Category Archives: Travel

We Left Our Dignity at the Four Corners Monument

Sign reading "Welcome to Four Corners U.S.A."

Four Corners is on Navajo tribal land. The site is administered by Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.

Herman and I don’t have much of a bucket list, but one thing that was on it was to stand atop the Four Corners Monument–the point where the borders of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona intersect.  There is something about the idea of being in four states at once that brings out the silly kid in each of us.

Herman crouching with a hand or foot in each of four states.

Herman lives the dream, a hand or a foot in one of four states.

 

Charlotte doing yoga pose Downward Dog with a hand or foot in each of four states.

This may be how I threw my back out. Downward Dog in four states.

 

We planned to do it the last time we were on an expedition out West, but after we braved barren lands, big winds, and swirling sand between Monument Valley, Utah, and Cortez, Colorado, we were so disappointed to find a big “Closed for Construction” sign slapped across the highway marker for the Four Corners Monument.

This time we went a good 200 miles out of our way to try again. And succeeded.  As I overheard Herman tell one of our kids on the phone, “There’s no way to do it without sticking your butt in the air, but it was worth it.”

Herman and Charlotte standing on the four corners plaque.

Two people, two states each.

What’s on your bucket list? Where have you been that made you act like a fool? Just click on Leave a Comment below.

Acoma Pueblo and Sky City

Drive 60 miles west of Albuquerque on Interstate 40. Turn onto a dusty two-lane road that leads 16 miles into the tribal territory of the Acoma Pueblo. Pass abandoned and inhabited adobe dwellings; overgrazed, arid land; and fortress-like natural walls formed of sandstone blocks.

Speculate on towering monoliths sculpted by water and stranded by centuries of winds that every afternoon gust up to 25 or 30 miles per hour. Sacred places? Idols? Homes to gods? Hard to tell. A sign jabbed into the ground simply reads “Off Limits.”

Sculpted by Water and Wind

Keep driving.  Arrive at last at a modernistic building plunked in the middle of this beautiful nowhere: Sky City Cultural Center. But you’re not really there yet.

The outside wall of the Sky City Cultural Center under a deep blue New Mexico Sun.

Sky City Cultural Center

Peer hard at the top of the mesa behind the Cultural Center and barely make out a complex of adobe and sandstone block buildings. This is Old Acoma: Sky City.

Acoma pueblo atop a mesa at Sky City, New Mexico.

The Cliff Dwellings at Sky City

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Communion at White Sands

Charlotte stands on the dunes at White Sands, arms spread wide, under a fiercely blue sky.

At White Sands National Monument

A few months ago, I was making one of my periodic attempts to get a handle on the mess I had jammed into our basement when Mother went into assisted living. I stumbled across a black and white photograph of my father, young, wildly bearded, blue eyes blazing from a sun crisped face, standing in a vast white landscape. He looked like a Wild West prospector and that might have been close. Daddy was a physicist–a rocket scientist, in truth–and the notation on the back of photo said “White Sands, Summer 1952.”

The picture was taken just weeks before I was born in October and I finally put together some pieces of family lore that previously had not made sense. Why my grandmother had come to stay with my mother in Chapel Hill, NC, during Mother’s pregnancy, but not after. Why my mother once told me a tale about lying prone on an Atlantic beach with a hole scooped out in the sand to cradle me in her belly. She was there with her brother and his wife but never mentioned my father. Why my mother’s boss taught her to drive that summer, even though Mother could barely fit herself under the wheel and stretch her legs to reach the pedals.

Aha. Daddy was off in New Mexico, getting suntanned for the only time in his life, and doing science with the great minds of the Atomic Age. Continue reading