Nature and Man’s Hand

I sit in Westcliffe looking west. Despite the window and the storm window and the shrink-wrap plastic guaranteed to make the house cozy, I feel a moisture-laden draft. I zip my hooded robe higher to scarf my neck. As I am in the house, I resist the urge to pull the hood up. The pending snow storm creeps down the Sangres and inches our way in a mist of dishwater gray.

Was it only days ago that I wore a sleeveless shirt in Sedona? Arizona is beautiful any time of year, but never more so than when we leave winter behind for warmer weather. Once there, I do that lizard thing: raising my head, I face the sun and follow it like a heliotropic plant. Plant-like I am immobile. No conversation or book will tempt me. I shut my eyes. As my jaw slackens, it seems to be too much effort to close my mouth.

This rock-bedded tree takes, "Grow where you are planted," to a whole new level.

The Sedona landscape is a soulful thing. The mix of red rocks, high desert, and improbable plants fills me with child-like wonder. The silence is broken only by birds elbowing their way to the feeders and the scurry of small feet – pack rats perhaps. I feel small, dwarfed by Nature.  Looking up I see a vapor trail and then another as planes jet Thanksgiving relatives to the east and west coasts. The technology of the plane (its size, its speed, the miracle of staying aloft) seems like something out of future fiction. I find the technology jarring. Just as I slither out of the primeval ooze, my fantasy is interrupted by today’s world.

view from living room

Our two-turkey family has gathered in the family home. We hike; we talk; we eat; we play some cards; and then we repeat the hiking, talking, eating and playing. Cousins and children fly in on those pesky planes from Colorado, California, Alabama, and California. I try to come to terms with technology: if they had come by wagon train, the trip would have taken too long. The week is an extended treat.

The Red Rocks are the making of Sedona, but another attraction is the Chapel of the Holy Cross which is one with the rocks. For the most part, I prefer nature-in-the-raw, but the Roman Catholic church does make me pause. Marguerite Staude was the founding mother. Inspiration struck her in 1932. Looking up at the new Empire State Building, Staude noticed that from a certain angle, she could see a cross super-imposed on the facade.  This image incubated over the years, and in 1956, her “spiritual fortress,” jutting out of a thousand-foot wall, saw completion. Her intent was to “spur man’s spirit godward.”

I can only imagine the technical problems involved in construction. As for the result, does the chapel add to or detract from the landscape? I’ve always been one for juxtaposition. If you tend to just see rocks and more rocks, the chapel amongst the rocks makes you take a harder look. All at once the rocks “pop.” And I can hardly disagree. To do so would sabotage my long-standing endorsement of Cristo and Jeanne-Claude draping the Arkansas River in translucent/reflective panels.

And yet, in terms of primal ooze, I retreat. I can’t think of any man-made structure that could improve on this particular view of Sedona.

I seem to contradict myself. I’m looking for a way out of the box. I need to lift the lid. Maybe the difference between bare nature and enhanced nature is not that one is better than the other. Maybe it is which view of nature fits your mood. Bare nature lies quiet. You can engage or not. It makes no demands on you. In contrast, man-made, enhanced nature engages you intellectually. The juxtaposition causes you to contrast and compare.

That was close! I saved myself… I think.


Writers’ Trigger:

pedestrian pathway to Chapel of the Holy Cross

I like writing to a photographic prompt. This particular photo could lead you in many directions. For example,

  • Write about the path not taken or…
  • Reflect on diverging paths or
  • Invent. You have taken the wrong road. You are lost, at night without money, without water, without a blanket in a blizzard.
  • Perhaps you have been abducted. Surprise me.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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