The Myth of Beyond

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October 22, 2019-

No one is truly an outsider.

In a recent online discussion about a purported conflict, between two public figures, one  of the participants made the valid point that the whole thing is contrived.  Many public spats, and not a few private ones, are indeed straight out of WWE.

I am what is known as an ambivert.  I live alone, though that is likely to change, if a relative shows up, in December, for a month’s stay.  I live alone, mostly hike alone and, when I go to a restaurant for a meal, I usually sit alone-unless I’m at the counter.  I do, for the most part, travel alone, preferring to set my own schedule.

I do not, however, regard myself as an outsider.  True, I am not in very many “inner circles”- my Baha’i community, groups with which I volunteer and a handful of friendships being the exceptions.  Camaraderie, with both men and women, is important in my life.   If I am at an event, conversation with those around me tends to be organic and fluid.  If I am in nature, I also find myself speaking, quietly, to animals, plants and even the elements.  The reason is, communication is  a thing of joy.

My sense is, even a hermit needs to interact with some humans, every so often.  So, to say a person is an outsider is something of a chimera.  We can be isolated by circumstance, and that is temporary. We can be isolated by choice, yet sooner or later, there will be a knock on the door, a phone call, a postal letter or a message of some kind on an electronic device.  People in institutional settings are a serious concern, yet even they face multiple interactions with staff, volunteers and, hopefully, loved ones.

These are some thoughts that came to mind, after reading the above-mentioned participant’s rebuttal of the public figure’s claim of being an outsider.

The Round and Square of It

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October 9, 2019, Aneth, UT-

Any illusion that Native Americans are somehow all cut from the same cloth, or are otherwise a uniform group, was hopefully dispelled, some tome ago.  This is as true, with regard to various aspects of culture, including architecture, as it is to language and  physical appearance- just as it is with people of any large subgrouping.

Hovenweep, a Paiute name meaning “Deserted Valley”, is the site of a large number of mud brick structures, both atop and just below the rim of, Cahone Mesa, in southeast Utah-about 15 miles northwest of this small Dineh settlement.

I last visited this area in 1979, about a month after summer  break began.  There has been an expansion of the National Monument since that time.  For this visit, though, I focused on the Main, or Square Tower, Group of structures.  Outlying ruins will be the focus of a future visit.

The trail around the Main Group is 2 miles long.  The terrain is similar to that of Natural Bridges and other nearby canyons.  A short walk across the table of Cahone Mesa leads to a short, but rugged, canyon crossing, then around to Twin Towers and the Square Tower triad, before snaking back towards the Visitor Center.

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As you will see, the Puebloan architects variously used square corners and round construction, depending on the function of the building.  Squared structures appear to be more for dwellings and the rounded buildings either as kivas or as observation towers of some sort.

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The descent and ascent of Little Ruin Canyon is the most rugged part of the hike around Square Tower Group.  I would rate it as moderate, in difficulty.

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A small heart-shaped rock is visible, towards the rear of this small cavelet.

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Remains of several small homes, on the mesa top, precede one’s arrival at Twin Towers.

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As I approached Twin Towers, a girl of about twelve passed by me, cheerfully in her own experience of the area.  Her grandparents called her back, not so much out of fear, as to ask her to carefully pull a discarded plastic water bottle out of this crevice!  She gingerly did as asked, and had no trouble getting out of the fissure.

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Here are the remnants of Twin Towers.

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Just a few paces from the round towers is another rectangular tower, likely an early apartment dwelling.

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There were several people at Square Tower, as I approached, so care was taken to honour each one’s quiet investigation of this central area of Hovenweep.

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These are the structures of Hovenweep House.

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Square Tower is in the midst of the main kivas.

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Below, is a small single family dwelling.

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This is Eroded Boulder House, an example of the effects of the climate change of that era (1200-1300 A.D.)

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There are four areas of Hovenweep National Monument that are accessible by high-clearance vehicles.  One of these days, I will get to those outliers.

Today, though, I had two other visits to make.  I headed out of Hovenweep and made it to this oil and gas-producing community, in Utah’s southeast corner.  Here, I visited for about 1 1/2 hours, with two Dineh sisters, who are caretakers of this small Baha’i Center.  Members of our Faith have lived in Aneth for about fifty years.

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After visiting with the ladies, I am headed to The Farm Bistro, in Cortez, for an early dinner,  then will likely drive back to Prescott.  It’s been a fascinating Fall Break!

Three Bridges

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October 8, 2019, Blanding-

In the summer of 1981, I was coping with what turned out to be a short-term derailment in my private life.  What worked for me was a week’s sojourn in southeast Utah, with visits and hikes in Capitol Reef National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument.  I came upon the latter, serendipitously, going in with a skepticism as to how it would measure up to more well-known places, such as Arches and Canyonlands.

The rangers on duty at the time were among the most enthusiastic workers I’ve seen, cheerfully stating that I would find the Monument equal to Capitol Reef, certainly, and as challenging a series of hikes as any at Arches.

On that trip, I camped overnight and hiked a nine-mile loop that took in all three bridges.  This time, still tired from Goosenecks, I opted for one hike to Sipapu Bridge, and checked out the other two, Kachina and Owachomo, from short-trail overlooks, saving their trails for another visit.

Let’s get back to the difference between a natural bridge and an  arch.  The only difference, between bridges and OTHER types of arches, is that bridges are created by a body of water actively eroding the rock. Other arches are created by wind erosion, as well as flash flooding.

So, here goes-a flash flood of photos.  First, from the Canyon View overlook, which gives an introduction to the type of sandstone from which the arches, which became the bridges, were carved.

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Note that some of the same sky islands that are found at Goosenecks, and elsewhere in this area, are found here.

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Now, it was down the trail, with the help of some rails and log ladders.

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Lichen is also ever at work, turning rock back into soil.

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After three log ladders and several stretches of railing, I was close to Sipapu Arch.  Sipapu is a Hopi word, meaning “place of emergence”.  I can imagine how it would have felt, to have this structure towering overhead, when climbing out of a subterranean refuge.  For the record, the Hopi regard their actual Sipapu as being near Indian Gardens, in the Grand Canyon.

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From long ago, and a galaxy far away, comes Jobba the Hutt, keeping an eye on things.

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After absorbing the energy of being under the bridge, it was back up the ladder to further exploration.

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An interlude, between Sipapu and the Kachina Bridge overlook, is a view of Horse Collar ruin.  There appear to be two groups who built kivas here:  A circular kiva was built by people of the Ancient Puebloan culture, related to the Hopi, Zuni and Keresan nations of today.  A square kiva was built by people of  the Kayenta culture, associated with Hovenweep ruins, which are about 40 miles from Natural Bridges.  More on Hovenweep, in the next post.

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The overlook for Kachina Bridge shows it to be the widest of the three.  First, though, note the sandstone twins.

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White Creek, which cuts the bridges, is still very active here.

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Owachomo Bridge, visible below, is the narrowest of the three, being nine feet thick at its strongest point.

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Natural Bridges is adjacent to Bears Ears National Monument, a place whose existence is somewhat controversial.  The butte for which the Monument is named is visible from the turnoff to the Visitors Center for Natural Bridges.  The butte is sacred to Dineh and Ute people.

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In truth, I wanted lunch, more than anything else, so heading to this small tourist town was a priority,  over two more hikes.  Those give me an excuse to come back to Natural Bridges, though, which is a pretty good thing.

 

The Goosenecks and Valley of the Gods

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October 8, 2019, Blanding-

There have been several goals that I have kept on embers, for several years now.  Camping out, above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, is one of these.  The otherworldly ambiance of this unique landscape has captivated me, every time we passed by there, en route to visit the Dineh of southeast Utah.

Once out of Monument Valley, one comes upon Mexican Hat, a small, mainly Dineh town that offers astonishing cliffs, a small, expensive motel and a fairly economical cafe.  I enjoyed dinner there, then pursued my camping option.

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Small outcroppings of Monument Valley appear to the southeast of Mexican Hat.

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Three miles due east of the town, I turned left, drove three miles north and came upon the Goosenecks.

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As the soil at the campground is powdery, for at least a foot down, I opted to sleep under the stars.  It was a bit chilly, towards morning, but the brilliance of the stars and the sheer stillness of the place made it more than worthwhile.  I felt there were two rivers, one below and the other above.

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The easternmost promontory of Monument Valley is visible to the south.

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Once morning arrived, I greeted a few of the other campers, ate some stale leftover cinnamon buns and called it breakfast, changed clothes in the port-o-potty and headed uphill, to the Valley of the Gods.  This small, unorganized park is accessible by gravel road, just before engaging the 3-mile series of narrow switchbacks which leads to Natural Bridges National Monument.  I opted to take several photos from the side of the road.

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The last two photos were taken from turnouts, along the switchbacks.

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This view of the area was made even more otherworldly by the early morning cloud cover.

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In about twenty minutes, I had scaled the switchbacks in my Elantra and was en route to Natural Bridges.  I look forward to returning to this area again, in the near future.

 

The Grandeur of Monuments in Red

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October 7, 2019, Mexican Hat, UT-

Several years ago, Penny and I took a guided jeep tour of Monument Valley, another of the Southwest’s signature geological wonders.  We encountered rock formations which resembled all manner of creatures, both past and present. There are, of course, myths and legends which explain these formations, though geology does quite well to keep things in the realm of reality.

My drive along U.S. 163, in northeast Arizona and southeast Utah, offered a glimpse of the formations which are visible from the road and some of which allowed for a better view, from overlooks.

The Mittens and Agathla Peak are the southernmost, and among the most famous, of the “monuments”, which are mostly sky islands that remain from the Oligocene Period, nearly 25 million years ago.

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Various ridges also remain from  the Oligocene.

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This pinnacle resembles an otherworldly sentinel.

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Agathla is 7055 feet in elevation.  It is what’s left of  an ancient volcano.

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This butte is also part of the same dormant volcanic outcropping.

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Second from right, the column looks like two spouses, engaged in a conversation.  The column to the far left resembles two onlookers.

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No matter how captivating and iconic the red columns and benches look, one must always remember that this is a working environment.  Ranching is a huge enterprise for Dineh people, struggling to thrive in an extremely arid environment, with poor soil.

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As the valley rises, and gets closer to the San Juan River, the promontories become more spread out, but no less majestic.

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Monument Valley, even fenced off, has a decluttering effect on one’s psyche.

 

And The Bears Came

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October 15, 2019-

On Saturday evening, after I had put in about 7 hours of volunteer work in the kitchen at Arcosanti, I drove back to Prescott, with the intention of helping someone else with an early morning project.

There was a lot of energy generated that night, at Arcosanti.  Some of it found its way to me, at my Home Base.  in the prime dream time that is the early morning, I had a lucid dream that a group of children were in my apartment.  We had enjoyed a small celebration of sorts, and were looking out the window, when I spotted a large, shaggy brown bear heading into the neighbourhood. (We don’t have brown bears here, although the occasional black ursines show up, in the areas near the mountains.)  Kids ran, screaming, into nearby houses, and some came here.  Several more brown bears came, some walking on their hind legs. (Bears do not customarily run in groups.)

I found myself talking, through the closed window, to the bears which were approaching my place.  They understood my firm tone and went away.  One small boy called to  me and said that some “wind energy” had just messed up my bed. As no one had been in my bedroom, it was rather stunning to see that the previously well-made bed was indeed messed up.  I looked out the back window, and saw three more brown bears standing outside, with a nineteen-foot-tall figure, who resembled a character from the Transformers movies, in their midst.  I spoke to the tall figure, and it collapsed.  The bears then dropped to all fours, and went away.

I interpret this dream as meaning that there may be a time, soon, when I will need to safeguard vulnerable people, and speak truth to power.  Ironically, the bear, along with the tiger, is my spirit animal.

Glen Canyon’s Legacy

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October 7, 2019, Page-

Leaving the pleasant Utah border town of Kanab, after a good night’s rest and getting myself a neck pillow (replacing the one left behind in Pennsylvania, last summer), it seemed like a good time to stop a few places in the basin of Glen Canyon.  The area is now best known for the resorts and water-based recreation of Lake Powell.

Just shy of the Arizona state line, lies the former polygamist community of Big Water, UT.  It is now an industrial zone and a research center for the Bureau of Land Management.  The BLM has an interesting Visitor’s Center there, with much research on the fossil remains found in the cliffs shown below.

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Ceratopsians, and their close relatives, are a major focus of the paleontology that has been done here. There is a well-illustrated display, which explains quite clearly the various members of this group of dinosaurs.  As is commonly known, what is now the Great Basin was once a large inland sea, separating  large peninsulas of present-day North America.  Ceratopsians, Mosasaurs and Icthyosaurs, along with giant crocodiles and sea turtles, were abundant here.

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Note that there are three types of Ceratopsians, distinguished by the length and breadth of their snouts, as well as the complexity of their cranial armor.

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Centrosaurs had narrow, short faces and simple armor.  Chasmosaurs had broad, long faces, with elaborate armor.

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After examining the details of the paleontology being done at Big Water, I headed a few short miles to Wahweap, a resort area long Lake Powell’s western shore.  The lake views are refreshing, but strangely, Wahweap’s restaurant is closed for the season.

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A good zoom view of Navajo Mountain, some thirty miles northeast, is available from Wahweap.

 

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Feeling somewhat famished, I stopped in Page, the town which grew as a result of the building of Glen Canyon Dam, and enjoyed a hearty meal of barbecued pulled chicken, with potato salad, at this fine and popular restaurant.

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Rarely does the Lone Ranger share space with a Hopi kachina, but that is what one might expect in Page, a welcoming resort town that makes the most of Lake Powell.  Page, Wahweap and about six other marinas reap the benefit of Glen Canyon Dam’s having “tamed” the Colorado River.  There are plenty of people who depend on the Dam and Lake Powell, for their livelihoods.  There are many others who think, as did the late Edward Abbey, that Glen Canyon was perfectly fine, both ecologically and economically, without any tampering.  I think that, had there not been a dam, Page might have become like Moab or Durango, and grown as a haven for the many who enjoy the still formidable canyon.

 

 

 

Resurgence

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October 14, 2019, Arcosanti-

The first sentient being to greet me,

this morning, was my friend Pam.

It was a silent greeting,

each  of us stretching,

across the courtyard,

of the sleeping area,

known as the Vaults.

There were about twenty of us,

some, like Pam and me,

in our own singular spaces,

and responsible for

our own warmth.

Others coupled,

keeping each other warm

against the early morning chill.

Each of us dreamed,

many lucidly.

I resolved an old conflict,

wondering why fault had been

continually found with me,

all those years ago.

The answer came,

in my lucid dream,

and I was absolved,

set free,

with a new understanding

of why a beloved soul

had been so quick to judge,

back then.

It is always pain,

that brings this on.

When the pain is gone,

so is the blame.

The second sentient being to greet me

this morning,

was a peregrine falcon,

whom I will call Percival.

He perched on the rail,

outside the central kitchen,

and took in our shared morning world.

I sat and did the same,

for several minutes.

This, we can learn from animals.

The morning ever brings resurgence.

Twelve Cypresses

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October 13, 2019, Arcosanti-

The account of last week’s travels has been pre-empted by revelations that came, duirng a meditation session, this afternoon.

Twelve cypress trees grace the outside of the Vaults.

As I lay in meditation,

gazing upward,

towards their midst,

the middle tree was swaying.

Responding to the breeze,

to the intonation

of a meditation master’s

spoken word,

to the positive thoughts

of those in the circle below.

Soon, the trees on either side

of the intrepid conifer

were swaying,

in unison with their peer.

Soon, I was chanting

in unison with the rest of the circle.

We brought the feeling,

the awareness,

to each of our body’s parts.

The trees brought the sense

that a change was taking place.

in the air,

in the sensitivity,

of those gathered

at their feet.

Those who were friendly

last year,

are somewhat less so.

Others have taken their places.

The twelve cypresses

tell those who are listening,

and watching,

that there is power

in proximity,

even while there is strength

in a short distance.

There is power in unified action,

but uniformity

of behaviour

can detract,

from community.

Those who led me to

a positive sense of self

are moving away.

Those  who are with me now,

are the beings

who will be at my side

for a  stage of growth

which I am only beginning

to understand.

The twelve cypresses

make clear,

that the flexible

yet firm

will endure.

 

 

 

 

The Peak of the Canyon: Part III

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October 6, 2019, Jacob lake-

I came to the highest point of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, a bit earlier than planned.  My initial goal of hiking the Uncle Jim Trail, in honour of my late uncle, met up with the reality of approaching sunset.  I decided to head for the twin high spots, Point Imperial and Cape Royal, instead.

Point Imperial, the eastern flank of the North Rim, gazes towards the Navajo Nation and the various smaller canyons of the Paria River basin and House Rock Valley.  Such Grand Canyon landmarks as Vishnu Temple and Desert View Tower may be seen from here. The shadows were creeping in,though, so that added to the sense of grandeur.

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A soldier is, of course, watching.  This is also the best spot on the North Rim from which to get a clear view of the Colorado River.

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The striation of the entire canyon wall may still be discerned, layer by layer.

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It appears that the various peaks are lined up, almost directly, north to south, across the canyon.

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Seeing the shadows lengthening, I headed west, towards Cape Royal. It was this leg of the trip which reminded me that I am living in a society that often knows only “full speed ahead”.  The professional photographer, whom I mentioned a few posts ago, was on my tail, the entire fifteen miles.  We both made our goals, though, so the forty mph zip was an odd footnote.

One side feature, along the Cape Royal trail, is Angel’s Window, an eroded spot in the middle of  a sandstone promontory, on Cape Royal’s east side.

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The Cape offers a full-on view of the Canyon’s majesty, even towards twilight, as it faces mostly west and south.

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Below, is a better view of Angel’s Window.

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Sunset was gathering.

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There is always majesty in  the gloaming.

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The final moments of a sunset confirm that all is well.

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So, I bid farewell to the North Rim, for now.  Uncle Jim Trail still awaits-on June 3, which was his birthday.

NEXT:  The Legacy of Glen Canyon Dam