Oklahoma is a state of extremes – Semi-arid high plains, mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and mangrove swamps. Keeping to the western half of the state, so far, has exposed me to rich red soils with green and gold wheat fields as far as the eye can see.
This trip we headed north to the area where Oklahoma gets its reputation for big skies and flat expanses filled with wandering black cattle. Passing through Roman Nose State Park and seeing true Ontario style abandoned farms, we pushed all the way to Fairview and Gloss Mountain State Park for some of the most impressive views in Oklahoma.
There is a delicate rise in the flatness of the High Plains on the road to the Gloss Mountain Mesas, which seem to grow up from the earth like islands in an ancient sea. Cloaked in green grass and purple wildflowers, the red sandstone and shale is crowned in sparkling selenite gypsum crystals. The effect in the sunlight is quite startling – hence the name, which was originally “Glass” not Gloss due to a transcription error.
Our visit was not planned. We started out on an aimless Sunday drive to escape the early heat of the approaching Oklahoma summer. Sandals and a lack of sunscreen should have been a deterrent to the steel stairs and rough gravel up the steep side of the mesa.
The real possibility of rattlesnakes forced us to take extra care. Boots and long pants are recommended for such a hike, but the high winds and temperatures were in our favour.
Conversation on the top of the mesa was obliterated by the fierce winds leaving us to signal each other instead of speak. My husband’s sharp eyes caught Oklahoma’s state reptile, the Collared Lizard. This multi-coloured and spotted reptile is nicknamed ‘T-Rex’ because it runs upright, waving its tail like a cat when it hunts.
In the 21st century, Gloss Mountain is a stop on the map for tourists, but while on the top, there is this heightened feeling of anxiety and excitement, as if by standing atop the sparkling mesa you were preparing for war or seeking something else.
From here, you could see an approaching army for miles. It feels close to the sky. I can imagine the mesa as the Magus’s tabletop, I can see the medicine man’s dance with lightening and the loneliness of vision. The Spirits do not whisper here, they shout and no thought is your own. There is a quick underlying vibration that is easy to miss while steadying in the wind.
The wind blowing into the side of the mesa made the climb down feel weightless and the desire to join the crows in their thermal acrobatics was strong. I was left at the end of this trip with a feeling I am not sure I can explain. There is a sacredness. Inside the void anything is possible. Once you leave there is a sense of guilt that you have seen something you should not have, but cannot find the words to tell the secret. So perhaps, it is still safely guarded up on the shattered glass tabletop.