Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Remnants of sediments (day twenty one and twenty two)

Dear diary, I lost track of time. Are we an hour closer to home, or an hour behind? Did I gain an hour just then? Are we on mountain time, or Navajo time? Did I miss the boat?

The blisterheat of Las Vegas is soon traded in for the blisterheat of Arizona's lunar landscapes. Eventually we will reach the Grand Canyon, but first we mist drive through this dust whirl, flinging round papers and junk. Can I call it a tornado? Yes, I can. We drove through a tornado, a whirlwind, and a dervish. The car skittered and shook, and the captain had to lock out his elbows to maintain the course. So close to a spin or a flip. I think we should have braked back there... Too late in a heartbeat adrenaline surge.

This diner has a gun beneath the counter, and they're illiterate enough to use it. The owner dreams of space flight, but her minor restaurant chain won't allow it. Cowboy hats and cactuses only get you so far. Four staff on shift... Someone's got to keep the employment figures up. Paranoid America is cowering at the Hoover Dam. Security checks... All the Muslims and shady characters please pull over. We suspect you may want to blow up our dam. A curved wall of concrete, an architect's dream and an engineer's nightmare. Such 1930s ambition, it would help anyone get over depression.

Echo. There is no echo. The canyon got too big. Beyond scale. There is no scale. It skitters away below us, down. Some people walk down, come back up. Some people just walk down. Tourists crowd round to take photos, but it'll never work. It's beyond scale. Nature's sculpture, slowcarved through layer and layer and layer of rock. In a million years it'll be even better. Patience.

Buts jutting out in scarlet sandstone red, a glimpse of green river water somewhere below. Barren but alive and shadows shifting in the sun. The desert is spraying sand dust across the road in glistening sweeps. Odd shacks cluster, beatendown and dulled dark. The Navajo sell from the side of the road their authentic good. Hands up who wants some buffalo jerky?

It's all pretty prehistoric round here. Which is hilarious, because dinosaurs walked through here once... Left their tracks in the red sandstone plateau. Claw marks still visible. Millions of years old, but they still look fresh, or fake. Too good. This is concrete, right? Once this was a seashore, now we're thousands of miles from brine. Some asteroid smacked down. Puffed the dust out, froze the moments in time- laid eggs, a terrible lizard laying on its side, sunbathing on its patterned beach towel, pterodactyls landed and folded. The Navajo shows us round, facts cribbed from a child's dinosaur book. They used to let scientists take the bones. No more. These are Navajo footprints. Jade and turquoise jewellery is presented on exit. One must atone for one's white man's guilt.

Roads trail round the edge of abuts and scree slopes, peaks pointing, prone and jagged over the horizon. Erosion and water did this. Nature works well here, crushing its tectonic plates together to crumple rock layers, fold them over. Higher up. Yes. Stratified stripes white, pink, red, purple, yellow. Perfect like a bottle of sand. Zion had a Native American name once. Then the preachers arrived. Angels Landing, Abraham, Jacob and Isaac and on and on and on. Towering sandstone crags, canyon walls. The bottom of Zion is the top of the Grand Canyon. The top of Zion is the bottom of Bryce. All connected, steps of an epic staircase. The missing rock, the canyon of the canyon, covers California and Arizona. Nature levels it all out eventually.

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