Animal Literary Magazine

The Entrance Is an Exit is a nonfiction essay I wrote which was published in the Animal Literary Magazine in February 2019.

The Exit is an Entrance

by Rebecca Young

I trudged across the tanned hide of desert. Two hours ago I’d exited a technical slot canyon in a little-visited corner of Arches National Park. Thirty minutes ago, I’d drunk the last of my water. Now, I was maybe a mile from where I’d parked my car in a patch of bare sand surrounded by desert scrub plants. The earth was rusted over here, fractured rock like spider-work of sheet metal shimmers. The sun was so hot; its heat throbbed in my skin. the cracked land, parched mouth, grain-of-sand-suns, infinitude of nothing. Yucca spears, geometric Prickly Pear, tease of cool-mint Sage Brush, bleeding red Claret-Cup Cactus blooms. The desert was beautiful, but I barely noticed; I couldn’t drink it.

The canyon from which I’d just exited had been cool and shaded, a squeeze through darkened corridors of stone. Every canyon was one-of-a-kind, each uniquely sculpted by water and wind. They were secret places that the deserts held, spirited underground. Now back above ground, heat bent my back, the sand shifted under my boots making walking difficult, and I thought back on the cool stone of canyon. This desert plain was common, indistinguishable from the miles of desert plain I’d driven through to get here.

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