We drove north from Phoenix to Sedona because everyone had told us to, that it was not to be missed. Words like "charming", "beautiful", "artists' colony" were used in the same sentence as the name Sedona.
Having driven through the desert as we approached Sedona the mountains seemed to appear almost suddenly. Striking southwestern colors of reds, corals, greens, sienna, oranges and browns in striated layered patterns in the sandstone. It was indeed gorgeous. Houses sprinkled along the sides of the mountains where the panoramic views would be magnificent any time of the day. After the monotones of the desert the color and shape of these mountains made me feel visually drunk and alive.
Then, suddenly, we were in Sedona, an endless strip of business sprawl. Tourist traps of southwestern memorabilia: Native American crafts, jewelry, Navajo rugs nestled together shop after shop. This all interspersed with restaurants and the more typical chain factory outlets that can be found anywhere. Just where is Bass shoes originally from, anyway?
We couldn't bring ourselves to stop the car. It was like every other tourist trap in any other seasonal community: crowded, expensive, more concerned with the exterior appearance and daily cash register totals than substance. The homogenization of America.
Some people tell us we ought to have stopped, as there are good restaurants with pleasant views and probably other merits, I suppose. Since then I have read about the mystical qualities of Sedona. While I think the article was focusing on a more cultural/historical view of the notion of mysticism (Sedona: New Age portal or paradise lost?) This concept offered no surprise as new age shops proclaiming crystals, Tarot, I-Ching, acupuncture and other alternative life-style lures as part of the mainstream marketing of the town were clearly abundant. In fact you can take a course on Avatars, and while I was initially enthusiastic, thinking of Stephenson's Snow Crash, it turned out to be only another course in self actualization by an Avatar "Master/Wizard".
A notable point in Sedona: the "Only Teal Green McDonald's Arches in the World." We saw the sign as we headed north through Sedona toward Oak Creek Canyon, but on our return trip headed south, though hungry, we missed them and just couldn't justify turning around one more time to seek them out. I wonder if there are any mauve arches to be found elsewhere in the world.
Also on this return trip, though slightly tired, we were again quietly absorbing the visual geological beauty of Sedona. We were surprised at how the mountains could look different from one vantage point over another. Suddenly we both laughed as we saw the porno-erotic mountain reclining before us. Llewellyn grabbed his digital camera and, almost blindly through the sun roof of the Acura, shot the photo you see above. I chuckle to think of how Sedona seems to have developed into a town of expensive homes all clamoring for the most advantageous views, and how it might be to look out your living room window each morning to see this huge stone erection. As though nature, contrived or by chance, had managed by some indecent gesture to dismiss the human race. Somehow it all seems fitting that this stone monument is my last and strongest memory of Sedona as we exited south toward the desert.
Photo by Llewellyn Lafford