Having lived all my life in or near large cities along the East Coast of the United States, my first exposure to the Southwest, like that of most of my generation, was films and television. My earliest thoughts of places such as Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon were filled with great adventures and romance.
Nothing, however, quite prepared me for my first visit to New Mexico back in the mid-1980's. The light has an intensity not found anywhere else, and the landscape is enormous. It is big, wide-open and sparse. And, the details of culture to be discovered in cities, villages, and pueblos leave you with a sense of place rarely found anywhere else.
You CAN see forever. I will never forget my first glimpse of Ship Rock as it appeared on the horizon from some 10 miles away. Eliot Porter described the sensation best when he said, "This is a landscape that gets into your blood and bones."
You cannot visit Canyon de Chelly without feeling the spirit of the ancient ones who first walked the canyon floor. You cannot look out on the Grand Canyon and not marvel at its creation. You cannot watch the sun set on the red rocks of Sedona without being humbled by the power of nature's awesome beauty.
Thankfully, much of the Southwest landscape remains pristine and majestic -- a place untouched by our modern world. Yes, this is a romantic view. The Southwest struggles with the same social problems found most everywhere, but, for those few brief moments, as I stood before the Three Mittens in Monument Valley and felt their power, nothing else mattered.
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