Friday, November 25, 2005

purple mountain majesties

This afternoon I took a walk. For the first time, I took some photos of Pedernal, the flat-topped mountain Georgia O'Keeffe loved and claimed as her own. I sat down in the dirt and stared at the hills and valleys on the way toward distant Pedernal for a while. Then I walked up and around Owl Mountain to that high spot where I could dangle my feet over the ledge and as I turned the bend, I said out loud "Oh my God." The landscape from this mountaintop view was just so beautiful - I remember uttering such words in Alaska as well. I have seen many a beautiful scene around the world, and I really did not expect to fall so in love with this place. But I have. The colors are almost gaudy -- I always thought the paintings of the region so odd. I like the way it looks in nature far more than in a painting -- the greens and yellows and browns of the land, and the pinks and purples and blues of the sky. Well really the land turns purple and pink too, which is what you see in paintings. Every moment you look to a different direction and when you glance back, everything has changed again. Because of the rolling hills and the mountains in the distance and the rock formations close by, the light really dances and illuminates.

As I sat dangling my feet over the ledge and marveling at the purple mountains, I felt love in my heart for this country. I started singing the lyrics to America the Beautiful inside my head:

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea

and I cried real tears over what we are doing to our land. I remember leaving Houston and just thinking how we (humanity) really are a blight on the land in so many places. And yet I come here and so much wide open space exists, so much beauty. I think maybe New Mexico has got it right? And yet if there were gold or silver or coal to be found in that mountain, and some company got a hankering to mine it, they'd swoop in like vultures and chop that mountain right up. Mountaintop coal mining is back, folks, with weakened rules snuck into the Federal Register over Thanksgiving when no one is paying attention. At least people know about it - with sand mining nobody knows what it is or the devastation it has caused in the beautiful bottomland hardwood forests and lands adjacent to Texas rivers.

I love our country. I love the land, and the principles the nation was founded on. And it's a darn shame that we can not all be wise, conserve, and stop the greedy corporate interests from destroying what remains.

Oh beautiful, for smoggy skies, insecticided grain
For strip-mined mountain's majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea!
-- George Carlile's 1970 version

About the best I can do for the purple mountain majesties with my feeble photography skills. Now if Laurence Parent were here... Laurence! Calling Laurence Parent! ;) He has an out of this world talent. If you have never seen his photos (well if you've seen a Sierra Club calendar you probably have), check him out. This is a link to his Texas Photo Gallery (you can see others in there). He has a lot of NM photos too. Laurence I hope you don't mind me talking about you!
The quaint little outhouse at Owl Mountain.
The toilets. Like you are probably wondering yourself, my first thought was, two seats? What is this for a husband-wife couple? ROFLOL. But alas, one is for "solids" and one is for "liquids". Nothing like reminding you we are all just civilized human/animals, when it comes down to human waste.

PS The comment by Tom Finlay - that's my daddy! :) Gotta love him!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I spent Thanksgiving day with my son, his girl friend Annie Rose, and one of my granddaughters, Kira.

One of the songs that were part of the soundtrack of the day was Bob Dylan singing Woody Guthries "This Land is Your Land." I recall being taken in by the chorus each time it came around, and hoping it was making a bit of a dent in the consciousness of someone else at the gathering (Kira is too young to be impressed by such adult concerns).

AS Dylan sang, "This land is your land, this land is my land

From California, to the New York Island

From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters

This land was made for you and me" I felt a whisper of sadness, for, perhaps, many of those younger than me have lost any sense that they can have any power or influence whatsoever over the proper stewardship of "This Land." Certainly there are those who stand to gain from the exploitation of our natural resources who would like to nurture that idea of the pointlessness of any political involvement, let alone direct action such as demonstrations.

The entire text of the song follows. If you read to the end, you will see that ol' Woody G. was a true lefty (like me).

An appropraite song for Thanksgiving Day:

words and music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city -In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

©1956 (renewed 1984), 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

- Tom Finlay