Cars were rare along the highway
On that day of dusty miles.
You came up a ridge behind us to
Observe our passing.
Through the rearview, we watched you
Emerge, then fade back into the desert.
This is a response to Read Write Poems’ NaPoWriMo #27: Let Someone Else Take the Lead wherein Carolee invites writers to do an acrostic poem. I’ve never done one before, but figured I would need a short word for today and so I went with coyote, a favorite animal that I’ve heard far more often than seen. This poem is about the first time I saw one.
Though I’ve missed a few days of posting due to internet issues, I’ve been writing and back-posting what I wrote those days here and at a gnarled oak.
When I was a kid, the story of the lost dutchman who disappeared while searching for a legendary gold mine on Arizona’s Superstition Mountain fascinated me. I remember looking at those mountains whenever we visited my grandparents in Phoenix and imagining all the stories that they must hold.
I like this photograph, taken with my old 110 in 1982, because faded with time and dirt, it reminds me of the myths of the old west and the magic they still hold for me.
I’d love to follow that old dirt road leading along the telephone poles up onto that mountain and search for that old mine myself even though I know it would be as futile as searching for the Loch Ness Monster or the Seven Cities of Gold. Hopefully, though, they wouldn’t some day spin yarns about the lost Austinite’s gold mine.
I mentioned Montezuma Castle in last week’s Old Photo Friday, and today we take a couple of looks at it from two different points in time.
Montezuma Castle National Monument is located in Cape Verde, Arizona and has nothing to do with Aztec emperor Moctezuma. The cliff dwelling was built by the Sinagua people, and according to Wikipedia Montezuma Castle was the last known dwelling place of the Sinagua. It was abandoned around 1425.
This first image was taken during the summer of 1982 when we were visiting family as we moved from the Philippines to Italy. I was 11, and it was the first time I’d ever seen a cliff dwelling or heard about the Anasazi people who built them (the Sinagua are considered a branch of the Anasazi group).
The second image was taken in 1996 when my wife and I were traveling through the four corners region looking at the ancient ruins.
Like me, the trees seem to have grown a bit in the intervening fourteen years.
In Italy, I would see the ruins of Pompeii and many other Roman sites, but none of it captured my imagination or sparked a sense of wonder comparable to what I saw in Arizona when I was a kid.
This was taken at Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona.
My dad’s side of the family came from Phoenix and so when I was growing up, we visited Arizona whenever we had the chance. I guess the desert air got to me because as an adult, I’ve gone back many times to what I think is probably the richest state in terms of natural beauty and pre-Columbian history.
I also really like driving through the desert, especially in a place like Arizona where so much of the land is public and a person can just pull off the road and explore.
In 1996, my wife and I took a trip to Arizona and New Mexico. We went without a plan and just zig-zagged around the northern part of the state, camping and visiting as many of the national parks as we could, including Wupatki where I took the above picture.
The structure was most likely built by the Sinagua people sometime around the 12th century, but was abandoned by 1250 AD.
Ever since I first heard of the Anasazi people and saw their cliff dwellings at Montezuma Castle, I’ve been fascinated by the history of the region. The great thing about deserts is that so much is preserved.
I don’t know what it is about ruins in the middle of the desert, but there’s something about them that captures my imagination. Perhaps it’s because in the desert you can really see and get a sense of things like time and the infinity of space. You can feel the Earth’s long slow processes, the geology happening all around. Seeing ruins reinforces that and reminds me of how short a time we’ve been here.
Deserts create perspective. At least for me. That’s probably why my book is set in the desert.
I’ve also posted other photos of more recent desert ruins from a trip in 1992.
Leftovers from a road trip in the early ’90s…
Miles (Never Once Imagined)
And we drove for miles—
And we saw those miles—
Drifting out toward space
Layers of desert air so far beyond the mountains
I saw the miles quicken,
Rising up like a beast from the steam of the engine
Again near Palm Springs
Jeep racing without roof, without doors
Away from Vegas with just eighteen dollars
from one-armed bandits
Leftover pizza hut and half a cup of jingling quarters
There were miles more to go
And others to go them with
So we only stayed in LA for three hours
In the desert that night we both finally saw
The miles to the stars
Humbled to behold and freezing
In the imagined terror of a Mojave midnight
I never could have imagined all the miles still to come
Nor the people with whom I would travel them
Everything was right
We had mountains to climb and never once imagined
We would change our minds
I took this photo near Meteor Crater, Arizona in March of 1992:
These old cars are about a quarter of a mile from the service road that connects I-40 to Metoer Crater. I’ve been there several times, and I find that the cars are as engaging as the crater itself so I always try to photograph them. This is my favorite one.
A few days after one trip out there in 1995, while browsing the CDs at Waterloo Records, I found that the cars had also served as cover art for Lee Ranaldo’s excellent East Jesus album.