Monday, October 8, 2007

The hills are alive...

...with the sound of poster-form.
(don't worry--this isn't all 'political'--please keep reading...'touristy'-photos of the Grand Canyon coming up!...)

Right now in Switzerland, it's electoral season...
and all over the country, in mailboxes and on public billboards, shopping centers and train stations,
this image is posted:

You don't have to read German to get the picture: the white sheep are kicking the black sheep out of the tidy country...Oh, no--no racist overtones intended--just the importance of creating 'security' (sicherheit), since, as some politicians would have you believe, foreigners clearly commit more crimes than the native born...Incidentally, one in five Swiss residents is a foreign national.

It's also a play on words, since schaffen, which here means 'to create', also sounds like the word for 'sheep' (schaf). But the tone is hardly playful, eh?
Obviously, not all Swiss are xenophobic, and there has been an uproar in the country over this political ad-campaign. Below is an example of the poster being defaced--in the western, French-speaking part of the country:

"Honte" means 'shame'...and so instead of reading "for more security," the defaced poster now reads "shame for more"...(for more information, here's a link to an article in today's IHT...)

Writing from southern Arizona, with more than its fair share of immigration-issues, it is sadly fascinating to see, from afar, what is going on in Switzerland--a country with such an idyllic reputation as an Alpine utopia, with increasing holes in its social its cheese, eh? Yes, yes, too facile of a metaphor; I couldn't resist...

Not to dwell, then, overmuch, on the alarming increase of far-right xenophobic thinking, in Europe and's so much prettier to dwell on the scenery:Not to be an ostrich-poking-its-head-in-the-cheese, but lying down among wildflowers on a high meadow, the Lauterbrunnen valley thousands of feet below, cool breezes from the glaciers on a sunny summer day...if only postcard-views could erase the social cracks that beget political posters...

Yes, those are my feet. Twelve years ago, during a sunny summer-study-abroad, as an undergrad in Europe for the first time since childhood...yes, nostalgia.

But local locales are good for foot-view photos too:

My wife and I went for a quick weekend-road-trip up to northern Arizona this past weekend. Yesterday afternoon, our feet were where you see them above--this shot taken 800 feet above the "Little Colorado River" gorge, a few miles east of where it flows into the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon...Few places on the planet are so photographed...we are all familiar with the multihued cliffs, the mile-deep drop--yes, yes, it's a 'wonder of the world'...But there is simply nothing like standing on the edge of such an expanse of naked geology, peering down in to mineral time...

It was my wife's first time to the Canyon, and I hadn't been since the age of seven. It was a long way to go for a short weekend, for the crowded, cursory glance at the countless ridges and chasms--but there's always next time--more time to spend...on the uncrowded North Rim, we hope. The South Rim, even early on a Sunday morning in October, was CROWD-ED. May I never know what it's like to go in mid-summer. (Now, there's an interesting 'curse' to wish on an enemy: 'May you experience the Grand Canyon. In summer. On a weekend.)

No nature's-solitude at the most popular vista-points, alas...The mini-U.N. along the guard-rails: we heard French, German, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog...(I will never understand why so many people insist on blocking high-traffic pathways to take group pictures of guard-rails. Make way--go to the EDGE, people...go to the EDGE!! See what you came here for!! Stop talking so loud!!) But still--still! You just have to go. Worth the madding crowd, even if they are too close and the drive is just a wee bit far...

Sunday morning, on the way to the Grand Canyon, we drove through some high forest and meadow country near the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountains in Arizona. Around 8000 feet, above the high-desert, above the junipers, piƱons and pines, there are aspens--splashes of fall color in the evergreens:

This is Humphrey's Peak, the highest mountain in Arizona--over 12,000 feet, although since you're already at 8000 feet, the extinct volcano doesn't seem all that tall:

The meadows were frosty--21 degrees! A record-low for Flagstaff on that date...

And remember--objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
And so the hills (and canyon-edges) in northern Arizona are alive right now...with fall color and frosty multilingual exhalations...

A thousand years ago, the hills and cliffs were alive with other 'foreign' tongues--the tongues of 'the disappeared' (Anasazi) and ''the ones who are no more" (Hohokam)--the indigenous cultures that built pueblos and cliff-villages such as this one:

Just off the freeway between Phoenix and Sedona--Montezuma Castle national monument. "Condos with a view" from a millenium ago. Prime farmland. Reliable water-source. Abandoned, most likely due to long-term climate-change.

And here, south of Sedona, just east of the mountain-mining-town of Jerome, the ruins of Tuzigoot national monument:

...not unlike a hilltop village of Provence or Tuscany...Archaeologists have found here remains of macaws from Central America!--carried carefully along trade routes across thousands of miles of jungle and mountainous desert, then bartered...and finally, scarlet feathers ceremonially buried. The average life-span of these pueblo inhabitants eight centuries ago: forty years.
The hills were alive...for a short time...a long time ago.

(On a lighter note...
If you want to see an amazing video of a parrot--well, cockatoo--

No comments:

Post a Comment