A Travellerspoint blog

In the Labyrinth

Staying on the Path, George Reporting

sunny 31 °F

Well, when it's 20 degrees outside you quickly appreciate the fact that you have a blog to write to give you something to do other than stay in a hotel room. In a previous post I made it sound as if doing a travel blog was more of an albatross. Oh, but how one's tune quickly changes!

Besides, we are in lovely downtown Santa Fe, NM drinking coffee inside the 'Collected Works Bookstore & Coffee House' surrounded by books and, apparently, a reading by an author is soon to take place nearby.


Santa Fe's downtown has been an inspiring place. The fall colors in the trees cascade down near adobe structures and around various interesting sculptures. Walking around is fun and simple and the town has a nice balance between touristy spots, museums, open park space, historical sites and comfy places to eat and drink. Yesterday, which also happened to be Veteran's Day, was our first taste of the area and our first Veterans' Day parade.


We stood in the hot sun as the town came out to honor soldiers of all the past wars. Andrea found it a very sad experience and I just started pondering about war and peace. In the parade, I saw my favorite banner carried by veterans. I applauded them as they walked by.


After that, we walked up and around St. Francis Cathedral and surrounding park which inspired me to write this entry. In front of the cathedral is 'The Labyrinth of St. Francis', was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886. He was an important figure in Santa Fe Territorial history and also the title character in Willa Cather’s classic novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop.

The description next to it read:
"Labyrinths have been used around the world since at least 2000 B.C Their
patterns were built into the floors of medieval Cathedrals and walked
by pilgrims of that time. This labyrinth is built in the style of the
one at the great cathedral in Chartres, France."

"The Labyrinth's path is like the path of life. There are
twists and turns, feelings of being lost, encounters with
others on your path, the thrill of accomplishment at the
center, and sometimes a flash of insight before returning."


This description also accurately describes my feelings about this epic travel we are undertaking. The potential for a "flash of insight" was
enough for me to give it a try.

At first, I was alone on the path I had chosen but could hear Andrea's voice nearby as I stared intently at where my feet were landing with each step. I walked slowly and continued to stare directly at each of my steps while my ears opened up to the various sounds around me. Soon, a few other people came to try the Labyrinth and I heard one person say, " I don't understand this.", and he gave up. Another person said this is "silly", and went off and away. A woman on the nearby bench was leaving a strained message on her phone imploring someone to "get back to me". Other sounds, mostly birds, were mixed in. As I walked the path, I noticed that a times I would get close to the center and then further away in what was turning out to a fairly long walk. After awhile, I soon realized that this scene very much typified the path in life I had chosen. When you take a path filled with the Arts, Poetry and Travel, the negative sentiments voiced by those strangers around me were very much the same ones I had heard all my life. I stayed and finished my path which never actually took me to the center but back out of the Labyrinth in a spot opposite
where I started. I'm not quite sure the meaning of that part but perhaps I will have a realization at some point later.

If you undertake a long travel for yourself, I highly recommend trying the Labyrinth at the St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. It may surprise you with what it is trying to tell you.

Thanks for reading.

Posted by woa 19:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Last Storyteller

Some thoughts from a trip to Monument Valley George reporting...

sunny 65 °F

We arrived in Monument Valley on a bright, blue glorious day. The impact of the natural wonders around us were immediate and delightful. I've probably seen several movies using this valley as a backdrop but nothing can compare to actually being here. These sacred natural monuments inspired the native peoples living there for thousands of years. It also has inspired writers, poets and moviemakers for decades and it is easy to see why. The ancient native oral tradition on the origin of the world revolves greatly around these fantastic canyons and buttes. At some point, I thought to myself, "This must have been the Garden of Eden for the world's first Storytellers".

We are staying at 'The View' hotel inside the park. The only hotel here where every single room has a balcony view of Monument Valley. Our first instinct was to open up the chilled bottle of wine and just sit out and stare for hours as the dandelion sunlight bathed these sacred natural wonders.

The overall silence was also beautiful but I do like to have a little classical music play in the background to help stir my imaginations. The phone rang at the precise moment I was turning on its music app. It was my good friend, world traveler (and great storyteller) Adam from Chicago calling at what seemed (to me) to be the perfect time. He asks, "So where are you now?"


I spoke happily, in a jaw-dropping manner, caused by the magnificent view before me. I remarked to him that I wished I could, "pluck my eyes out and put them in his head" so he can see exactly what I was seeing. The discussion soon morphed into ideas about technology, the younger generation and travel. Adam enthused on the potential of how new media technology might bring these fantastic places to people via some kind of tech device. We talked about how I could Skype to him what I was looking at and I was reticent at the thought of that knowing that even the greatest, current technology could not accurately show him what I was seeing. We spoke about how the younger generation is accustomed to having nearly all their experiences mediated through some kind of device. "Is it making them more creative?", he queries. I did appreciate the fact that I could hear my passionate friend's voice in a clear manner even thought it was hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Adam can tell great stories and I remembered the stories he told about the long cross-country travel he did a few years ago. Actually, I don't remember the specifics of his stories but I do remember how his storyteller-voice made me feel like traveling to all the places he visited. I know that technology can certainly convey the specifics of any place on the planet but can it make you truly feel like you have to travel there? Isn't that what the best stories do to us....make us feel like we are actually there or, as the great author Joseph Conrad said, "More importantly to make you SEE."


I wonder now if a generation trained on mediated devices, would just be satisfied with images and videos of amazing places like Monument Valley, and thus not feel the imperative to ever visit them? Images, videos and sound are not enough. There still needs to be the ancient storyteller voice coming through that compels us to visit these sacred, natural places around the country and the world. And visiting these natural wonders is also a way we can financially support its preservation and, in many cases, its restoration from human abuse. I thought to myself, "Will the birthplace of the storyteller someday also see the last one?"

Posted by woa 18:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A Walk With The Spirit Dog of Monument Valley

Dusty Loarca George Reporting

sunny 57 °F

Although we spent only one night at Monument Valley, every minute seem filled with something wondrous to behold or to think about.

Here is just one story I just had to share with you.

Soon after arriving in glorious Monument Valley we took a short walk at sunset around the hotel grounds. Across from the parking lot was an area dedicated to installations recreating how Native American in the area lived. As we walked around, a clean, friendly dog (some kind of collie, I think) walks right up to Andrea. Andrea immediately recoils at this as she is apt to do whenever a strange dog comes up to her. He (the dog) wasn't hostile and made no noises but was only wearing a flea collar. "Where is the owner?", I thought. We ignored him and he went off and disappeared.
Early next morning, we decide to hike the 4 mile Wildcat trail. This only officially maintained path loops around the West Mitten Butte. the path lies within the Navajo Tribal Park. As we approach the trail head, who appears but the very same doggy from the night before. Again we looked around for an owner but saw nobody even remotely nearby. We petted the doggy and I gave him a breakfast muffin I had planned on throwing away because it fell out of my pocket and onto the ground soon after breakfast.

We left the doggy to enjoy his treat and headed into the canyon. The morning was a crisp, blue sky mixed with the Southwest red sandstone that was all around us.

Almost immediately, the doggy reappeared along side us on the trail and acted as if he knew the trail very well. He would often run up ahead of us to a certain point, turn his head and see if we were following along. Soon I was thinking about the artwork of the great artist Carlos Loarca of San Francisco. I worked along side Carlos at Somarts for several years an came to appreciate his vivid colorful paintings often depicting dogs. Many, many years before while living in Guatemala, Carlos was an alcoholic who wandered the dark, dangerous streets at night trying to get from some bar to his home. Many times, drunks would be killed walking along those roads at night and Carlos tells the story of how a strange dog would always show up to safely escort him home.
Of course Spirit Animals are well-known and revered in many cultures particularly Native peoples. Pretty soon, we named our strange new friend, 'Dusty Loarca', after the steel guitarist we met in Flagstaff, and the painter. At one point, we were unsure of what direction to head on the trail and Dusty would just show up and seemingly point us in the right direction. We were the only people on this trail that morning and saw nobody. It was just us, the desert canyon and the towering, monstrous buttes around us....and of course Dusty Loarca.

Dusty stayed with us the entire length of the hike, disappearing only on occasion. It was actually a sort of comfort knowing he was there. I would stop to give him some of our water because now I really doubted that he had a true owner. Did he just live in the park and join hikers just for the hell of it?

We finished our hike and Dusty once again drifted into the parking lot, making friends with whomever happened to be there. I purchased a sandwich inside and went out into the parking lot to give it to him. After awhile I found him hanging around some new arrivals. I whistled to him and he came to me. I fed him the sandwich and thanked him for looking out for me and Andrea on the trail.
The meaning of all this hasn't completely set in. We are researching the meaning of Spirit Animals and dogs in particular. I think he was meant to say or mean something to Andrea since I've never had a dog appear out of nowhere when I traveled.

I think about Dusty now and then and can imagine him taking other visitors to Monument Valley on a hike through Wildcat Trail. What a job for a dog.

Posted by woa 18:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Monument Valley 1

by Andrea

sunny 63 °F


So much silence here
sacred sculptures fashioned
without man's touch
red sand
sacred valley to the natives
awe-inspiring to us

The most beautiful sunrise this morning,..

And a gorgeous morning hike with our new friend... we called 'Dusty Loarca'

Posted by woa 20:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona

Catching Fall

sunny 70 °F

We took a day to visit Sedona AZ via the Oak Creek Canyon road. An amazing place to travel through in the Fall with colors everywhere.

"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm." -Theodore Roosevelt

Sedona is one of those places that depends mightily on its surrounding natural beauty. Take that away and you are left with a small town filled with tourist traps and hokum.

Posted by woa 16:52 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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