Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Awesome Day

I had a really amazing day today.

We got up early and packed the rig for travel, with Las Vegas (New Mexico) as our destination. We had previously driven about twenty miles up the back road (Highway 104) and knew it would be a lovely drive. We try (not always successfully) to stay off the interstates, and the drive today was a trip that certainly reinforces that decision.

I don't even know where to start . . .

Well, let's go here.

I have always loved the writing of John Steinbeck and just a few days ago I began re-reading East of Eden. I have to tell you, the first pages of this classic just knocked me for a loop. I am a California native, born and raised in the Bay Area. I was brought up in the Santa Clara Valley and have wonderful memories of what that fertile valley was like when I was a child. I remember how eternal and endless those orchards seemed to me. One of my favorite memories is of going up on Blossom Hill Road during the spring and seeing miles and miles of pastels as the cherries and apricots and plums burst forth, creating a soft hued blanket that is beyond my power to describe. And the fruit stands, selling just picked bounty. Every spring was a veritable cornucopia of rich sweetness. It was some place to be a child.

And the beginning of East of Eden describes the Salinas Valley in such words that you can smell the earth and feel the breeze. The Salinas Valley is just a short spell from the Santa Clara Valley and their geology is similar. While reading this narrative, I was hit with a jolt of nostalgia the likes of which I haven't experienced for years. It made me happy I had been there and sad that it is all gone.

As the industrialization of Silicon Valley progressed, I found myself moving further and further towards the edges of the valley. Finally somewhere in my early twenties, I made the leap to "over the hill" into the San Lorenzo Valley, hoping to recapture some of the quiet and natural beauty that was being lost on a daily basis. And it was a wonderful place, but different. Huge trees and towering mountains, perfect in its' own way, but not what I had as a child.

It felt like home for a long while, but after thirty or so years, I could feel the same transformation beginning. That's when Terry and I decided to start looking for someplace with a few less people and a lot more room.

And we found New Mexico.

As regular readers know, we are exploring all the areas of this state, and we find ourselves in a constant state of awe.

And that brings us to today.

I wish I could just give you all a movie of the jaw dropping scenery we passed through today. I tell you, the old west of the Native Americans came alive, followed closely by the open prairies of the pioneers who came west looking for more land. I put on a collection of old cowboy songs and it all came together like magic.

Here in this part of New Mexico, the dirt is red and the grass is green, colors that can only be found in nature. These hues are enhanced by a sky colored a blue so rich, I don't even know if there is a name for it. Then there are these clouds, which are so defined, yet so ethereal, it literally takes your breath away.

And that was just the first thirty miles or so.

Then the landscape turned rocky, with giant heaps of stones that looked like the leftovers of a race of giants who had engaged in a pebble tossing contest. One moment the land is green and smooth, like a sea of grass, then suddenly these outcroppings begin and it changes completely. As you begin to climb, the really red rock takes over. Mesas loom off in the distance, it looks like every western movie you've ever seen. The striations in these plateaus are unlike anything you can imagine. Gazing across this scenery, which seems to stretch forever, you can see huge dark acres of cloud shadows which blot out the light and give the terrain a whole other dimension. Breathtaking.

After the climb, we again found ourselves in prairies that seemed to go on forever. But these high prairies are different, Instead of seeing mountains rise around you, they are suddenly below you, a small thing it would seem, but a huge difference. Keep in mind that through all of this, we are on a two lane road, only an occasional house and rarely any cars. But there are birds, which soar into forever from this immense sky. And cows, who gaze at us serenely as we slide by, generously sharing their world with us.

There is so little evidence of man and his footprints on the land, it is quite spiritual.

This was all affecting me in a way I am trying, poorly, to explain, but it was a journey I won't soon forget.

It seemed to fit in so well with the feelings that East of Eden had stirred in my soul. It made me feel young, and old, and eternal, and part of something. It made me happy and it made me cry.

Life is really good.

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