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After Dark, Haruki Murakami

(Japan), 2004
Alfred A. Knopf, (US), May 8, 2007, Translated by Jay Rubin

I walked for miles along the meandering canyon trails and crystal blue Virgin River of Zion. I stood amidst the Weeping Rock and watched it cry. I followed roads that wound endlessly through mountains in the sky. And then just one day later, I stood far above the outstretched heavenly hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and gawked at spires of golden brown and red and orange and knew I was witnessing proof of infinite possibilities. I peered through a natural bridge and saw for more miles than my eyes and mind could compute. In Torrey, I walked land now shared by the ghosts of gunslingers like Butch Cassidy and his gang of outlaws, The Wild Bunch. The terrain is mostly vacant and lonely now, save for the rumor of bighorn sheep that graze somewhere beyond the highest cliffs, peering out as they may at strange tourists like me.

What a wonderful trip it was. And all of this before standing on top of the world at the Grand Canyon, gazing in awe at a world that can’t possibly be described. Why even try? It’s akin to all of our foolish attempts at trying to capture the perfect picture. They never come close.

And then, waking up in a cube, tucked far away in a different corner of the universe, back at work in that thing called real life.

A new dark blue Volvo proudly reflects the morning sun. A golf practice net set up on one lawn. Morning papers freshly delivered. People walking large dogs. The sounds of meal preparations from kitchen windows. People calling out to each other. Here, too, a brand-new day is beginning. It could be a day like all the others, or it could be a day remarkable enough in many ways to remain in the memory. In either case, for now, for most people, it is a blank sheet of paper.

The days that comprise a vacation exploring Utah and Arizona inherently hold more than just a remote possibility of encountering a healthy taste of the remarkable. Each day is a memory in waiting. Nevertheless, the inevitability of treasure should not trick one into complacency. Such experiences can never be taken for granted. We are asleep far too long and may never wake up. Or we may wake up and live in eternal darkness, trying to navigate through the heart’s accumulating debris.

The ground we stand on looks solid enough, but if something happens it can drop right out from under you. And once that happens, you’ve had it: things’ll never be the same. All you can do is go on living alone down there in the darkness.

Memories are fuel that can keep us going in our darkest hours. But like anything (or anyone), memories can be taken from us. We move forward. Each passing day holds the possibility of something new, whether it be utterly spectacular, horrific, or even painfully mundane. Each day holds the possibility of changing us forever. We wake up to keep pace with the never-ending treadmill. At some point, perhaps we’ll be able to look back at today and remember it fondly.