I just came back from a fairly quick trip to Arizona, a place I had never been. This was my first trip to the Western part of the United States and wow, did it blow me away! I have been fortunate enough to travel to Europe in the past eight years and I can still remember how, as I walked the cobblestone streets, I marveled at how many feet had tread on this same path and walked before me. The Pantheon, the Roman Colosseum, the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower…all made my jaw drop in their beauty and their historic and cultural symbolism. The age of these countries and the history contained within is truly mind boggling. Let’s face it, the US is relatively new at this history business when you compare it to our far flung neighbors across the oceans… or so I thought.
My past historic knowledge of the wild wild west, probably due to being brought up on the East coast, was basically limited to the Oregon Trail and the conflict between the ever encroaching frontiersman and the Native Americans. All of that was blown to bits upon this visit. I came away with a much greater admiration and understanding of the people who came before me even though they were not treading on cobblestone streets or building castles or grand structures displaying and pontificating their wealth. Their history was wild and untamed, similar to the land they lived on, a dry, often barren land of indescribable beauty.
I was stunned to see Montezuma Castle, tucked into a cliff five stories high, which inside contained 20 rooms. How did the Sinagua people carve this out of stone around 700 AD? There are over 2,700 archeological sites surrounding the Grand Canyon which reveal the lives of native peoples who lived here between 6000 BC and 2000 BC. Please forgive me my ignorance, but I had no idea. Obviously our history books downplayed the role of these native people in settling a land the European explorers took from them bit by bit from the 1500’s on.
Hiking a good bit of the terrain while there, it was hard to imagine that anyone could survive, yet alone create civilizations in a landscape so barren in some spots and filled with so much rock. But everywhere there were signs of the adaptation of the species that exist here. How did this lone tree begin its life as a seed, grow roots to hold onto this rock and then flourish???
I mean, come on, look at this dry earth.
Everywhere you looked, there were signs of these kinds of adaptations of the flora and fauna that dwell here. From the stunning stark beauty of the Saguaro cactus…
to the lush surprise of color in an otherwise relatively neutral landscape.
And oh the landscape…so different from what I know and oh so beautiful.
The hike up Cathedral Rock was majestic. You literally could not hear a sound except for the few lone birds and your own thoughts (which since I am leery of heights, kept telling me to get over my vertigo and keep moving forward, after I peeled myself off the shelf of the rock side.)
Two hours away from the Red Rocks of Sedona we were greeted by the paler hues of Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak.
Again, we marveled at how anything could flourish here in 104 degree temps and such dry land…but it does, and it does so beautifully.
Great pains have been taken to keep the architecture of the land in keeping with the architects of nature. The buildings rise out of the ground as if sprouting from it like the lone trees, in colors that are of the ground. I am sure it is not just the aesthetics that cause such building, but as the people who came before found out, a necessity to shield themselves from the relentless sun.
This trip brought the phrase of the song America the Beautiful that my great grandmother Nana would sing often to the forefront of my mind. “This land is your land land, this land is my land…from sea to shining sea,” Oh how that sea to shining sea phrase became so much more relevant on this trip! I have seen many a coffee table book that showcases the beautiful images of our great county in all of its varied landscapes. To see one of these landscapes, in person, was astounding and made me realize that there is so much more of THIS great land that I want to see!
Yes, I have dreamed of flying to the far flung shores of Ireland and other destinations across the Atlantic, but we have so much to see right here in our own country. All landscapes that seem to have been carved by an expert hand and that have been defended and protected by great men, whom are the cause of this celebratory weekend… Memorial Day. Let us not forget who has kept this land of our own unique history free and as beautiful as it is today.
Happy Memorial Day~