A Clear Midnight
By Walt Whitman
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering
the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
I had forgotten that we would gain an hour yesterday crossing the timeline, so the sun remained up forever, it seemed. We decided at 8:30 p.m. to drive into Old Town Albuquerque, since we would have little time in the morning and it might be our only chance to see it. We went to the 1706 Church of San Felipe de Neri, walked through the courtyard and wandered by Mexican-looking storefronts with chili peppers hanging from the roof. I bought Paul a Zuni bear fetish as we have lots of private jokes about bears (hence our master AOL account, ThePooh). We went to sleep quite late, then got up quite early on Tuesday -- our anniversary -- to drive through to Arizona.
Adam announced that he had to go to the bathroom in the middle of nowhere, so we stopped in a tiny Indian town surrounded by rocky hills, about two miles from the highway off old Route 66, where I think I may have seen a roadrunner dashing between the rocks. The town had about four functional buildings -- a general store/post office/gas station/horseshoe fitting station, a bar, and a pottery outlet, plus the shed with the public restroom -- surrounded by ranches, ruined brick houses and huge desert rocks. We also passed enormous black lava beds before crossing the New Mexico border. Route 40 parallels not only Route 66 but the railroad, so we got to see eight or nine huge trains with double cars and multiple engines pulling freight across the desert.
In Arizona we headed to Petrified Forest National Park, which encompasses the Painted Desert, where we ate lunch under a shaded pavilion and admired the stratified rock. There are vast quantities of petrified wood all around on the ground, but we were afraid even to pick it up to photograph it as park rangers ask you both upon entering and exiting the park whether you know the rules about collecting ($275 fine and jail, at minimum). We bought the kids samples instead. The sky was so blue and the rock was so pink that it was hard to look at without sunglasses, and it must have been close to 100 degrees in the sun, though there was a nice breeze under the pavilion. The cliffs there aren't quite as spectacular as in the Badlands but that may be because our movements were so restricted; in the Badlands you can walk or climb pretty much anyplace that's not marked as potentially deadly, whereas the Petrified Forest is heavily protected from tourists.
We decided to bypass the meteor crater, which is privately owned and costs a fortune to view, so that we could see Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano. Wupatki is an ancient pueblo in the shadow of a volcano that less than a thousand years ago spewed lava all over the nearby hills, leaving an enormous lava flow now being reclaimed by a pine forest (the only evergreens for miles around. Our feet ended up very black despite wearing shoes. From there we drove into Grand Canyon National Park, stopping at several of the lookout points and eating dinner at the watchtower before checking into Thunderbird Lodge, which sits on the south rim of the canyon. After sunset we walked in rapidly cooling temperatures under a crescent moon around the rim, where bats flew out of the shrubs and deer wandered across the paths.
The Painted Desert