Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday

I slept so hard Monday night, that waking up was a strange experience. I was fighting both cold congestion and allergy congestion and the combo had apparently left me disoriented. I don't remember having this picture taken.


But the fog quickly lifted and we were off down the South Kaibab trail of the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

"This thing just keeps on going!"

"But it's beautiful!"

We passed a mule train on its was up and even spotted a mountain big horn sheep, which raced ahead before us.


We did not travel quite so quickly.


But, at last, we spotted the Colorado River...


descended into the inner gorge...


crossed the bridge...


and joined our friends.


I relaxed with some pu-erh, a photo by Andrea which was later used for a commercial blog, making tea purchased from New Mexico Tea Co.


Next morning, having heard a geology lecture the night before, we ate at Phantom Ranch and were ready to ascend.


We used Bright Angel trail going up. It was just as steep as coming down...and longer.

(resting)

(looking back)

In the end, sore as we all were, we left smiling.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday

Did you know that it costs about $400 more dollars to rent a car one-way than it does round-trip? Or that, after all of the surcharges, city and county fees, airport charge, insurance, required GPS system, gas and a little extra to pay the guy sitting in the back room with his feet up on the desk, the final rental price is about $300 more than the quoted price?

The positive side of this is that it really causes one to pause and appreciate the luxury of motorized travel. I reflected that such a trip to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and back is not possible in six days if traveling on foot. And it does allow for side excursions. In our luxuriously rented car, Dustin and I left for Arizona on Monday. We took the long route.

We drove through the Acoma Pueblo valley.
(Image source: Dan Fuchs)

We drove through the Petrified Forest. Someone who was there before us had apparently cut it down.




We drove through Flagstaff, stopping for a brew tasting at the Beaver Street Brewery to round out our earlier wine tasting.

Then the GPS, computer-voice lady guided us from there on up to the Grand Canyon where I promptly fell asleep.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday

We awoke on Sunday and hiked at Kasha-Katuwe (Tent Rocks) National Monument, in preparation for the Grand Canyon. I did not have my camera with me, so YOU MUST VISIT Kevin’s Hiking Page which exactly captures this area. (“Kevin’s Hiking Page” is very, very good! Dig around to see the many trails this guy has documented.)

Capping off a nice day hike with a glass of wine was in store. We visited the local winery, Casa Rodeña, http://www.casarondena.com/ for a wine tasting. Aftwerwards, we selected a wine that we had both enjoyed, ordered glasses and set outside enjoying the Tuscan-like estate and chatting with the vintner, John Calvin.

A setting sun greeted us in Old Town, which was deserted for the evening and made for a magical setting in which to explore its back alleyways of stores and hidden chapels. We stepped inside La Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, which looked and felt definitely mysterious in the fading, quiet light, but did not see the weeping ghost.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

After a personal lecture and tour of the Edward Curtis prints, we were allowed into a back office where the air was equally heavy with history. I had read the historical plaque outside this office during previous visits.
“Herein passed from public visibility the men and pioneers who would design and make famous the power of atomic energy. This is the door through which these scientists entered before relocating to the recesses of Los Alamos and creating the nuclear bomb.” (My translation.)
I had not ventured into the actual office itself, which is now used for shop administrative purposes. It is cluttered with piles of invoices, check stubs, books and various scrolls of documentation. An empty coffee mug rested precariously atop a dog-eared phone book on the desk.

What was important about this room, we were told, was that this had been Dr. Oppenheimer’s office before he moved to Los Alamos, a former private boys’ school that Oppenheimer personally recommended as the site for the think tank and design laboratory of the Manhattan Project that began in 1939. Through this door and through this office passed all of the great minds of the country, intent upon creating what the world would come to know as the atomic bomb.

“Now I am become Death. I am the destroyer of worlds,” Oppenheimer famously quoted from the Bhagavad Gita when he witnessed the detonation of the Trinity Bomb in Alamordo, NM, on July 16, 1945. Twenty-four days later, the United States would drop the first nuclear weapon ever used on Nagasaki, Japan, directly killing 80,000 people (think 9-11 times 27) and casualties reaching near 140,000 by the end of the year.

As of 2006, US & Russia combined possessed 97% of the world’s nuclear weapons. Albuquerque holds the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world.

The Trinity explosion, which hailed the beginning of the Atomic Age, was witnessed as “the sun lighting up the sky” from 150 miles away and rattled windows over 200 miles away. At ground zero, it melted the silica sand in an area 10 feet deep and 1,100 feet wide and rendered it as a slightly radioactive, greenish glass now named as Trinitite. (I have a small piece of this in my gem and mineral collection.)

With all of this heaviness of history hanging in the air, my mood lightened when I spotted an original Dale Chihuly painting hanging on the wall. He is one of my top two favorite modern artists (the other being Andy Goldsworthy (who, appropriate to his art, does not have an official, permanent Web site) and so I naturally wanted to know more about why the painting was here. I had also noticed earlier in the Edward Curtis room a number of personal family Christmas cards from the Chihulys. It turns out that the Rainbow Man’s collection of Curits prints had attracted Mr. Chihuly during his Pendleton period when he used native blanket designs on glass cylinders and the two became friends.

Dustin and I returned to Albuquerque via the Rail Runner and stopped by the emergency shelter that I run. In a way, this refuge for persons who have no home was the natural, poetic ending to a day filled with legislation at the Roundhouse that shapes our daily lives, with art on Canyon Road that reflects that life, with portraits of an ancient nobility that has all but disappeared, and a visit with a point in history that took all of that away from thousands, leaving even more persons without homes. The shelter—and my work—once again felt very small in response to the size of the needs of this world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Crow

Well...another raven that we spotted, anyway. This one enjoying its aerodynamic body while standing in the middle of a windy road in Arizona...


...until it decided to stare us down.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I recently drove west with my younger brother to visit the Grand Canyon (my first time). As Albuquerque fell away behind us with its own sort of charm, the land stretched ahead wonderfully far into the distant horizon, inviting vast thoughts.

Western landscapes seem to do that. Quietly and unassuming, the land pulls you in. If you don’t resist and if you don’t give up too easily, you will press through first appearances of space without meaning to a place where treasure can be discovered. Often, the treasure is one’s own inner voice echoing off canyon walls, returning to the ears with refreshed clarity, dusted free of old presumptions. Sometimes it is the simple whisper of sand in air. Or the lone cackle of the raven.


Before that drive, we spent Saturday taking the Rail Runner to Santa Fe to visit the NM State House, locally called the “Roundhouse” because of its circular construction that symbolically represents the Zia sun, and, appropriately, a Kiva where native tribes conduct sacred communal business. We visited the many artisan shops along famous Canyon Road, window shopping and imagining many inspiring pieces being shipped to our homes before visiting the Rainbow Man’s shop just off of the town’s main square.

The Rainbow Man appears to be just another knick-knack shack when you approach it. Tucked tightly in among other shops in a line of seamless store fronts, its windows offer the same fanfare as do those to its right and left. However, if you persist, there awaits you a discovery that, although perhaps less existential than driving towards the sunset, is no less surprising and no less full of ancient impact.

This impact is compounded by the fact that you must first press through front rooms of fetish novelties, past Kachina doll reproductions, woven rugs, Day of the Dead décor and pottery samples. In short, you must look and move beyond a façade that is repeated a hundred times over in town squares all over the southwest; you must traipse through an empty desert of commercialism. If and when you do, you will be rewarded with the discovery of a back room that contains a unique gallery of history in the form of Edward Curtis prints of Native American culture.

From 1898 to 1928, Mr. Curtis photographed thousands of Indians in their homes and villages, posed for portraiture and performing sacred dances and rituals. Twenty volumes had been planned to be produced. People all over America subscribed to collect these books. However, the publisher went out of business before the project was completed. Now only 40 volumes remain in public circulation. You can see the 41st volume at the Smithsonian Institute. Or, like Dustin and me, you can penetrate the front rooms of The Rainbow Man in Santa Fe and peruse hundreds of prints saturated in goldtones, nobility captured in form and light.

You might see only framed portraits hung salon-style about the room and lying in piles sorted according to nation and tribe. Or, if you pause and listen intently, you just might encounter vast thoughts and hear voices bouncing back across the canyons of time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back to Basics

I'm still thinking with "travel mind" one week after returning to work. It keeps everything in perspective when I able to do that. I am house sitting as I post this, with a cat rubbing against my leg and shoe like I am doused in catnip or something. Feel the love!

“A Certain Man” (his email moniker) encouraged me to return this blog to being more about my life, like the subtitle says. A funny balance: how to write with openness and vulnerability while not knowing who is reading. Perhaps like “Man On Wire” (see trailer below of the Oscar-winning documentary—a “must see”), one must simply step out and enjoy the thrill. Those who get it, will get it. Those who don’t, won’t.

So, it is a sunny spring day. I am sipping warm, creamy coffee. A roadrunner plays on the back patio as the first ice cream truck of the season jingles by. I have thoughts about the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, human nature, being interviewed for my alma mater’s 150th anniversary and my own ploddingly slow course in life. I have thoughts about Zen, books that I am reading, music and movies I am enjoying, the recession, solitude and quietness.

Perhaps it is time to begin writing and posting again. Maybe you’ll join me?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Rainbow in the Petrified Forest.
The rainbow wasn't petrified.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Back

Returned from a great vacation in which I toured my younger brother around the area here. Then we went to the Petrified Forest, hiked the Grand Canyon and walked the Las Vegas strip. Will post more about this ASAP (meaning between my digging out of the pile of work on my desk).

Friday, March 06, 2009

I'm away, hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon. Check back on Tuesday, March 17th.

Duke City Sleep Out!

Check out the "Sponsor Me" link to the right when you get the chance. Thanks!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Is it ironic, or just a sad state of affairs, that a book of Zen is lost amid a large pile of cluttered papers on my desk?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some More Rocks in My Life


Apophyllite



Opal



Opal and friends (sphalerite on left, galena on right)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I try to live with what I call “travel mind.”

You know that experience of being in another country and letting everything be, just as it is? Of having curiosity to see how it is that people do what they do? Of noticing conversations, buildings, the sound of crinkling paper as the grocer packages a purchase, the light, traditions, the flow of traffic…all without judgment? Travel does that for me. It allows me to be present in a different way, one that is really part of the moment without the need to control it. I try to live that way here at home in my day-to-day routines.

I try to have “travel mind” always.