Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever. – Horace Mann
I recently returned from a two day getaway to do some writing at the coast – in this case, USA’s “third coast” in Texas at the Gulf of Mexico. Having grown up in semi-arid west Texas and loving the great desert southwest landscapes of our country, I have not spent all that much time at the seaside or on the water. Thus, it fascinates me and also daunts me.
My eyes are captivated by the water in its ceaseless motion and I delight in the sound of the surf washing over the sands. Like the stone canyons elsewhere, the beach and surf environments, when not overrun by development, seem truly timeless. A single day spent walking the shoreline and listening to the ancient fractal sound of the waves is a time span that might have been a week or a month – or simply extracted from our normal clock-time altogether. As I walk slowly back through the sandy dunes and the susurrus of the water fades into a sudden, stark silence, mundane time begins once again.
It is a good meditation and a healing.
~ ~ ~
I took this photo at Surfside Beach, near Galveston, Texas, shortly after sunrise.
Gazing out at this twisted and textured landscape, I ask myself, “Why does the desert interest me? Why does it have a different effect than, say, driving across Ohio or Kansas?” Certainly, the desert is harsh and calls to mind the counterpoint with living things that it represents. Certainly, the desert is hot or cold, but then so can be other places. Maybe it has something to do with what I expect. When I drive across “normal” places like Ohio or Kansas, I pretty much know what to expect. I know that I will see fields, farms, trees, grass, towns, and cities, that all look similar and fit a pattern that man has evoked upon the landscape.
In the desert, things are different – literally. You never know what to expect, or what may be coming next. It is this novelty that I think makes the desert so attractive to us. The key to understanding why we like the desert is the word Curiosity. We are curious animals and the desert is endlessly fascinating to that part of our psyche because it is always showing us something new and mysterious and compelling.
In the high dry lands of southern Utah, near Hanksville, the desert becomes something like a stereotype or parody of itself. It is a cartoon desert with sand and sagebrush for endless miles and the most unlikely orange and white stone castles and parapets sticking up at strange distances and positions. It has a gray-green-tan-iron red coloration and is so arid that what life there is out here is gray and low and crouches sparsely upon the sands.
It is an eerie place, a dangerous place. It sears the eyes and captivates them at the same time.
It is truly amazing.
The top photo is from Goblin Valley State Park, north of Hanksville, Utah. One of the wonderful hoodoos with Wild Horse Butte as a background.
The second photo is of Factory Butte, just west of Hanksville in the Cainville area east of Capitol Reef National Park. This is a particularly strange and wonderful landscape that continues to entrance me after 35 years of visits.
Note: Some of the text for this post is taken from an early website I made called “A Circle In The Desert,” which may be viewed at: http://www.newrational.com/circle
It features many more photos plus commentary, poems, and more.
A lifetime of knowledge earned
Along the paths of wisdom,
Will one day surely seem to you
Quite meager and in vain.
Not because you have failed to learn,
But that the universe has opened up
Infinitely before you.
– David Crews
The photo is of myself at Bonneville Salt Flats in the NW corner of Utah. It had rained recently, leaving a wonderful reflective mirror for the mountains to float above.
Ah, yes, those Bonneville Salt Flats. Thought I’d set a new speed record – for how slow I could go.
“The earth has music for those who listen.”
– George Santayana
No place on the planet is quite like wonderful Bryce Canyon. Erosion is caught in a still-frame by our short lives, and presented as a complex tableaux. Orange and white ripples and folds appear frozen, but are truly in the midst of melting down through their fractal forms into countless grains of sand, flowing down and down through the magnificent canyons below.
Are we not incredibly lucky to be here right at this moment, when we can see this particular frame of the movie of the Earth?
I have just returned from a lengthy photo trip through southern Utah and other parts of the Colorado Plateau. I hope you enjoy my pictures and I’ll be posting more soon.
(Click photos for larger size & better quality.)
POSTING PAUSE OVER:
FIRST, I’d like to say that I’ll be posting again now that I’m back from a 2 1/2 week trip to the Colorado Plateau. I’ll have many new photos and thoughts to share soon. Thanks to those who have commented or contacted me.
As many of you have heard, Chimney Rock Archeological Site has just been granted National Monument status today by President Obama. This is a welcome event, and something I supported in my recent post on the subject here.
Update: Just learned that the fire tower that was so out of place and obstructing the view of the chimneys has been removed already!! That is great news and makes today’s National Monument status all the better! The representative from the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association said: “the fire tower has been removed and that has dramatically opened the view of the twin spires.”
With the end of the Mayan calendar cycle coming up soon, I thought I’d share a few images from the Mayan lands. This temple complex is in the edge of Belize, only one mile east of the border to Guatemala. The little town of San Ignacio is nearby and makes a good base for exploration.
[Click any of the smaller photos for full-size.]
Xunantunich (“Stone Woman”) is a more modern name, referring to a ghost woman who sometimes appears at the pyramid. The complex is from pre- to post-classic periods, lasting until up to about 900 CE. El Castillo, the main pyramid rises about 130 feet and has several carved friezes, some of which are eroded and others covered with plaster molds that echo the carvings beneath. Importantly, this acts to protect them while giving us a sense of how they look in situ.
Xunantunich (pronounced “zoo-nan-too-nich”) is particularly easy to get to, plus, I believe it is one of the most picturesque of the Mayan complexes in Belize. There is a little ferry that takes your vehicle (taxis are plentiful) across the Mopan river. You’ll probably see some very big iguanas sunning themselves on the road.
All the Mayan sites in Belize and surrounding areas are extremely interesting to visit. Caracol is within reach of San Ignacio, but requires a long drive over sometimes rough roads. I’ll post some photos of that site later. Also, one can book a day trip across the border into Guatemala to see the incomparable city-site of Tikal. This is an adventurous trip, as well, but very worth the effort and time to see this world-class site. Tikal photos soon, too.
This is the account of how
all was in suspense,
and empty was the expanse of the sky.
-Popol Vuh (The Book of the People)
I enjoy visiting and appreciating the archeological sites of the Ancestral Puebloan people of the desert southwest of the United States. I’m still adjusting to this new terminology, now arguably preferred by most Puebloans and archeologists over the more well-known term, “Anasazi,” which is derived from the Navajo word for “enemy.” (One writer, though, has pointed out that the term “pueblo” is from the Spanish conquistadors, who were much more of an enemy to the Puebloans.)
This particular site is in southern Colorado and I had passed it by on many trips to and from the mountains until I decided to make the effort to see it in 2008. I was surprised at the size and beauty of the buildings, here in one of the most northern Puebloan sites, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It was cold in the winter, but they built here because of the striking rock formation we call “Chimney Rock.” The Ancestral Puebloans used this feature as a lunar observatory. They built a large ceremonial Great House and Great Kiva, reminiscent of the ones in Chaco Canyon, off to the southwest in New Mexico. There are approximately 200 rooms in the complex which was built about 1,000 to 1,100 CE.
The lunar connection is important, as the moon goes through a positional cycle that lasts about 18.6 years. At the end of the cycle, the moon appears to pause for a while before “reversing course.” From the ridge where the Great House was built, that lunar standstill causes the moon to appear directly between the two “chimneys” of rock that protrude. The last time this occurred was in 2004-2008. The next Major Lunar Standstill will occur about 2022.
More information and some interesting photos of the event here.
This is a nice site to visit. There is a bit of a walk to see the Great House and kivas. Unfortunately, there is a distracting and out of place fire observatory on the site between the Great House and the chimneys. When I was there, they were talking about the possibility of it being removed at some point as it also blocks the lunar standstill view. I hope they do.
I also have some photos of Chaco Canyon and other sites that I will share as I can.
Time settles down as withered flakes
In the land of wizened stone.
Minutes and hours pile up.
One on top of another.
The essence of their measure
Baked hard into unyielding clays,
Filling each rocky crack.
Bajadas covered with arid months,
Arroyos layered with dusty days,
Until the desert is made of nothing
But time accumulated – waiting.
Released at last by some cosmic rain,
Floating free and blending.
A mass ascension into Eternity.
~ David P. Crews
Photo taken in the Bisti Badlands Wilderness Area, NW New Mexico, USA.
“In the desert, water in any amount is a tincture, so holy that it will burn through your heart when you see it. . . . If you want to study water, you do not go to the Amazon or to Seattle. You come here, to the driest land. Nowhere else is it drawn to such a point. In the desert, water is unedited, perfect.”
– Craig Childs, The Secret Knowledge of Water,(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000)xiii-xvi
A quote from one of my favorite books on the desert by Craig Childs, The Secret Knowledge of Water. It is unlike any other nature or desert book I’ve ever read. Simply marvelous.
My photograph is from Big Bend National Park, on the flats of Terlingua Creek. I was hiking to the right-hand fracture, called Brujo Canyon (meaning magic or sorcery). I almost did not make it back across due to lack of water and overexertion. A hard lesson. I almost died in that awful, bright, oppressive, scintillating, intriguing, dangerous, wonderful place. It was a white hot dance and a reducing to that which is most simple. Beckoning and deadly.
“Between here and there and me and the mountains it’s the canyon wilderness, the hoodoo land of spire and pillar and pinnacle where no man lives, and where the river flows, unseen, through the blue-black trenches in the rock.
“Light. Space. Light and space without time, I think…”
Edward Abbey – Desert Solitaire, 1968
The Colorado River with the Vermilion Cliffs in the distance.
Sitting in the center
Sitting up high
Sing your song
Make the sky.
Sitting in the center
Weaving a web
Spinning our song
Make it spread.
Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “deh Shay”) is in the heartland of the Navajo Nation in NE Arizona. It is a very worthwhile destination for its scenic beauty, but take some time to learn about the trying history of this place as well. I have very mixed feelings about Kit Carson. He was more in-tune with the native peoples than almost any white man at that time, but then he did the Army’s bidding in Canyon de Chelly and the results still echo hauntingly off the canyon’s red-brown cliffs today.
“To the intelligent, nature converts itself into a vast promise,
and will not be rashly explained.
Her secret is untold.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Nature,” Essays, Second Series (1844).
Goblin Valley State Park is just one of the wondrous, alien landscapes in Southern Utah. This land casts a spell unlike any other place I know.
Of all the
I do love
– David Crews
“I am a being of Heaven and Earth, of thunder and lightning, of rain and wind, of the galaxies.”
A summer storm vies for attention with the setting sun in the Window in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, Texas. I’ve been visiting and photographing this amazing place on the planet for over 50 years.
“Could the prehistoric artists have been hallucinating and painting their visions? And was it possible that such practices could lie at the foundation of art and religion, the most exalted achievements of mankind?”
Graham Hancock, Supernatural – Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind (Canada: Doubleday Canada, 2005) p. 158
“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake – Aye, what then?”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (from “Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection”)
Seamus Perry, Oxford Univ. Press, 2002, p. 127
Derived from Jean Paul, Geist (1801)
The Texas Hill Country is one of the world’s most beautiful wildflower shows, featuring the state flower, the bluebonnet. The last few years, the flowers have been more sparse due to the record draught, but better rains and a mild winter have made this year’s show much better. I took a day to tour the Hill Country from Austin, to Fredricksburg, to Llano and the Highland Lakes for this photo tour. See the entire show at my Flickr site. Click here or on the title below.
“The Amen of nature is always a flower.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table”, p. 184
Thomas Nelson and Sons, London, 1906
The great escarpment of the Vermilion Cliffs lies just north of the Grand Canyon.
Time has a different pace in realms like this. To the ancient shamanic Taoists, vermilion was the color of eternity.
I’ve been making landscape photos mostly non-commercially for some 50 years now. This is some of my initial work in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography.
Many visitors to the Peruvian highlands concentrate their efforts on Machu Picchu and Cusco, and give less attention to the Sacred Valley and its extensive Incan ruins. The valley contains numerous historical sites, plus a vibrant living culture. The Valle Sagrado de los Incas resonates with peoples of Incan, mestizo, Hispanic, and other pre-Incan tribal heritages. The valley runs just north of Cusco and lies in between that huge and fascinating city and the citadel of Machu Picchu.
The “fortress” of Ollantaytambo is actually a religious structure, but it did function as a retreat from the attacks of the conquistadores in the 1500’s. It was originally built by Incan Emperor Pachacuti, and last held by Manco Inca, who, leading resistance forces against the Spanish, retreated to Ollantaytambo in January of 1537. The Spanish forces attacked on horseback, but Manco Inca’s band, in a technical tour de force, flooded the entire approach plain with water forcing the Spanish to retreat and regroup. The Battle of Ollantaytambo did not last long. The forces were about even at first – 30,000 on each side, plus about 100 Spanish led by Hernando Pizarro. He returned with reinforcements, but Manco Inca had wisely retreated on into the jungle beyond the Sacred Valley, where the Inca rebellion centered itself until eventual defeat.
At the top is an unfinished temple of some of the most exquisite stonework remaining from the Inca times. The Sun Temple is made with cut and fitted stones of a slightly pink or coral color.
In this photo, I’m standing in front of the “Wall of the Six Monoliths,” with its amazing slender stone sections fit expertly in between larger slabs, all beautifully carved and smoothed. This work was never completed, probably due to the Spanish invasion.
There are several Incan fountains, still functioning, at the base of the fortress area. See my earlier post on these types of fountains and waterworks.