THE DESERT GODDESS
I was first introduced to Katie Lee in the documentary Damnation just two months ago. I know I am late to the party here, but since that initial viewing I have rewatched no less than 6 times and cry harder each time. While the program provided insight into the dam issue across the country, including some heartbreaking information about my home state of Oregon, I found myself completely enthralled with Katie Lee and her love affair with Glen Canyon.
When Katie discovered the magic of Glen Canyon she was inspired to both write and sing about it. So much so that she would actually sing TO the canyon itself when running expeditions on the river. Her haunting ballad "Love Song to Glen Canyon" gets under my skin the way the chill of the Colorado River sinks bone deep. She said that the wild river was a metaphor for life, explaining that the vicious swirling water of rapids brings on elation and excitement while the calm, sluggish movement in the water brings on peace and ease. Of the infinite insightful things Katie said in her lifetime I relate most personally to the following; "I dont think I had been anything like the person I am until that river just picked me up and took me along”
Katie never submitted to the idea that a woman had to fit into a pretty pink box with bows. She spoke with ferocity and ran the rivers alongside the most grizzled of outdoorsmen. The natural world was where Katie was her natural self. Katie felt a visceral connection to the untamed west. She required no trendy makeup or fashionable attire, just a beat up guitar and the promise of adventure.
Katie exemplified courage and strength. She has taught me that you don't always have to remain poised and polite when you fight for something and lose. It's okay to lose your shit, to curse, to shake your head in disgust. What's more, however, is that in all of the cussing and the words of outrage you must remain focused and you must. keep. fighting. She was an advocate for the removal of the Glen Canyon Dam (a title she practically hisses when she speaks it aloud) for over 60 years. Even as she watched the "Eden" of Glen Canyon drown under the "monstrosity" that is Lake Powell she never gave up on her mission to reverse this environmentally detrimental feat of engineering and human ignorance.
Katie showed me that one person can't do everything, but that everyone can do something. Everyone should do something. Work with passion and intent, and while you may not live to see the change you set out to make you will inspire the ones that do.
Rest easy, Katie. We'll take it from here.
The Glen Canyon Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of Glen Canyon and a free flowing Colorado River. I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about this steadfast institution. The link below will take you directly to their words about Katie Lee, a proclaimed Glen Canyon Legend.