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Bruce Ross, USA
We are traveling
in winter along the Arizona interstate from Tucson toward Chiricahua National
Monument in the southeast corner of the state close to the Mexican border.
One of the exit signs refers to the "pale green" plant found everywhere:
at the Palo Verde exit
Thinking of "Tinturn
Abbey," I realize it has been eight years since I last visited Chiricahua.
We are returning to view the fantastic rock spires, stone columns, and balanced
rocks that comprise the area the Chiricahua Apaches called "Land of the
Standing-Up Rocks." On a wire a small falcon and a large falcon, almost
living talismans for our journey.
In Wilcox, the last town
before the place, we get lost. A local woman gives us directions in a Texas
drawl and wishes us, "Have a nice day!"
Beside the winding road
are white and black speckled cattle grazing on desert scrubland. A small hilltop
graveyard has Mexican-like ornate metal crosses. Signs warn us to watch out
for animals and flash floods.
little brown chickens
small farm house
At small farms on the
road leading to the park are Arizona sycamores with thousands of white, almost
bleached, scraggly branches. The first striated cliffs with bright yellow-green
lichen at their edges begin to show. It appears as if we are approaching a
huge fortress. There is snow on the sides of the road. As we approach the groups
of stacked rock pillars stand like totem poles or Easter Island statues. At
an overlook we see distant vistas of purple mountains behind purple mountains.
Somewhere behind those mountains the Apaches established a hidden stronghold.
Pieces of fallen rock lay by themselves in the road. The stone pillars and
balanced rocks carved by the erosion of a column of tuff, stone compressed
into layers, surround us.
We hike the Echo Canyon
Trail. When the sound of a passing jet fades there is the clarity of a creek
dripping between green lichen boulders. More gigantic balancing rocks and caprocks
appear. A bright green agave reminds us, despite the snow, that we are in tropical
A Mexican jay on a low
branch of a purple spruce just five feet from us is chattering with two other
jays, the only animal life we have encountered. We are at "Monument Valley," an
impressive cluster of giant columns, some which suggest familiar forms like
a rabbit and a helmet. The one jay, perhaps used to scavenging from hikers
at this spot, looks up at us from the ground, obviously wondering where its
There is a little cairn
on a low ledge behind us. I chew some almonds and place the bites near the
cairn for the jay. We take in the mystery of the place. As we begin to hike
again I notice old footprints in the hardened mud. I think of standing here
eight years ago and am lost in prayer.
every step should be
Climbing out of the canyon
at a deep bend a few feather-like snowflakes float past a small falls. We have
our lunch in a picnic area that has attracted a gray chipmunk and a flock of
jays. Someone has built a tiny snowman with twig arms beside the table.
end over end
a winter tumbleweed
takes its time
This haibun received honourable
mention in the Blyth Haibun Contest 2004/5.
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