Thursday, May 30, 2013

And Then, Morning

Contemplate this image.  This is not a photograph.  Well, it is a photograph, of course.  A digital representation yes, but of an actual place, an actual moment, remember.  In the world of the flat screen--the magnificence of earth and sky and beyond as entertainment--it can be easy to forget it is an actual place, an
actual moment.

On the morning of April 27, in the three-dimensional world, I had the great privilege of waking up to this breathtaking sight.  How that happened owes to having seen images like this one over the years, and most recently while putting together my trip to Arizona last month.  I love Tucson, the Sonoran Desert, and I keep returning to it.  But this time, having longer to spend, I wanted to explore beyond Saguaro Country. 

I'd visited the Grand Canyon once, briefly, and the inimitable Sedona, land of the vortex, both further north.  But I wondered about the rest of Arizona.  A little bit of research (thank you, Google!) turned up two distinct destinations:  Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley, pictured here.  To reach it involved a long drive north, to the Utah border in fact, across a largely (as compared to the southern part of the state) barren landscape. 

I had made a reservation for a one-night stay within the Valley.  Being pretty much the only accommodations with such proximity to the monuments, one night cost more than all my other nights' stay combined.  So I kept it to one, which gave me only one chance at sunset, once chance at (just after full) moonrise, and one chance at sunrise.  I arrived just before sunset prepared to greet each of them, one by one.

I am a night owl, not a morning person; I rarely see sunrise, but I wasn't going to miss this one for all the tea in China.  I set two alarms--a little tricky since Monument Valley (as with all of the Navajo Nation) observes daylight saving time where the rest of Arizona does not; I had to be certain I was changing the hour in the right direction--and I kept the wall-sized drape parted hoping the first signs of light would help to rouse me.  Then I slept.  A bit.

By the position of the sunset and moonrise, I knew roughly where on the horizon to watch for the sun.  But where exactly it would emerge across the cutout of monuments would be a surprise.  When a glow as of embers simmering just below the horizon began to grow, I was up, wide-eyed, and ready.

What a sight, to witness the dawn paint the black sky--first red and blue then blush then hot orange--and to watch the monuments sharpen in relief.  After a time I noticed one spot growing hotter, yellower than the rest.  I could hardly believe my eyes.  There smack in the middle of this iconic silhouette the sun burning yellow star ever so slowly but steadily emerged, silently, unceremoniously and altogether unforgettably bringing the day.

Later, I would walk among these monuments, apprehend their grand scale and their palpable aura of wisdom, adding dimension to what I was beholding.  It's among the most natural of occurrences, night becoming day.  But this day it felt like a miracle. 

Look past the image to the place, the happening moment now.  Enter the miracle.


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