The mountains express their grandeur as if shrouded in a greater sense of humility…They await the vainglorious sun to strafe their grand features with beams of light and shifting shadows, allowing others to do their boasting while they rest, contentedly, as the backdrop for the dramatic scenes of the day.
In the flat expanse of land that occupies the space between the mountain ranges of New Mexico, we follow the trail of Laguna del Perro’s sandy recesses as if picking up the shadowy accents of deep tracks left on a muddy bank.
In the absence of growth, we watch the epochal process of aging…though there is no discernable greenery here in the Navajo backcountry, make no mistake, this is an integral part of living planet. Imagine an earthen solar field collecting and reflecting heat from the atmosphere, feeding the process of evaporation in the hydrologic cycle. Millennia of erosion have created finely articulated surfaces on the face of the desert, expanding its surface area…growing but not growing, as if some zen riddle. It’s going to be a long hot summer…
In a moment, the last moment before the sun breaks the horizon, the atmosphere is cast in a warm glow of soft predawn light. In a moment, the moment after sunrise, we will no longer be able to look eastward due to the painful glare of unfiltered light. We enjoy it while it lasts and recognize this moment for the gift that it is…a moment of illumination, an inspiration.
As we climb through the weather that dominates our morning, we get our first glimpses of sunlight illuminating the roiling surface of the cloud deck from which we emerged and giving texture and dimension to what seemed an ominous void only moments before…Illumination changes everything.
Following the echoing lines of Chaco Canyon, we barely perceive its depth…A shift in perspective is essential to understanding a place…Like so many others, we observe the beauty but cannot see the significance…Until, at last, we touch earth and experience the tangible splendor of these earthen patterns…their depth, their weight, their history, and their spirit.
Waking in darkness, venturing through the night, passing myriad coffee stands yet to open…we work our way toward the sky…As we escape the shadows and fly tangent to the troposphere we join in the sunrise…As the terminator slips away from us, our Brocken specter bending dawn’s light as it reflects back toward us, we receive the reward for our predawn toil.
Looking upon the seemingly motionless flow of the Missouri River as it winds through middle America in late spring, the massive yet graceful bends in her meanders betray the force of her waters.
We have choices. Climate change is bigger than any of us. Weather cycles are just that. Absent human influences, these cycles will continue and sometimes result in environments where current species may not thrive. Given human influences, we contribute to an acceleration of these cycles and the cycles that once surpassed the capacity of human memory, now may take place within our lifetimes…If we are students of earth and observers of the world around us, we can understand this and accept our potential fate, while also recognizing our holy duty as stewards of this planet to do what we can to mitigate the impact of our excesses.
There are visionary leaders among us who, recognizing the value of science, apply its lessons without sentimentality toward archaic and shortsighted energy schemes in order to lead us collectively to become better stewards despite the personal political risks and short term costs…to do what they can… Yet, there are others who would allow the potential benefits of changing our ways to be obscured by the grim smoke of intransigence and selfishness, denying our role in the sustainability of our planet…in short, treasuring the value of sloth.
We, the people may wander the desert devoid of leadership for some time until the light leads us to see a glimmering as a signpost toward a different fate…Then, if we are wise, we may accept our role and rise to the challenge…