Jan 19, 2010 | Arches, UT
Jan 19, 2010

Like most towns that neighbor National Parks, Moab, Utah, is filled with rock-climbing, beer-guzzling, burger and brownie sundae-eating, Patagonia-clad, hairy-legged and pretty-faced women who are built stronger than the average male New Yorker. These are women who use the word "sweet" in a high percentage of their sentences, usually accompanied by a slow and rhythmic nodding head motion, which inevitably extends the middle "ee" sound into a rambling whitewater journey all of its own. For these women and the men they match, first dates usually involve a hike. They are here for the red rocks that loom over Moab like castle walls, and the endless canyons that lie just beyond, lurking there like dungeons.

It is the off-season, so most of Moab is closed and empty and many of the people who remain are tour guides, who get paid to lead visitors into those same canyon dungeons, where you can lock away any part of yourself you want to banish, and leave it there to die of thirst.

But when you lead your secret personal prisoners into the canyons, it is very hard to leave them there, because they will do their best to follow you out. And even when you're sure you've tied them to a rock or thrown them from a ledge, they have a way of clawing back silently into your head and your heart, where they will lie dormant for a while, only to rise up again when you've returned to your normal life and think you're back in control.

You can never really know for sure if you have banished a part of yourself, no matter how much you hate it. You can go to the desert, meditate, eat organic, do yoga, get therapy, and you can say the thing is gone, but you never really know, because those kinds of things are very good at hiding, and the inner landscape is even more remote than the desert, with countless caves and crannies and many good places for bad things to hide.

They say that people never change. But then, they also say that people can change. I don't know. Life goes by so fast. If something is in you your whole life, but stays hidden and never emerges, then is it gone? It's like there is a very bad prisoner in you, so you give him a life sentence and you lock him away, but all those years he is still alive, plotting a jailbreak and waiting for the right moment, and if he gets out, you just don't know how he might behave.