When I first started spending time in the Southwest, a whole new world opened up to me. That new world included the opportunity to witness things that were outside my old frame of real-time reference. I remember my first time seeing a tumbleweed being blown across the road, thinking excitedly omg, just like in the old western movies! (Except, of course, I was in a car instead of horse-drawn buggy, and the road was paved, not dirt. :)) Exploration in this beautiful part of the world makes my heart happy. If you are familiar only with the East Coast of the US, you’re missing out on some other-worldly, breathtaking sites. In fact, the Southwest shares so few parallels with the East that I have often said it feels like a different country.
. . . There are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young. ~Anne Lamott
I want to share with you a few of my special finds from the Southwest. I realize these treasures can be found in other locations, and I’d love to hear if you’ve seen any of them, and where. I was surprised to learn this week, after a lifetime of believing otherwise, that tarantulas can be found in more than half of the U.S. Who knew?!
Speaking of tarantulas, I saw this old gal in Sedona. (I say gal because she was alone on the sidewalk of a touristy shopping area!) I’d never seen one outside of a glass-enclosed case, and I was surprised at how close she let me get. I was even more surprised at some of the facts on tarantulas, as reported by spideridentifications.com. They can be as small as a couple centimeters, or as large as a dinner plate! The lifespan of a typical female is 30 years, and 7 years for a male. (Any thoughts on that? LOL! Sorry, guys, I couldn’t resist!) Also, their jaws and fangs, which can be 1.5 inches long, are quite strong. There are not many reports of them harming humans, according to the site, lucky for us.
Next, the Painted Desert occupies 7500 square miles in northern Arizona, between the east entrance of the Grand Canyon and the area surrounding Petrified Forest National Park. This extraordinary landscape is made up of fine-grained rock that is easily eroded and shaped by the elements. As for the coloring, compounds of manganese and iron account for the many bands of reds, orange, grey, and lavender. It is truly a site to behold.
As its name implies, Petrified Forest National Park contains an abundance of wood turned to stone. The above picture, however, was snapped at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Utah. Petrified wood is actually a 3-D fossil that is formed by a mineral process over millions of years. Like the Painted Desert, the fossilized wood is colored by minerals. In addition to the colors in the pic above, you can also find this wood with shades of black, pink and green.
Petroglyphs have been another amazing find for me. How awesome is it that our ancestors unknowingly left us this beautiful history?! The above shot was taken at V-Bar-V Heritage Site in central Arizona. When I visited, the area was an active archaeological dig site (which was a first for me as well!) This rock art was created between 600 and 900 years ago, and encompasses over 1000 petroglyphs on 13 panels. It is said to be one of the best-preserved sites of its kind.
The photo above was taken at Mesa Verde National Park in the Four Corners area of southwestern Colorado. This ancient construction, which is underneath an overhanging cliff, was built primarily of shaped sandstones cemented with mud. Some structures were made for dwelling, others for storing crops, and still others for ceremonial purposes. They are said to have been built between 700 and 800 years ago. Because this population left no writings on the rocks in this location, archaeologists have had a harder time gathering information on them. However, the dig sites around the area have yielded evidence indicating that their “accomplishments in community living and the arts rank among the finest expressions of human culture in North America.” Impressive, huh?
And now, stepping away from history and archaeology, chile ristras are the very mascot of the Southwest, in my opinion! These cheery decorations are made not only for the practical purpose of drying for later use, but also for ornamentation. It is said they bring good health and fortune. They can be found all over New Mexico. Check farmers’ markets to find troves of them, along with other unusual desert-made goodies.
I hope you enjoyed my special finds. The Southwest is really a jewel, with a lot of sweet surprises. I encourage you to visit and explore, and fall in love with a new world, just as I have.
And, now the poll. I am going to rely on your input to determine the subject of my next blog post. These are your choices:
- A new recipe
What say you? Please leave your choice in the comments section below.
Blessings for Sweet Southwest Surprises,