Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Long Road Home

As my journey comes to an end, I am starting to feel home calling to me. It is like a siren's song growing louder and stronger by the mile, pulling me back to the inevitable embrace of the people I love and the town that never seemed to small for me. I am not going back to a place diminished by what I have seen, but illuminated by it.

There is something about returning home that I cannot really describe. Seeing the strange give way to the familiar, feeling the damp air in my lungs, smelling the earthy, dirty smell of the Black Warrior River. An orchestra of insects serenades me like a military band welcoming back heroes of war from a long campaign in distant lands. I feel like a child again as I pull into the driveway, comforted again by the routine of coming home, a routine that is only reinforced by the slight deviations that accompany each individual trip.

I have come home early and in secret. My brother is in the living room distracting my parents with his digital video camera. I stalk quietly onto the porch, and then after a moments pause, I burst through the front door and yell "Surprise!"


My story is not a new one. Millions of people have made billions of journeys throughout the ages, some for pleasure, most for necessity, and all an act of discovery. The experiences that I have had and the wisdom that I have gained is not uncommon to man, and yet, in spite of their universal nature, the things that I have learned are simultaneously unique to me.

I see that truth as fundamental to the beauty of this side of life. We are all the same, and yet we are all really and truly unique. If this were not so, what would be the point in experiencing anything?

Every snow flake is made of the same substance with the same chemical properties and basic structure, and yet every snow flake is different from every other snow flake. Are we not amazingly more complex than a bit of frozen water?

I praise Him for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Long Walk

Mesa Verde was much more than I had imagined as a child. The culture and history of the people who lived here was enough to keep me wandering through museums and cliff dwellings for hours, until my whole body ached and I simply did not have the energy to see another Kiva, or read another informational plaque.

I left Mesa Verde excited to have seen something that I had always wanted to see. I made my way east from the National park all the way to the borders of Great Sand Dunes National Park, South of Colorado Springs. Camping for the night in a large sandy field of desert scrub, I was presented with more stars than I have seen at any other location on my travels.

The next morning I began the short drive into GSDNP, a drive punctuated by sighting of elk and prong horned antelope. The dunes themselves were amazing. In spite of the bitter cold wind and light rain, I made my way a quarter of a mile out into the foothills of sand. It was difficult hiking across the loose ground, my face constantly being stung by blowing particles of silica. Eventually I was forced to turn back, but my timing turned out to be good because I was rewarded with two sights on my way out of the park. The first was a menonite dad with his four happy daughters, the youngest of which was holding his hand as he skipped with her to make her happy. The second sight was a group of four really big bodied, large racked mule deer.

I becoming anxious about the end of my trip, so I will sum up my remaining adventures in one paragraph. I made my way north, where I went rock climbing in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and stopped to give a homeless lady a bag of groceries as well as a bible that she asked for. From there I visited Denver, where my truck was assaulted by wind to the point that as I slept it felt like my vehicle was being physically pushed by people outside. I made a brief visit to Boulder, where I met up with my friend and former boss, Laura, who showed me around campus, took me out to eat, and then allowed me to stay the night on her very comfortable couch. The next morning I had a fun photoshoot with a 19 year old argentine foster mom. That afternoon I set out on a two day, 22 hour, 1200 mile drive east and south through Kansas, Missouri (where I saw two horse and buggies riding down the highway), Arkansas (where a friendly guy gave me 5 quarts of oil for my truck even though I told him that I had plenty), mississippi, and finally sweet home Alabama.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why Did The Coyote Cross The Road?

I feel like the L-rd has decided to bless me above and beyond the norm today, beginning with the two coyotes that I saw running full tilt across the highway. As I descended from the 8,000 feet of elevation at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the terrain slowly shifted from forest back to desert.

I do not claim to be an expert on the Navajo, also called the Dineh (or Dine, or Dinae), but for most of my childhood I have been led to believe that they did not believe in the private ownership of land, and that they cared greatly about nature. For this reason, I find it slightly ironic that just outside of the town of Page, where I stopped to get my oil changed, I saw my first Navajo power plant, as well as Antelope Canyon, the first of many natural wonders that they charge to visit because it is on “private property”.

I am a little sad about Antelope Canyon because I have always wanted to visit it, but I did not have the time or the money to see it this trip (at least that is what I am telling myself). Instead, I got back on the road heading for Mesa Verde. I spent a large chunk of the trip talking on the phone to my mom and dad and my friends Mary Katherine. I stopped briefly at a pull off on the side of the road where a lady built a stone house in the 1930s using natural boulders as part of the architecture. I drove right past the Four Corners National Monument, because once again, the Navajo Nation charges an admission fee.

Finally, around evening, I arrived at Mesa Verde. I have wanted to visit this place ever since I was a young child and learned about it in my history books. The cliff palace in Mesa Verde National Park is a pueblo village dating back to 1200 B.C. which is built entirely in the under clung side of a cliff (like a huge, shallow cave). The Mesa is both huge and beautiful, covered in dead trees and low red and yellow colored scrub brush. The road to the cliff dwellings snakes more than 23 miles from the park entrance to the terminal loop that passes the majority of the dwellings.

I made it just in time to see the cliff palace before sunset. It was breath taking to see the ancient architecture, still in a good state of repair after all these years, due to the shelter of the cliff. I spoke to Morine, a fellow traveler who convinced me to return in the morning to take the tour. She had spent the entire day at Mesa Verde and she insured me that the tour was worth it. I guess we will find out tomorrow!

As I made my way back to the rest stop where I will spend the night, I was surprised to hear celtic music on the radio. It was Thistle and Shamrock with Fiona Ritchie, one of my favorite radio shows, and one that never fails to make me want to move to Scotland or Ireland to marry a red headed, green eyed princess.

Maybe next summer….