86 – We, Me,

Trump won the election the other night. Most of the country is in shock. And I do mean most; Hillary won the popular vote by a large margin. I’m still in a bit of shock myself. What can one do now? Perhaps he won’t be as awful as he made himself out to be throughout this entire election season. Perhaps he won’t attempt to deport millions of immigrants who contribute to the economy, who are building, or have built, lives here for themselves and their children. We are all one people of this one Earth. I welcome everyone of every stripe and shade to this nation. In nature there are no walls. Within me there are no walls. You are you, and I am I, and between us there is no difference but the air which flows freely all around the world. That same air that you breathe is that which I breathe. The same water you drink is the same water I drink. If nothing else connects us but this then that alone should be sufficient.

I am like the Serengeti. A great plain where all may come together and live. I contain lakes and rivers, and vast land for cultivating. Within me all comes together in peace. the Bible speaks that one day the lamb may lie down with the wolf, but this occurs within me regularly NOW. Under the shade of a eucalyptus, the distant ocean waves lapping at the beach like the gentle purring of a cat. I have no mountains to scale, but only trails to run free, and with joy.

85 – Writing from the Comfort of “Home”

I stayed on an extra day in Flagstaff; I could have stayed there permanently. Because of the extra day I had to drive straight through to Santa Fe which I had not originally planned. Oh well; I spent a bit more time at the hostel with Marc, and I bought a used boxset of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. MINT! The books didn’t even appeared to have been opened. The box was a bit beat up, but that’s a non-issue, and it only cost me $8. I’m happy to have a set with matching covers now—because these are such important things—and beautiful ones at that.

Despite driving from Flagstaff direct to Santa Fe I was still able to make a couple stops along the way—one being Walnut Canyon, just barely outside Flagstaff, and El Malpais National Monument, the other, an hour or so west of Albuquerque—as well as detouring a bit along Route 66, mainly curious if I would find anything of photographic interest. Regarding Walnut Canyon I am particularly interested in one photo that I took—not necessarily anything spectacular though—that is simply enough a peninsula of sorts jutting into the canyon with an asphalt walking path winding along it leading to and from the visitors center. There is a person barely discernible, submerged in this landscape, dwarfed by it all, his shadow kind of stuck to the rock wall behind him. He’s no more than a few specks, several grains of silver if this were film, just like every other individual detail in the image. No more or less important than any other.

Along Route 66 I made stops in Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona. Dumps in disrepair the both of them, but that’s hardly a surprise what with the rerouting of traffic to Interstate 40 along much of its length many years back. Route 66 is now just a novelty for the curious traveler, such as myself, or no more than just the main street in these small towns that dot it.

I’m writing all of this on my third day in Santa Fe, at Iconic Coffee in Collected Works Bookstore. I feel good here. Comfortable. Content. Satisfied. Relaxed. It’s a familiar place, and feels like home. Matt, with whom I stayed when I first came to Santa Fe on the very last portion of my cycling trip, helped me cut and sew curtains for my car last night. I’m excited about them, and grateful to Matt for the help. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet up and hang out with a good friend from Annapolis. He attends St. John’s College, which is how we met when we were both in Annapolis a year ago. The St. John’s College campus here is located at the start of the trail for access to Atalaya Mountain, but also right at the base of the much smaller Sun Mountain so he was able to take me on a short hike immediately after meeting up, catching the beginnings of the day’s sunset from the peak. The following day he strung up his slackline between two trees and he, myself, and a few friends of his from the college hung out in the cool air attempting to keep our bare feet from succumbing to the numbing effects of the cold ground for as long as possible. Unfortunately, Jacob, my friend, was the only one able to do so for longer than several seconds. I left that evening with my toes frozen up to the metatarsals. There was a great deal of fun had and laughter produced, though, and an always pleasurable sunset observed. I know not how much longer I will be in town, as I’m waiting for delivery of a down quilt from Enlightened Equipment. Hoping they’re able to fix the shipping issue and get it to me soon.

Autumn in Flagstaff, at Least for this Moment

Humphrey’s Peak right up there
With clouds tailing off
Drizzled with snow like a cinnamon bun.

Flagstaff silent but for the crows,
Some traffic rolling along cracked and tar strapped asphalt
Breeze pushing yellow, green, yellow-green leaves along a sidewalk
Bluebirds bright, their song with joy
Happiness like a child’s reflection in an iced over pond.
Everything—
the very air
—crisp, crackling with energy.

Winter draws nearer.

The smell of old leaves,
Of dead leaves,
New soil,
Life.

Blue of autumn sky.

84 – The Face of Joy

Having left Arcosanti feeling slightly regretful of having not stayed another night, I drove north to the comparatively colder (and wetter) city of Flagstaff. Temperatures were in the 40’s and the rain was coming down by the buckets full. I wanted to go for a run that day as there are trails all over, and so skipped stopping in Sedona unfortunately, but the uninviting weather that greeted me on my arrival at Flagstff discouraged running. I suppose that’s sort of an ironic way of killing two birds with one stone. Oh well. I was happy to check in at Motel Du-Beau, which nowadays is not just a motel but a hostel too.

The motel/hostel is an old, traveler’s motor-hotel (hence, motel, if you didn’t know) from the earliest days of the great American road trip. Opened in 1929 by a French Canadian, it’s original purpose, which it certainly still meets, was to provide a place for traveling motorists to lodge for a night, or several, on their travels across the country. The U-shaped, single story motel is classic in style, and reminiscent of a picture on an old postcard one might find in an antique store. Standing on the opposite side of the street one can easily picture those old, heavy, steel cars of the thirties, forties, fifties… parked out front of each door. Maybe someone is lugging crates of luggage packed full of clothing and souvenirs between a car and room. Others are standing around, slack-jawed, some turning in circles, heads thrown back, gazing up through a confusion of pine needles at the blue sky, smiles on their faces. Despite the rain that appeared with me, and would reappear in bouts throughout the few days I was there, this was how I felt during my time there. In fact, all of Flagstaff struck me as a magical place where one’s head must be thrown back quite regularly to smile at the sun when it’s around, or a bird or tree, the beautiful clouds furling and unfurling, appearing and dissolving, skating across the sky, some marvelous building, or one of the three tall hotel signs from decades ago that are still standing today.

For a city it’s size it manages to accommodate a much larger population than one might think. Permanent residents are outnumbered by students from the university during the fall, winter and spring months, and during the summer it’s inundated by tourists come to visit the Grand Canyon. What this means is that despite its small size there is a surprisingly large number, almost gratuitous, of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops for one to peruse.

Despite its proximity to great outdoor adventures and sites I went on none. Instead I spent much of my time working on this blog, exploring town with my camera, relaxing with a book, and hanging out with this older fellow I met, Marc. His is an interesting story, though short. He lives up in Buffalo and his girlfriend travels a bit as a performance artist. He was on his way here for the third or fourth time to visit her when in Colorado he sent his car several hundred feet down an embankment (incidentally, near where I was staying with my friend Doug, months ago). Somehow he survived this ordeal—he calls it a miracle, which seems to me an apt term—though his car was obviously trashed. Some way, after attending the hospital and apprehending a back brace (yes, that’s all), he continued his way to Flagstaff. I’m not sure how because I never asked, but he was in the room we shared when I arrived and immediately introduced himself, coffee in hand.

A coffee cup isn’t a mere detail with this man because there is nearly always one in his hand, as though he’d lost an appendage and affixed a coffee cup in its place. That leaves him one good hand for holding a cigarette, phone, set of keys, camera, etc. Perfectly fine. Anyway, he felt an affinity for me, and I for him. There was a kindness in his face, an affability, joy. A tiredness in the way he walked it seemed (though that could just be the bad back) that had me feeling a deep sympathy for him. When he smiled, which was often, it was that of a child, and his eyes shown brightly. He listened to me eagerly when I talked about my trip, when I talked about traveling in general. He’s retired and it’s something he wants to do more of. He also wants to leave Buffalo. Move elsewhere. I think part of his journey here was looking for that place. He really enjoyed Flagstaff. He talked about wanting to stay, but unfortunately with the accident it was important that he got home to his family who were naturally concerned for him. He took an Amtrak home the day that I left, though much much earlier in the morning. We said our goodbyes the night before with a simple handshake. Exchanged numbers. He implored me to call him. I haven’t yet, but I was just thinking about this earlier today. I should soon. There are few people in this world that I bond with so quickly. I can’t even say what it is that attracts me to him. He strikes me as a sort of saint. One who smokes cigarettes, is profoundly addicted to caffeine, and listens to a lot of classic rock, but a saint nonetheless. Despite that, I felt that I was the one imparting some sort of esoteric knowledge or wisdom, not he. I’m genuinely curious about what has transpired in his life these past two months since we parted. I still have a number of people to call and get together with here though, too. Well, all in good time! And Merry Christmas to him!, though I know he’s not reading this.

83 – Arcosanti

As mentioned in my last blog post I stayed a night at Arcosanti, breaking up the drive between Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona. I first read about Arcosanti three or so years ago, and was immediately gripped by the theory behind the development of the community. In a way this visit has been quite a bit of time in the making (and very nearly all of that time thinking I wouldn’t ever get the chance to visit), so I’m elated this trip had provided me the opportunity to stop there and see for myself what it’s all about.

In short Arcosanti is a sort of urban laboratory in a very much non-urban setting on several hundred acres of Arizona desert highland about an hour north of Phoenix. It is a community of a few permanent residents and numerous volunteers working together to create a living space that is in harmony with the environment, and within which the members of the community themselves live in harmony.

Arcosanti was first begun in 1970, the brainchild of the architect Paolo Soleri. It is the physical manifestation of the philosophy that is ‘arcology’—a portmanteau of architecture and ecology—the idea that all urban development should be created as harmoniously with its environment as possible.

For a shockingly low price one can choose from a few various sized rooms, from the “Sky Suite” which comes equipped with a living room, kitchenette, and private bath, to their small standard rooms with writing desk and shared toilet and shower. As I’m mainly a pretty low budget traveler I opted for a standard room, all of which are located in one area on the south side of the community. The twelve or thirteen rooms sunk into the hillside all lie in a row, sharing walls, and utilize the earth as a temperature stabilizer. The single exposed side facing south is an enormous window providing for spectacular views over the landscape from anywhere within. I could not have been more shocked and delighted as I walked up to my room then stood there mentally open-mouthed as I peered through the glass. As I mentioned, there is a writing desk, another great surprise for me, though, I did any writing in bed, as often seems to be my custom. Still, from an aesthetic perspective it was absolutely darling and, I thought, extremely thoughtful. The third and final thing that truly made me smile was the plaid, flannel throw at the end of the bed. The whole room and everything in it being white or off-white, the poured concrete floor brown, everything in neutral tones but for that single piece of brilliant red and black. It truly felt extraordinary to me, and lent the space character and comfort. It seemed to me to be saying about Arcosanti, “See? We care. And it’s details like me that prove it.”

The following morning I walked up to the main complex for breakfast (a continental not worth writing about, but considering the cost of a night quite excusable. Dinner on the other hand, which I did pay $10 for, was outstanding and well worth the additional cost.), and afterward packed up before heading out for a tour of the complex. The guided tour which was supposed to last an hour, though ours went on for nearly two since there was no one behind us, covered everything about Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri anyone could wish it to: from the life of Paolo Soleri himself, who only died three years ago, to the first inklings of his ideas which were put into practice at Cosanti, his home and art studio in Paradise Valley, to information about volunteering and/or becoming a resident of Arcosanti, to the philosophy behind the development and community, to information about the environment Arcosanti is located within, to what many of the volunteers and staff do with their free time, etc. It was a wealth of information. Our tour guide, Mark (I think that was his name), was the most excellent person. Answered every question, was patient and kind, extremely knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. Enthusiastic! It was quite obvious that that enthusiasm quickly grasped hold of the group and, for me, didn’t relinquish its grip for days. Quite obviously he loved living there, and, frankly, it was easy for me to see why.

If you’re a resident of Arizona, or someone who’s road tripping through there is absolutely no excuse not to visit this place for a day, a night, a few nights, a week…. A) it’s a most enjoyable, comfortable stay at a budget price and, B) if you’re unfamiliar with urban development will provide a fascinating introduction to it, especially with regards to what ought to be changed about the way much of our country is currently being developed. Hell, I’ll say it’s worth a flight if you’re out of driving range since it is close to Phoenix and Flagstaff.

 

 

82

Mission San Xavier late this morning.

Time worn, desert worn, crumbling like the mountains, immaculate beauty, hard calculating exterior shadows, soft and cool interior ones amongst the arches and domes, the smell of burning candle wicks, restoration work occurring amongst the shadows and scaffolding, woman sitting meditatively against a wall. All is peace for a while until the bloke with the noisy camera comes around. Soporific atmosphere, gentle light, gentler shadows, pins placed on St. Francis’ shroud, redbluegold painted walls like Q*bert’s realm, hard wooden pews—arms and seats’ varnish worn through to the wood. That bare wood a symbol for something. Truth?

Last coffee at Cartel, an unexpectedly delightful discovery in Tucson for this coffee geek. Leaving with an astounding P.N.G. Soon to be on my way to Arcosanti.


At Arcosanti now. Dinner. A delicious dinner mind you. Buffet style. I’m well impressed; it’s worth the $10. Somehow ended up at the one table where half the staff is. Not sure why they sat with me with all the empty tables in the place. These two kids in their early twenties are beside me eating, not saying a word. Sort of mumbled conversation after sitting, but the last ten minutes is just the ‘tink’ of fork on plate. Maybe they’re embarrassed that I might hear some juicy, undisclosable secret (though if that’s the case why not just get their own table). Or just boring. Their colleagues beside them are carrying on lively enough. Thank God I’m on the corner. It’s an easy escape if necessary. There are at least ten other empty tables, as I mentioned. What about me is so magnetic? Like Kevin at the AirBnB in Tucson. Wouldn’t stop talking. Latched onto me like a crab. Or a leach. Or a disciple.

I have great neighbors in the bedroom adjacent to mine. Drinking wine and making merry. I’ll have a glass with them when I’ve finished dining. If any is left. They’re peak bagging. All the highest points in each of the fifty states. What a challenge! (and an expense). I rather like the idea. Quite a collection of memories acquired I imagine.