Sunday, September 23, 2012

landscape versicolor

the colors always amaze me while driving.  the variation in color never cease to surprise me during long road trips.  right now my uncle gary and i drive east on interstate 40 away from albuquerque, new mexico toward amarillo, texas.  the map says clovis lays directly south of us.  we will soon cross the texas border.  the land here seemed bulldozed, flattened over, dotted with dark green scrub, but at five in the afternoon the grass otherwise glows yellow and gold, champagne colored.  in the south, flattened mountains streak the lower horizon, a band of deeper blue speckled with yellow and red under the pale blue and yellow sky.  signs flash golden white, blinding until we race right by them: speed limit 75.

this morning red and white and purple dominated the landscape.  

leaving flagstaff, gary and i drove east and stopped through the petrified national forest.  crystal forests they call them.  226 million years ago, arizona existed as a tropical paradise of trees and ferns and alligator-like creatures and early dinosaurs, close to the equator, pressed up against africa before continental drift.  california and nevada lay under the ocean.  and over the years trees in this area fell, sinking into sand and mud rich with silica and iron, mostly likely from volcanic activity.  after the sand and mud preserved the trees from further  decay, the silica replaced the organic material of the trees, turning the trees into quartz deposits.  when erosion pushed away the mud, the petrified trees found themselves exposed to our aeon millions of years later.

logs strewn about in the sand, or entire trees felled and petrified, broken into regular segments by erosion.  the exterior bark had become dark dark, tinged with red.  but the sagittal view of the logs revealed geode interiors, white and yellow and red and amethyst crystal whorls instead of rings.

in the distance hills, sometimes jagged and sometimes flat topped, enclose us, breaking the skyline.  the rock can be dotted with scrub, but mostly nude the rock is striated with lines of color.  driving away from the crystal forests we drive by a vista of the painted desert, white and red and purple and striped.  entire hills of red.  red like mars.  and empty.  and i had to wonder who lived here ever and how.  the land seems too hot, too inhospitable.  beautiful but merciless.

tomorrow will be green. continental reverdie.  in eastern oklahoma and arkansas the trees will thicken with the accents, and the shades of green will darken, the air become moister.  driving the foliage will increase and our vision as my uncle and i drive will be a blur of greens and blues and yellows with just touches of orange, of brown.  then the brown and lumbering mississippi river.  (i will say, “there she is!” as we drive over.)  and in the heart of dixie, in the deepest south, the browns and yellows of the grass and trees will jump forward, the heat having sucked away so much moisture and chlorophyl from the plants.  then the tennessee river.  and the trees thick, dense, the canopy creating a regular carpet held aloft.  in the distance the hills rise low and curved, soft.  the foothills of the appalachians surrounding the tennessee valley.

the old growth and dark spiked fir trees of the pacific northwest seem haunting and intimidating and spooky in comparison to the warm yellow green blanket of north alabama.  there’s something lazy and burnt out about even the landscape here.  blown out.

i will be back in ‘bama.

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