The Hill We Climb

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world,

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated

In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free

We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright

So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Amanda Gorman,
the twenty-two-year-old poet that made the world proud as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.

[Photo credit: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post; Lily illustration]

January 20th, 2021

Terracotta & Blue

Somewhere among the Antelope, Owl, Rattlesnake, and Mountain Sheep Canyons, the undulating formations of the sandstone so perfectly pleated like a Mariano Fortuny mythical gown, the warm colour palette that ranges from sand to pink to terracotta and blood orange, it occurred to me that I was at a loss for superlatives.

We toured with Adventurous Antelope Canyon because they were the only operators with a permit to tour into the Upper Antelope, Owl, Rattlesnake and Mountain Sheep Canyon. This means that whereas Upper Antelope is toured by five different operators and gets really crowded, we had the other three to our group only. That in itself was quite magical.

Slot Canyons of Page, AZ

April 23rd, 2019

HoodooLand

Mother Nature’s White Magic

Much as it is easy to believe that they were placed here by magic, the Paria Rimrocks – Toadstool Hoodoos to friends – are formed when Dakota Sandstone boulders perch atop pedestals of softer Entrada Sandstone. As the Entrada erodes away, the harder Dakota forms a cap, and creates these unique formations.

The Toadstool Hoodoos are part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Located between Kanab and Big Water, they are easily accessible via a trail off US 89, between mile marker 19 and 20. The hike is around 1.6 miles out-and-back with absolutely no shade.

Toadstool Hoodoos, Kanab, UT

April 23rd, 2019

85.5 metres below sea level

The lowest point in North America is here.

Where the water that flows from the mountains of central Nevada, hundreds of miles away, into the porous limestone bed-rock and trough an aquifer, emerges at Badwater along the faultline at the mountain’s base and forms a pool. Salts dissolve from old deposits and flow to the surface, making the spring water ”bad” – a word which here means ”salty”.

We found the pool almost dry, the saltwater flats all the more spectacular.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA

April 21st, 2019

Zabriskie Point

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would see this stunning landscape in real life. But here I was, with scenes from Antonioni’s 1970 film passing before my eyes, breathing the dry desert air, feeling humbled by its enormity. And slightly disappointed to learn that it was named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, and not Zabriskie Point, the film.

Death Valley, CA

April 21st, 2019

Amargosa Opera House & Hotel

About five miles past the border line, in the middle of nowhere and well underway to the Death Valley, a building complex housing a hotel, a café, an exhibition space and an opera house. Marfa, for all its artistic weirdness, does not even come close – not by a long shot.

Here we are, at the Death Valley Junction, looking in amazement at the Mexican Colonial adobe building, constructed in 1924 to house the Pacific Coast Borax Company’s offices and labourers’ quarters, and a twenty-three-room hotel welcoming the mining town’s many visitors. Next to it, Corkill Hall – an entertainment centre with a built-in stage where the dances, weddings, movies, church services and other community events took place. 

We learn that in 1967, a flat tyre brought Marta Becket – a New York City born artist – and her husband, to this very garage you see in the first picture for repairs. While her husband was taking care of the car, Marta walked around the building, realised it was an abandoned theatre and decided there and then that it was waiting for her to bring it back to life.

Marta wrote in her memoir: “As I peered through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself. The building seemed to be saying, ‘Take me… Do something with me… I offer you life.’” [source: The Mojave Project]

Amargosa Opera House was born and it became Marta’s stage, home and life. She only stopped performing in 2012, at the age of eighty-eight. I was not fortunate enough to catch one of her performances – I hadn’t even heard of Marta Becket or the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, before our trip in 2019!

I didn’t even realise then – not before I started reading more about it, that the hotel would probably be better known to many as the ‘Lost Highway Hotel’ from David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997). But at the time, I was too busy peeking through windows, staring at Marta’s costumes and photographs….

April 21st, 2019