Outside is cool. I am sitting in the shadows but for my right foot which is resting in a broad patch of sunlight slowly creeping its way along the concrete to me. Its touch is a caress, that is it is soft and warm, slight, comforting. My back is to the building, and in front of me is an array of picnic tables where people are sitting—whole families, couples with dogs, single dudes drinking their coffees and eating their bagel sandwiches. The two dogs once squirming like antsy children are now sitting still as statues. Rather regal. They look like they could be carvings—sculptures in sandstone or granite at the ends of enormous ledges bounding long flights of stairs leading up to or away from some grand palace. The sky is a satiny blue with the airy fragrance of hazy white clouds. There is still some green in the trees mixed in with the reds, browns, yellows, oranges—not so pretty. But then, look at that damn clutter of electric lines….
Seen in Tennessee while driving forever the interstate, where bridges take one directly over the River Styx so that one doesn’t have to worry about potentially falling out of the boat which good Charon directs to and fro, back and forth across it’s mirrored surface (this is a very poor analogy because really it’s the interstate that is hell (or Hades) and not any destination that one might find at the end of, so really it’s the threshold crossed when getting into my car that is the figurative Styx, and not any physical feature of the environment itself):
bunches of orange and red, and burnt-orange, a brown, and a whole range of shades in between, some duller, some brighter mounded up as far as the eye can see, like great piles raked together, and the autumn-blue sky (because it is such a distinctive blue) complementing; fields and hills of golden-yellow grass, burnished and bronzey, anywhere there isn’t a forest or highway or gas station or sky. The colors are the colors of a life tempered in fire—they run in the blood. If you make it through winter you’re a survivor, you’ve run the gamut, and you can paint a picture, or many pictures, of all these experiences, and you can write about them and go to sleep with a contented mind knowing what you accomplished, and then maybe you will publish them in a blog, and maybe some people will read about them, or maybe no one will, but it won’t make much of a difference to you one way or the other because you were alive then to experience all that, and you’re a new you, alive now to new experiences, or reliving old experiences and perhaps viewing them in new ways because you’re a new person continually becoming a new person experiencing new things and experiencing old things in new ways (or is that just the supposed old things when recalled to mind are new in that instant?)
Arkansas is a magnificent state, broad with mountains and deciduous forests, whose trees are now loosing their leaves, or beginning to, this time of year, and the whole breadth and depth of the place glowing like a departing sun—orange, red, yellow, brown—a rich nugget of gold pulled from the loamy soil, and the highway cutting through them Ozarks like a river flashing silver and gold, sunlight and fish scales in a meadow.
It all came to an end as the sun came to a set, as the mountains and hills sloped down to the flat of the Mississippi River delta, eventually to the river itself and that gritty Tennessee city, Memphis sparkling with come-hithers, glinting with diamonds strung on a necklace beneath a face full of broken teeth.
Memphis: the home of William Eggleston.
Ohh, it has been so long since the last time I journaled. A week spent in Santa Fe; and nothing. Then three days of little but eat, sleep, drive, over, and over, and over. To be fair, nothing of note occurred while in Santa Fe. My sole achievement being an eleven mile run to the top of Atalaya and back. Also, slacklined with a friend, Jacob, and made curtains (yet to be used) with Matt for my Outback. Began drawing. Ended drawing. I felt very much at home. Knowing Matt and Jacob would make it very easy to move there, but I don’t think it will happen.
Oh!, I nearly forgot about the contra dance I attended at St. John’s. Jacob organized it and persuaded me to attend despite my misgivings. I’m an embarrassment when it comes to any sort of organized dancing. The contra proved no different (though I did have some experience from years past square dancing with my ex). Gratefully, many others were inexperienced as well, and some less coordinated than I. Once the steps are learnt it’s not so bad, but the learning experience is fraught with confusion, near-calamities, and befuddled faces. I’m much too self conscious for my own good. Fun was had I think by all, however! And, ahh!, the beautiful redhead who I danced with at junctures! An expert, no doubt! Slender and willowy as a grass blade, with the skin and fine, well-sculpted features of a marble bust. Impeccable! And with a confidence to match!
Leaving Santa Fe I drove straight on to Amarillo where I stopped for an espresso at Evocation, then onward to Palo Duro Canyon where I camped.
I passed through the gates and took a short, winding drive around the rim before charging down the steep decent to the canyon floor where the campsites are. During all of this the sun had only just dissolved into the horizon (it was a red disc slowly sinking into distant desert sands when I arrived at the entrance to the park), and all around me the landscape was pitched into the blue-black of twilight.
Having pitched my tent on a clean, grassy spot along the edge of some vegetation—low trees and chaparral—I proceeded to cook my dinner to the quiet orchestrations of insects.
Through all the night was the velvet hooting of owls, and the howl and shriek of coyotes. The moon bright as a billiard ball—a spotlight glancing off its surface. An enormous eye so far away that despite its great speed in circling the earth appears to be floating overhead, fixed in place.
Woke up in the morning to a blinding, impenetrable sun creeping over the canyon rim, two deer nibbling their way across the campground, birds fluttering from shrub to shrub to tree—Redstart, Black-Crested Titmouse, Warblers—a roadrunner meandering in its start-and-stop way, the air alive with bird song and taut, blazing sunlight. Everything shimmering and weightless, carried on wings.
After taking an age to make a cup of coffee and get packed up, I drove up and out of the canyon, back towards Amarillo and the interstate, stopping on a few occasions to take photos of the western panhandle’s flat earth, vanishing point perspective roads, and a tumbledown house surrounded by an oasis of dead trees. The western portion of the panhandle is flat and lifeless (Palo Duro Canyon being a tremendous exception); fascinating in its own right, like, say, the way the lunar landscape is fascinating. The panhandle’s eastern half abounds with small canyons and rolling hills—vastly different, and far more interesting. One might even say, awe inspiring. This continues into Oklahoma, minus the canyons and awe inspiring, though the landscape does continue its trajectory of increasingly green lushness (I will have to wait until Arkansas until the term “lush” truly becomes apt though).
Stopped in Clinton to visit a couple who have recently moved their coffee business from the interior of an Airstream trailer to an actual brick and mortar shop front that they renovated themselves.
From Clinton to Tulsa where I stayed with another wonderful WarmShowers host who I’ve stayed in touch with via Facebook.
During the drive from Flagstaff to Santa Fe I stopped at El Malpais National Monument for a couple hours to explore La Ventana Arch.
Easy to get to, La Ventana is located along highway 117, about a beautiful, 20 minute drive south off Interstate 40. There is much more to see within the 114,000 acre monument and 263,000 acre conservation area, but as I had limited time, not wanting to arrive at my friend’s house in Santa Fe too late, I decided to just stick to the area around the arch where I could explore in as much detail as I liked.
La Ventana is the largest accessible natural arch in New Mexico, though I suppose it pales in comparison to many of those found in Utah. Nonetheless, it is still a stunning geologic formation in an awe-inspiring landscape.
La Ventana Arch
A wall like a man
Reclined, embalmed, entombed
Like a mummy
Like a Buddha lying down
Replete in wisdom
Watching the world
Having watched the world
Having never lived and so never to die
Sees the life of Oasisamericans,
The invasion of the Spanish,
The death of the natives,
The force of belief in Manifest Destiny
What atrocities has this lord not seen?
What beauty has this lord not witnessed?
Trump won the election the other night. Most of the country is in shock. And I do mean most; Hillary won the popular vote by a large margin. I’m still in a bit of shock myself. What can one do now? Perhaps he won’t be as awful as he made himself out to be throughout this entire election season. Perhaps he won’t attempt to deport millions of immigrants who contribute to the economy, who are building, or have built, lives here for themselves and their children. We are all one people of this one Earth. I welcome everyone of every stripe and shade to this nation. In nature there are no walls. Within me there are no walls. You are you, and I am I, and between us there is no difference but the air which flows freely all around the world. That same air that you breathe is that which I breathe. The same water you drink is the same water I drink. If nothing else connects us but this then that alone should be sufficient.
I am like the Serengeti. A great plain where all may come together and live. I contain lakes and rivers, and vast land for cultivating. Within me all comes together in peace. the Bible speaks that one day the lamb may lie down with the wolf, but this occurs within me regularly NOW. Under the shade of a eucalyptus, the distant ocean waves lapping at the beach like the gentle purring of a cat. I have no mountains to scale, but only trails to run free, and with joy.
I stayed on an extra day in Flagstaff; I could have stayed there permanently. Because of the extra day I had to drive straight through to Santa Fe which I had not originally planned. Oh well; I spent a bit more time at the hostel with Marc, and I bought a used boxset of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. MINT! The books didn’t even appeared to have been opened. The box was a bit beat up, but that’s a non-issue, and it only cost me $8. I’m happy to have a set with matching covers now—because these are such important things—and beautiful ones at that.
Despite driving from Flagstaff direct to Santa Fe I was still able to make a couple stops along the way—one being Walnut Canyon, just barely outside Flagstaff, and El Malpais National Monument, the other, an hour or so west of Albuquerque—as well as detouring a bit along Route 66, mainly curious if I would find anything of photographic interest. Regarding Walnut Canyon I am particularly interested in one photo that I took—not necessarily anything spectacular though—that is simply enough a peninsula of sorts jutting into the canyon with an asphalt walking path winding along it leading to and from the visitors center. There is a person barely discernible, submerged in this landscape, dwarfed by it all, his shadow kind of stuck to the rock wall behind him. He’s no more than a few specks, several grains of silver if this were film, just like every other individual detail in the image. No more or less important than any other.
Along Route 66 I made stops in Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona. Dumps in disrepair the both of them, but that’s hardly a surprise what with the rerouting of traffic to Interstate 40 along much of its length many years back. Route 66 is now just a novelty for the curious traveler, such as myself, or no more than just the main street in these small towns that dot it.
I’m writing all of this on my third day in Santa Fe, at Iconic Coffee in Collected Works Bookstore. I feel good here. Comfortable. Content. Satisfied. Relaxed. It’s a familiar place, and feels like home. Matt, with whom I stayed when I first came to Santa Fe on the very last portion of my cycling trip, helped me cut and sew curtains for my car last night. I’m excited about them, and grateful to Matt for the help. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet up and hang out with a good friend from Annapolis. He attends St. John’s College, which is how we met when we were both in Annapolis a year ago. The St. John’s College campus here is located at the start of the trail for access to Atalaya Mountain, but also right at the base of the much smaller Sun Mountain so he was able to take me on a short hike immediately after meeting up, catching the beginnings of the day’s sunset from the peak. The following day he strung up his slackline between two trees and he, myself, and a few friends of his from the college hung out in the cool air attempting to keep our bare feet from succumbing to the numbing effects of the cold ground for as long as possible. Unfortunately, Jacob, my friend, was the only one able to do so for longer than several seconds. I left that evening with my toes frozen up to the metatarsals. There was a great deal of fun had and laughter produced, though, and an always pleasurable sunset observed. I know not how much longer I will be in town, as I’m waiting for delivery of a down quilt from Enlightened Equipment. Hoping they’re able to fix the shipping issue and get it to me soon.