One of the happy memories of my intensive child-rearing days is watching PBS’s Reading Rainbow with our children, Sarah and Robert. In those hot and humid Virginia summers, the three of us looked forward to piling on the bed, cooling off with the faint air of the window unit, and enjoying LeVar Burton’s light, upbeat delivery of the good news about books (or the news about good books). My favorite episode, from 1983, featured Paul Goble’s Gift of the Sacred Dog.* In this episode, Phoebe Snow sang a song written for the show by Steve Horelick, “Ancient Places, Sacred Lands,” which evokes the power of American names. I cry whenever I hear the song, including twice this morning. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odd53Y3d2GM):
Come sit beside me, and hear a story
Of long ago when the people lived free
And named the waters, and all the places
High and low
Ancient Places, Sacred Lands
Names we know so well
But no one understands
I guess it is either the English teacher in me or my somewhat obsessive nature that makes me love lists. Furthermore, I particularly love American lists. Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou, Stephen Vincent Benét, Edward Abbey, heck, even Vachel Lindsay please me with their incantations of American experiences, people, and places.
Why I am telling you this now: For the last seven weeks my husband Tom and I have been traveling by car in the intermountain west in fulfillment of a long-held dream. I’ve tried to post some insights (or, at least, experiences) of this trip, but that has proven difficult. I don’t have words to describe the places we’ve seen. I have some photographs (below), but even the best of them are only crude likenesses of what we have seen. Likewise, I can’t describe my emotions accurately either. Tom and I have been happy and sad, giddy and pensive, and satisfied or not. We have visited some of our dear friends from the old days and found them to be as dear as ever. That is, we have not arrived on a different plane; life has gone along with us on the journey. So, I have turned to the names of the places we’ve visited, hoping, as with the poets, that some of the power of the places can be transferred to this page:
Colorado, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Book Cliffs, Utah, Uinta National Forest, Price Canyon, Soldier Summit, Salt Lake City,Quince Street, Marmalade District, Little America, Goshen, Kolob, Zion, Rockville, Springdale, Refrigerator Canyon, Walters Wiggles (a few), Pa’rus Trail, Angel’s Landing, Oscar’s Café, St. George, Ivins, Santa Clara River Reserve, Arizona, Arizona Strip, Kaibab Plateau, Jacob Lake, Vermillion Cliffs, Flagstaff, Coconino Plateau, Mogollon Rim, Sedona, Sally’s house, Teacup Trail, Jim Thompson Trail, Chapel of the Holy Cross, Jerome, Prescott, Thumb Butte, Nevada, Boulder City, El Cortez Hotel, Las Vegas, California, Needles, Mojave National Preserve, Barber Peak Loop Trail, Opalite Cliffs, Banshee Canyon, Colorado River, Cattail Cove State Park, Virgin River Gorge, Springdale (again), Zion (again), Great White Throne, Pioneer Lodge, Watchman Trail, Coalpits Wash, Scoggins Wash, Weeping Rock, Hidden Canyon, Temple of Sinawava, Page, Big Water, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Wahweap Hoodoos Trail, Kanab, Sq**w Trail, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Track site, Mt. Carmel Junction, Elkhart Cliffs, Long Valley, Sevier River, Panguitch, Panguitch diner, Panguitch in the snowstorm, I-70 to I-15 in the blizzard, I-15 to Payson in the whiteout, Art and Skip’s Mardi Gras, Spanish Fork Canyon, Price Canyon again, Soldier Summit again, Glenwood Springs, Vail Pass, Eisenhower Tunnel, Denver.
*In the last three years I have divested myself thousands of books and papers, but I still have all of our Paul Goble books safe and sound in storage. I highly recommend Goble’s retellings of Native American stories, but you don’t have to take my word for it…. I’ll see you next time.