Saturday, April 16, 2005

open air gallery

I guess I should state right off the bat that I do not own a laptop computer or any sort of Blackberryish device. The whole of my easily portable electronic devices include a cell phone, digital camera, and a Garmin GPS unit. That said, I’m writing this blog entry using paper and pen while perched atop a large volcanic boulder near the western reaches of Rinconada Canyon on the west mesa overlooking the city of Albuquerque to the east. (I will type this stuff up later at home.)

I ventured out to Petroglyph National Monument this morning to snap a few photographs of rock art, and to see how “things” have changed in general since last fall. My favorite petroglyphs all appear to remain intact and basically unchanged by time or weather since my last visit. To be sure, there does seem to be some “fresh” graffiti scratched into the rock surfaces here and there, and what visit to a national monument would be complete if you didn’t have to watch the trail carefully to avoid stepping in dog crap? The answer to that rhetorical question is, of course, “None.”

The trail through the day use area is a 2.5-mile-long loop that winds around the basalt outcrops that serve as the canvas for prehistoric and historic (okay, AND modern) artwork, then cuts back to the east and returns to the parking lot. I don’t want to spoil your experience by describing everything you may see when you go, but keep your eyes peeled for geometric patterns, anthropomorphic figures, and decidedly abstract designs ranging from “simple” to “elaborate” that have been pecked into the desert varnished surfaces of the basalt boulders. The area is also teeming with wildlife and interesting vegetation, making it virtually impossible to take in everything there is to see in a single trip.

As I reached the approximate halfway point in the loop, I encountered an elderly Hispanic man sitting on a rock staring off toward the southern horizon. We spoke for a while about how nice the weather was and how many rabbits were hopping about in the sage. Then he pointed out a coyote making his way along the ridge that makes up the southern skyline from this vantage point. He informed me of a trail I haven’t explored that leads along the spine of one of the more prominent ridges. We both agreed that it was probably about the time of year when people should take care to avoid stepping on any rattlesnakes. We chatted for about 20 minutes, but interestingly, the subject of petroglyphs never came up. I learned that he makes the hike “every morning.” I don’t think he told me this information to be boasting, but just to let me know that he hadn’t wandered off from some nearby Senior Citizen Center.

Eventually he announced that it was time for him to continue with his hike. As he wandered off, I claimed his spot on the boulder- that I now share with two small lizards. One of the lizards is watching me as I write. Both are doing push-ups. The sunshine feels amazing on my skin as it warms my blood that is still chilled from that last bit of winter that passed through town on I-40.

Only the shape of the Sandia Mountains can be made out through the haze that has settled over the Rio Grande River valley down slope to the east. Although I can hear and feel the low rumble of life in Albuquerque and traffic along Unser Boulevard, the din is for the most part drowned out locally by the songs of various birds and the roar of jet engines that pass overhead every 15 to 20 minutes.

A goodly number of wildflowers are present, yet the display is less than spectacular. I remind myself that this isn’t the Sonoran Desert. I find the color palette soothing… black, brown, green, grey, blue, white, and just a teasing of yellow.

I do not hear the whispers of ancients as I sit on this rock. I wonder about the artists who passed through this area hundreds, even thousands of years before. I give no thought to those who will pass this way in the future (other than to mention them here). Eventually, the sound of more hikers making their way along the trail reminds me that it is time for me to pack up my notes and head back to civilization. After all, their legs may be weary by the time they reach this rock, and it truly is a fantastic place for one to kick up one’s heels and relax.

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