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In May of 2011 Emily and I and our dog Margot met up with ou r friend Leslie in Denver. We were coming from Houston and Leslie had been in Nebraska. We rented a car and started driving south into New Mexico. We went to Taos and the sun went down there behind a slanted horizon. Then we headed to Santa Fe. Emily bought me a silver belt buckle that was cast in s and by a 6 year-old girl.
The next day - after debating the accuracy o f cyber-maps - we started out for Bandelier National Monument and ended up on a 37-mile stretch of dirt road that cut through the Jemez Mountains. In places the road was solid sandstone with large crevasses and sloped radical ly sideways. We stopped at an overlook to take pictures. There were animal skulls hanging in spindly desert trees. We collected firewood and filled th e rental car with it. We camped that night at Bandelier. People had lived i n the canyon below the campground 10\,000 years ago. There were a lot of st ars and the air was warm. In the morning we walked through the canyon and e xplored the cliff dwellings. Later in the morning we drove into the town of Los Alamos. We had to pass through a security check to get into town. I th ought about Oppenheimer and we had excellent tacos. Just outside of Los Ala mos we stopped at the Jemez Caldera\, one of 6 known land-based super-volca noes. Down the road a ways we hiked to a hot spring with a meningitis warni ng. Afterward we all drank tequila\, even the dog.
When we got to Jeme z Pueblo we stopped at the pottery studio of Flo and Sal Yepa. They showed us what they were working on and talked about how they made the clay and sh owed us pictures of themselves with the Dalai Lama. They invited us to stay for dinner and told us we should go to the rain dance and see their friend s at First Mesa in Hopi Land. We left Jemez and drove toward Monument Valle y.
We arrived late in the evening. The deep black of the rising buttes was set off from the lighter violet blackness of the western sky as we des cended off the plateau. In the morning we took a tour in the back of a pick -up truck through the valley. The sky was clear and blue and the sand was r ed. We stopped and looked at the towering formations cut away by rain and b lowing sand. We lay on our backs with the German tourists\, looking up thro ugh the "Eye Of The Sun" while the guide played a wooden flute. Around noon the wind picked up. By two o'clock the sand was whipping our eyes and cutt ing into our skin. The sky was turning pale orange as we left the valley an d drove south toward Canyon de Chelly.
It was hard to keep the car on the road at times. The visibility decreased and at one point we had to stop . I took pictures of the red clouds of sand that blotted out the road. We a rrived at Canyon de Chelly in the late afternoon and parked at the White Ho use Overlook trailhead on the canyon rim. The wind was still blowing hard b ut we were now above the stinging sheets of sandstone. This trail is the on ly place visitors can access the valley floor without permission of the Nav ajo and a park guide. We started down in the late afternoon and the trail w as all in shadow.
About halfway down we stopped to look at a place whe re a streak of granite ran through the sandstone wall of the canyon. A smal l Navajo woman with a large white pit-bull was jogging up the trail towards us as we tried to remember the geological term for the anomaly in the rock s. When she got close enough she asked if we "liked rocks?" We said we did and then she said\, "This is Pre-Cambrian granite. It's 2 billion years old . The sandstone is de Chelly Sandstone from Permian times - that's Pangea t he super-continent\, 300 million years ago. I grew up here in a Hogan. I ha d one jacket." And then she jogged on up the trail. Twenty minutes later sh e showed up again. She was jogging with her dog 20 feet above us on a small ridge that ran parallel to the trail. It was getting hard to make out what she was saying now but we heard something about looking out for trilobite fossils on the canyon walls and more geological history and then very clear ly she yelled out\," Science!"
In the morning the wind was still blowi ng hard. We drove through Hopi Land and watched the sky turn milky yellow w ith sand. When we stopped for gas the car rocked back and forth and you cou ld hear tiny sounds of granite granules pelting the windshield. A starving stray horse chewed dead grass in the ditch between the road and the gas sta tion. We arrived at First Mesa around noon and parked just below the 1100 y ear old village of Walpi perched there on the cliff. We started walking up the hill\, slitting our eyes against the sharp wind. As the road leveled of f and we started to enter the village a single-file line of Kachina dancers emerged from the doorway of a stone house.
They were chanting and sto mping out a rhythm. We followed them through the tightly packed houses and emerged onto a large plaza. A woman offered us seats on a wooden bench and we watched the dancers for a few hours. The dancers wore different masks. O ne of them\, we learned later\, was the "Snow Dancer." The ceremony was the rain dance. It is performed not only to bring rain but also to maintain co ntact with the supernatural world and to bring the community together. Duri ng a break the dancers handed out baskets of corn and fruit and vegetables. We left after about 3 1/2 hours. Time had slowed down. The wind was relent less and we were filled with sand. We drove west through grey hills and yel low wind toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. When we passed over the Colorado River at Marble Canyon the sky was beginning to turn blue again. W e stopped at an overlook where you can walk out over the river on a pedestr ian bridge. The wind was still blowing but it was no longer filled with san d. We also saw rain clouds moving eastward toward Hopi Land. As we climbed in elevation toward Jacob Lake the temperature dropped and it started raini ng lightly. There were no campsites available in the park so we stayed at t he Jacob Lake Inn. When we checked in there was a chalkboard weather report calling for snow that night. We unloaded the car and then drove 44 miles t o the rim of the canyon. We passed through snow flurries on the way. The su n was setting when we arrived and the canyon was streaked with orange light in the places that weren't grey from the dark clouds above. The air was fr osty and filled with pine. We walked a trail that followed a narrow ridge t o a viewpoint that dropped straight down thousands of feet into the canyon. We talked about the people who had fallen or jumped or were pushed from pl aces like this. We looked at the stratified layers of the canyon walls and remembered what the Navajo jogger had said about the 2 billion year old Pre -Cambrian granite at Canyon de Chelly. The amount of information visible al l at once was overwhelming\, sublime even. We followed the trail for a coup le of miles along the rim until it was dark and cold.
We found the lod ge bar and talked about what we had seen over the last few days. There was a fire and it was nice to be warm and getting a little high. When we steppe d back into the night to leave we saw a few inches of snow covering the gro und. The wind had picked up again and now instead of red clouds of sand obs curing the road it was blowing snow. We drifted a few times and I white-knu ckled the steering wheel on the icy road. I had to flip back and forth betw een the high and low beams to keep from going cross-eyed as I stared into t he chaos of swirling snowflakes and blackness. I felt heavy with the respon sibility of keeping the car on the road. There were moments when the combin ation of alcohol\, the black of night\, the illuminated on-rushing snowflak es and the whiteness of the snow-covered road gave me the sensation of trav eling through outerspace. It was like the effect they use in sci-fi movies to indicate warp speed. It created a kind of vertigo and a few times it mom entarily seemed like the car had dissolved and that I was falling alone thr ough a star-streaked void. Then suddenly I would feel the car back around m e and on the road again. This cycle of feeling adrift in space and then bac k again continued for a good part of the drive back to the hotel.

DTEND:20130120 DTSTAMP:20140711T161920 DTSTART:20121213 GEO:40.7190895;-73.993781 LOCATION:Jack Hanley Gallery- New York\,327 Broome Street \nNew York\, NY 1 0002 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:Ruined\, Shaun Odell UID:249918 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20121213T200000 DTSTAMP:20140711T161920 DTSTART:20121213T180000 GEO:40.7190895;-73.993781 LOCATION:Jack Hanley Gallery- New York\,327 Broome Street \nNew York\, NY 1 0002 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:Ruined\, Shaun Odell UID:249919 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR