Spring Hare Moon
Spread it out this way. The fields of southern Minnesota and Iowa, the poverty of Missouri, the plains of Kansas, the shabbiness of Oklahoma, the bleakness of west Texas. Then, Carlsbad Caverns. An entry way this Orpheus took, singing his own tunes of loss, passing through the twilight zone to the darkness of eternal night, lit only by the U.S. government. When I returned to the surface, my journey through many benighted places had been purged, my inner world compressed by the weight of the earth over me. I had visited Persephone only to find her gone back to her mother, her husband the dismal Hades now distracted and grieving. Charon was not in sight.
After that the trail hit the desert. Stark southern New Mexico. New Mexico, of all the states on this trip, has cast its spell on me, its enchantment. That vast sea of sand and sparse grass so amenable to the spirit, especially a spirit only recently returned to the surface, that combination, had me set up for the Intensive Journal Workshop.
Arizona, I admit, I come to jaundiced. Sun City was my first experience of it and what the New Mexico desert was to the spirit, Sun City was its obverse, a place where the soul came to die early. Then there were those 107 degree September days and the concrete irrigation ditches. Not to mention the sheriff of Maricopa County. And the loony conservatism so wrapped up in flag, guns, chauvinism, xenophobia and homophobia. This is a state that, in spite of its great beauty has a pinched and impoverished heart. It practices the dark arts.
The Workshop itself I’ll treat elsewhere. This is a subjective, impressionistic journey. Arizona grew in appeal to me as I turned north into the mountains, the temperature falling and the conifers and firs beginning to dominate the landscape. In Holbrook, after stopping briefly to view the sky, I ended up in the motel with no phone, no wifi and no heat. I stayed anyway.
This stop was a time out from the luxury of the trip, a reminder that many lived nearby in conditions not at all different from this shabby room with its torn lampshade, grime coated shower door and frayed bedspreads. There is a lot of poverty and it comes in many forms, but that found on American Indian reservations is often its cruelest. Here the people live on the land they consider sacred, but have been removed from it anyway by television, English, pickup trucks and alcohol. Life in Indian America is tough and often brutal.
Leaving it behind at 4 a.m and driving under the sign of the sickle moon and Venus has provided the lasting image for this trip full of rich images. Northeastern Arizona and northern New Mexico have geological, geographic, cultural and historical depth no matter where you glance out the window. This is our Angkor, the place where the ancient sage-kings held sway, peoples so faded from memory that only their past remains and that impossible to understand.
It is not caverns or catcus here, here it is people and their astonishing and beautiful adaptations to the land they found. The Chaco Canyon architecture of small sandstone and the pueblo dwellings hung from high canyon walls. The adobe of Santa Fe. The hogans of the Navajo. Their pottery and their blankets and their painting and their writing. There is something special here.
Now I’m out of all that, up here in Denver where the Rockies and skiing and Century Communications and the National Western Stock Show mediate the meeting of East and West, being neither fully, unable to commit. And I’m more comfortable here. I fit in better here. But it doesn’t stimulate me in the same deep way.