3.25.2007,6:49 PM
Desert Sunrise

“Men of literature may create the atmosphere and circumstance in which human beings move like microbes across the brilliant yet awesome landscape which they can not conquer or change much; which they have in several centuries scarcely changed at all; but men of literature can not confine on the printed page the essential quality of the land, or convey the sense of unreality and romance that overwhelms the spectator and leaves him with a recurrent nostalgia for a land in which he can not live."
– Walter Prescott Webb, Wrecked Earth, 1937

Texas historian and author Walter Prescott Webb described Big Bend country as “an earth-wreck in which a great section of country was shaken down, turned over, blown up, and set on fire.” In one respect he aptly describes this unique country. At times, it appears such.

However articulate one tries to describe this country, it always seems inadequate. And it is. Because no man can yet honestly claim to have seen and experienced it all: the meandering creeks and rivers, climbed the mountains and explored the hidden canyons and caves, crossed all the basins, forged ahead along the base of all its mesas, crawled into the notches and crevices, bathed in the light of its full moons and lost under the new moons, and stood pelted by rain and hail.

We can only glimpse portions of what this land contains, catch at fleeting moments of changing light and shadows, grasp a transparent rainbow to only have it slip through your gaze, stand in awe under the wide expanse of the night’s theater of stars and Milky Way. Only the patient are admitted audience to a quick hawk or eagle, the prowling cougar, a brazen fox, or the flower of a cactus that lives for only one day. Only those who are silent will hear the chorus of coyotes in the distant, the breezes whispering through the low-growing shrubbery or the wind howling like a ghost through narrow crevices and canyons.

Only those who stand alone and surrender themselves can feel the vibration of timelessness as forces of earthen eruption and upheaval, rain and wind transformed this land over millions of years.

As I stood on the rim of a canyon one morning watching the sun rise over the ridges, turning from black nothingness to copper red and then golden, and tracked the orange, red and white orb in the sky, I was treated to a living video of light, shadows and color. The cacti, the gnarled mesquite, the birds, I and the minute colors of geological remnants covering the desert floor were the audience and the recipients. It was a visual feast that I can’t adequately articulate or reproduce in photographs.

But I try.

Edward Abbey wrote: "Our job is to record, each in his own way, this world of light and shadow and time that will never come again exactly as it is today.”

Just as Randy shared this country with me, yesterday I shared it by photographs and my writing with a visiting British/Australian friend who has never before been to Texas. She saw and felt that country through my eyes and through my heart; she visited a fragment of that land through me.

One morning Zeke and I went out for a long walk in the desert as the sun barely broke the horizon beyond the ridges. I tried to capture as much of the changing desert as I could through my camera lens, while music and words flitted through my head.

I tried to capture what I saw and felt on that morning, in my own way, as if I would never see it again.

To share it with others.

Desert Sunrise

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posted by Macrobe
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