Eastern Idaho is hot. Not temperature, not this time of year. Not trendy, not this side of the pass. The ritzy places and the fancy people are in Jackson, over the Tetons from this place. The heat here comes not from the sun, too far south in January to do anything other than melt just enough snow to slick the roads and glaze the sidewalks. It comes not from the people, many of whom, local as they are, seem to have nothing more than the latest ski run to discuss. This heat comes from below. From frighteninly close to the underside of my feet. Almost as though if I took the slightest misstep, the soles of my shoes would melt to the soles of my feet, imprisoning my toes forever in the snow boots of the season.
It’s geologically hot. New and young, in comparison to much of the earth. Which is why the rocky peaks are so jagged. The angles so sharp. Not enough time since the great pinching of the earth that pushed them forth. Not enough time for the wind and the sun and the water to wear down the edges or soften these blades carving into the icy blue heavens. Not enough time for the birth and death of a million trees to make litter and dirt and the decay of new life and new forests. Not enough time for the river, falling away as it is from the Continental Divide, to wear any respectable canyon. Just barely enough time for it to carve a little mesa, a tiny table at which a giant could sit, cross legged, and drink his wine, watching the elk and the bison roam with the comfort and cockiness of knowing they’re protected. Protected by and from the humans, so much younger themselves than these rocks, who were almost the end of them, who almost, in their pattern of gluttony of recent ages, destroyed them all.
They probably know, as I do, that this place is hot. They feel the earth tremble and sway and rock so subtly beneath their grazing feet. The bison know, curled as they are in their repose around the steaming hot springs, that the deep, low rumble, finding the lowest register of their ears, is the movement of everything that looks so solid but is so fluid. Perhaps that octave is what wakes me nightly, at three o’clock. Pure silence and stillness greet me when I open sleep blurred eyes. But something in me knows. Knows of the approaching wave. And then I feel it, so subtle, yet so definitely real. Back and forth, across the tabletop, I glide. My face on the pillow, my bare arms under the sheets recognize the shift. At first, I thought it was my heartbeat, so perfectly timed as it was. But as my heart skipped a beat, the rocking went on and we moved in dissonance to each other, me and Mother Earth. Just a little. And it wasn’t unpleasant.
Sometimes the wave comes as a great dipping, like turbulence on a jetliner. The ground beneath my bed, beneath my barely awakened form, seems to fall chasmically away from me for the briefest moment in time. And I’m floating, more spiritually than physically, above these giant folded plains, until they rise to meet me, to catch me in my descent, again. At this intensity, not worth Richter’s mention, it’s not frightening. It’s merely seductive. This land rocks me and cradles me, teasing me away from the bliss of my sleep and the ignorance of my ego. She gives me just a taste of power so that I may remember my powerlessness. She gives me just a taste of force so that I lose some forcefulness. She gives me a bit of timelessness so that I may understand my finity. She gives me the smallest of shifts so that I may feel small. Around me, geyers boil forth and hot springs bubble and the rocks grow and grow, closer and closer to that wide open sky, just waiting for their shaping wind, their cracking ice, their scorching sun and carving rain. And Mother Earth rocks me slowly back to sleep, premonitory in its brevity
Robin Behl, La Cuentista