Arizona, 2011

In early October my family came to visit and we went out to spend some time with my uncle in Arizona and, as a bonus, show them some of the prettiest places I had visited before in Arizona. We planned on spending a weekend with my uncle and I had not made any plans, but was I in for a surprise! We got to do some absolutely gorgeous drives and visit wonderful little towns. The first night we did a sunset drive up into the Hualapi mountains seeing the sunset bounce its oranges off of the rocks, leading to a lovely inn and restaurant with some spectactular blackened prime rib. It was just a preview of some of the trips to come...the next day we took gorgeous roads up rising up from the desert through pine mountain passes to a little town called Jerome. It was an old mining town built right into the side of a steep hill with the main street winding through differnet levels of houses and shops filled with artisan works and local crafts. The town itself seemed to hang on precariously to the mountainside, reminding me of some of the villages I had visited in Switzerland. The next day we drove on the old Route 66 on a nice curvy stretch around which each bend gave another glorious vista of the rocks, desert, and cactus that I've come to love so much in Arizona. The road led to Oatman, another old mining town, again filled with not only interesting little shops but also wild burros descended from the animals the last miners had let free. I had never been off the interstates northwestern Arizona and was just amazed at how gorgeous that entire area is.

After bidding farewell it was time to take my family out on a road trip that I had planned for them. A few trips back we had visited some Indian ruins and my mother enjoyed viewing them very much, so we started off by going to see Montezuma's Castle. I had forgotten how complex the dwelling had been and how beautiful it is, curving in sympathy with the cliff into which it is built. This time I had a nice telescopic lens with me and was able to look more in detail at the walls and various crevices and see some of the storage areas I had completely missed the first time I was there! After the sites in Mesa Verde, it may be one of the most beautifully constructed dwellings I've encountered.

Hopping back in the faithful minivan steed, we rode on off and saw the pine trees give way to the desert plains on our way to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. I hadn't been here in ten years and, getting off at the first overlook, I was again struck by the sheer colors in the Painted Desert. Moving between deep reds to purples, bright pinks, dotted with blue, the slowly eroding hills just ooze vibrancy up to the horizon. My family was able to walk among the petrified trees and just marvel in the microcosms of the mineral colors in the ancient trees strewn across the barren landscape of variegated colors. It was bittersweet; this the first place where I discovered Kodachrome and how it made the desert and the colors come to life, but now without it, and yet so happy at being able to show it to my family and share in their wonder at seeing its beauty. I shall need to return here again and spend the night with the colored hills underneath the moon to hear them sing.

Next on our journey we went to Tonto. I had forgotten just how many saguaros were around this little area! Until visiting Mesa Verde it also didn't strike me how special a place Tonto is. Viewing ruins is one thing; walking inside of them is another. Being inside of an ancient place opens the senses and opens the mind. Look around, why are the charred spots there on the walls? See the empty holes in the caliche; what would be inside of those, what building was here? Looking out onto the valley; did these people see beautiful landscapes or hardship? My parents did not make it up, but my sister did, I hope she was able to share in the awe of just existing in a place with the beauty of existance and the lingering centuries of history, leading to such a special wonder.

That wonder would continue and be shared with our next visit to Casa Grande. I had stopped by Casa Grande years ago just because it was on the way, but revisiting it again reminded me of just how spectacular and lingering the memory is in this place. An advanced culture that not only figured out irrigation but also found cities and make structures that align with the stars. A people with great skills and rich lives, a people whose stories and history is lost. Being left to simply imagine and conjecture about perhaps the most meaningful objects and strucures of their lives...if only we could talk through to the past and let their stories live again. Ironically juxtaposed with track housing and the trimmings of our consumer society, at least this last refuge enables them to try and tell us a whisper of their story through time.

We ended with a road trip through Saguaro NP and seeing the Cactus Garden with the lovely variety of saguaros, chollas, prickly pears, octillo, and all other kinds of cacti living on that great area almost inbetween deserts but unique in and of itself. The majestic saguaro. They stretch their arms up towards the sky, proud and tall. Bifurcation and symmetry, how odd that the simplest of forms seems to us to be the most beautiful.

Such a diversity of experience and life in such a short time was tiring even for myself, but any opportunity to share the places that I love with my family is in and of itself a treasure. I look forward to more whirlwind trips. Sharing beauty is a gift of its own, but getting little tastes and reminders of special places renews that itch to get out there and find your way back. Both are wonderful.

The Photographs

This was shot with my regular Minolta system. I started with a roll of Scala as I was trying to get people. I'm not good at shooting people so it was mostly an 85mm lens and shooting randomly. I finished up with many rolls of Ektachrome E200 film and was playing with a 500mm mirror lens and a bellows lens a lot. The bellows lens is fun but I still don't know exactly how to expose it properly, and the sloppiness definitely shows.

Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.