and the canyon never ends

by tobias crabtree

(in honor of Sean Leary)

i saw the sun rise in the desert this morning. when i woke, my mind was already at work. i knew this feeling that was in bed with me, that heart, heavy like a stone. i grabbed my small pack and started walking. i do this kind of thing when i am seeking solace; i go find some distance and walk into it.  the news found me yesterday, bad news always seems so prompt. no matter how far out i am, no matter the rock i’m hiding under, the sad words will come for  me. they always do.

so i walked up the canyon with my little pack and my thumping heart and my head full of thoughts. up through the stones and trees and the wrinkles of the land. maybe old bill keys was right when he reckoned that the whole world was a crystal and all the canyons facets of a crystal, the stones all crystals, the dust, and even the tiny, shining eyes of the mayfly were crystals as it floated down the liquid crystal rivers.  the thought occurred to me that i’ve been walking up canyons and scampering down ramparts most of my life. the canyons are old friends, even the ones i don’t know yet have a familiarity that makes me feel like i belong to something wonderful. they blend together, all these canyons, they are a part of my life that is inextricable.

the rock faces and ridge lines have been relatively unchanged throughout my life and the ones before me. they are quiet witnesses to our attempts at greatness, our failures and victories. and some of the proud humans say things like, “i did patagonia” or “i crushed that one.” the modern day has brought about the naming of mountains after the first person to reach it’s summit. it’s strange to me to place our name on something that came before us and will be here when we’re gone.  the ancient ones had it figured out a little better. they named mountains things like “the mother of the earth” or “the path to the heavens.” the longer you spend time out in the wilder country, the smaller you feel. you become a part of the mix. and to brag about what you’ve done is to steal from the experience. what was something too big for words becomes some feeble tale of accomplishment that gets lost in all the others.  there are those who live their life and do not tell. they life in the savage midst without so much as a peep. they keep the experience pure. they are like the moon, reflecting something greater than themselves. they walk around carrying the light.

and so i get to the point. gone is Sean Leary. gone is his physical form that was fueled from secret sources. i didn’t know him as well as many, but i knew him enough for us to share that smirk and nod that i love so much. this is to honor him and his shining eyes that held the secrets of the wilder places where raging rivers cut monster gorges. this is to nod to him as an acknowledgment of his being a damn good animal. this is an attempt to use petty words to explain that i will miss his physical presence in this world. and for those of us that knew him, we will sing his praises and say the things he didn’t say himself. what made Sean shine was his life as it mixed with the rocks and the rivers and mountains…and us, his people.

it is common to say rest in peace when someone’s life flickers out. that doesn’t work for me. i want to picture Sean sailing into the teeth of some magnificent storm, i want him crossing ridge lines and leaping gaps with a curling smile and squinty eyes. i want him snatching up thor’s hammer and calling down lightning from the sky. i want his soul reflecting off of mountains named the mother of the earth and flying down canyons that never end.

Sean is gone, we gotta carry his fire.