and we end up throwing all the cards in the air and playing 52 pick up with fake smiles on our faces. We do not have the most complimentary of symptoms.

Back to the drug store. You know those really cheap, plastic poncho and a mask, costume sets they put out at Halloween? It’s the last-minute costume where the mask is that super bendy thin plastic, almost see through, it only covers the front of your face and is loosely kept on your head by a single, flimsy rubber band. That’s essentially what I put on that morning when I woke up, just the mask part of a cheap Princess Patience costume and the damn rubber band was already pulling on my hair before my first sip of coffee.

I remember exactly what set us off, but it’s far too embarrassingly trivial to detail here for perpetuity. Suffice to say there was a rhetorical question, painfully slow wi-fi, something about salad dressing and BOOM, my sweaty, fogged up Princess Patience mask slipped down onto my neck ripping out some hair with it. I charged the 3 feet out of the living room into the bathroom and offered up some alliterative swearing from there. It was our first spat of the trip, the only time our tiny claws had come out in 2 months, but it happened and then we were left with the inevitable silent tension. As we geared up to go back into Arches, the froth had disappeared. But now we were like a 3 hour old flat cappuccino, a cold mess that no one wants to keep drinking.

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We started into the park with a plan to visit the Windows section and the Garden of Eden along the way. We spied some cactus blossoms along the side of the road, something Ali had been looking for avidly the entire trip. By the time we reached the Windows parking area and got out to visit Double Arch, I had apologized and talked Ali into dumping out the cold cappuccino mess, but we were still holding the empty cup. It would take some negotiating to decide what new drink should fill it and when.

Double Arch was very crowded. It’s such a short walk from the parking lot, and it’s so accessible for climbing up into, that it’s irresistible to kids and adults alike. I joined the crowd up inside the arch because I love to climb. Ali took photos from below.

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The view from up inside Double Arch

The view from up inside Double Arch

Next we started out on a 2 mile loop around the arches they call the Windows. The wiggly, sandy trail took us out to the left and around the back side of the 2 big formations where we only ran into a few hikers here and there. In the back, we paused for a hug while we stared at the beautiful view, shed a few tears, and agreed that we really DID want to get back to happy. But the cup stayed empty for a little while longer. Then the trail curved back around to the front to hook up with the really wide main trail that the crowd was on.

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We’d wrapped up the hiking we’d wanted to do in that section of the park, it was noon and our plan was to have a nice lunch out at the Moab Brewery that afternoon, then eat a lighter dinner right before we took on the challenge of hiking up to Delicate Arch for sunset that night. The brewery had come highly recommended by our friend Alex, with a blackened talapia spinach salad called out specifically that had an amazing dressing. But even before the delicious food showed up at our table, we unanimously decided to fill our sad empty relationship cup with BEER. And soon all was well again. YAY!

Later that evening we both had to employ enormous amounts of will power to put our shoes back on and go back out for more strenuous hiking. We affixed band-aids over our blisters and doubled our socks inside our dusty shoes. We gathered a few lighting solutions, topped off our water vessels, applied a second round of sunscreen, threw a few snacks into a bag and took a deep breath. Those three steps to get out our RV front door felt more steep than ever in that moment.

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As we rolled into the parking lot at the Delicate Arch trail head, it quickly became clear that this would not be a quiet, solitary hiking experience. We’d be huffing and puffing right along with close to a hundred other people. Beautiful things must be shared. The trail did it’s best to calm and center us at it’s start, passing through a small meadow and lake that was alive with the sound of frogs and other melodic bugs. The sun was still enough above the horizon to warm our backs and we tucked away our moment of peace for safe keeping, as we angled our feet up the first steep slope.

It’s not a long trail, only a mile and a half to the top, but it persists in a way that forces your head and torso out over and in front of your feet for balance and proper propulsion. Try to straighten up and you risk tumbling backwards down the hillside. The broad orange rock face channeled us into it’s well-worn path. It occasionally offered up a chiseled out stair or two where the steepness of the slope simply defied the bending capability of the human ankle.

We stopped often. Often. The elevation and the exertion had our hearts and lungs thudding like crazy and we’d already nibbled away all of our peace that we had gotten from the pretty froggy sounds at the lake. It’s not a race, I kept saying to myself, and besides we NEEDED to stop to take in the full glory of the ever-expanding view that we were climbing into.

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Finally, after a skirting around one last narrow ledge, we entered at the top of a huge bowl in the rock, nature’s perfectly shaped amphitheater dedicated to the star of the show, the Delicate Arch. The sounds of a hundred excited people filled the air, all sharing their stories, wow-ing about the beauty, directing their loved ones to move left, or smile big for the camera. Ali and I found a high spot to sit where the rock provided a sort of bench seat. Thank God and Mother Nature because I don’t think I would have recovered well from a spell of sitting Indian style.

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There we settled in for a while to wait for the sun to let go of the day. We reveled in gratitude for being alive in that moment, we snacked on grapes, watched the people, snapped countless photos of our own and we spoke with sincere joy in our voices about how much easier the way back would be.

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We didn’t last long after the sun had left us. It was immediately colder, so we put on our extra layers for the way down and started the process of semi-discreetly taking off our sweaty damp shirts from the way up. A few twists, wiggles, a contortion to reach up a sleeve and then out they came. Yum, much warmer. Ali donned a head lamp and I found a way to attach our small spot light with gorilla arms to the chest strap of the camel back. It lit up a patch of the trail about 3 feet in front of us, and we set out in the dark. Oh how we love to go DOWN!

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After a cursory wet wipe bath and a 5-swipe tooth-brushing, we literally fell into bed that night since only a couple of muscles were still available at that point. Clothes were in a heaping pile at the foot of our bed, photos waited on cameras for viewing tomorrow, our relationship cup was full again and we slept the deep sleep of women who are completely right with their world.