For the past five days I've been driving across the United States on my way to the Next Step Integral Community Seminar, being held at Sunrise Ranch just outside of Boulder, Colorado. I started by taking the train down to San Francisco (with Phil Corkill, who had just flown in from Germany) where we met Katherine Konner, both seminar participants. Although this was mainly a cheaper and enjoyable way to get to the seminar- everyone loves a good road trip- I don't think I was prepared for the immensity and natural beauty of the various states we've been moving through. This edition of Sacred Sundays will be a pictorial meditation on the various stunning scenes we've been encountering along the way. (all pictures were taken via me and Phil's iPhones)
The name Turtle Island in the title of the post is a reference to a name that various Native American tribes gave to the continent of North America. It's also the name of a Pulitzer-prize winning book of poetry by Gary Snyder, a book (and poet) that had a big impact on my life and my relationship to the natural world. I like this designation, not necessarily for political reasons, but because the scenic beauty I'm about to show is all extremely old. This might be in the United States, but it's North America- or even better, the Earth- that's fundamentally on display here.
I've been finding that my engagement with the field of Big History is changing and deepening my experiences of these kinds of geographical locations. I'm experiencing a different sense of time and scale, and with it are coming new feelings of gratitude and awe, and some sort of emerging non-attachment to it all that I can't quite put my finger on. It's like being aware of some sort of magical dream that you know will one day be over, but this isn't a frightening thought, it feels like one day I'll just drift on out it, and in the meantime, I simply want to look on with a sort of pleasant wonder about it all. Another source that contributed to this feeling- and again opened up my sense of evolutionary time- was the IMAX film Dinosaurs Alive!, which I saw in the theater twice. When it showed the hundreds of millions of years captured in layers of geological rock formations, I had one of those brain spasms as the recognition of this kind of time-scale began to download further. Before jumping into the pictures, here's the trailer for that film, to put these photos into another level of context.
On the first day of the trip we headed up to Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, which was formed 2 million yrs ago.
We camped in the Lake Tahoe area, and I was reminded of the important part camping and National parks play in American culture, a really wonderful dimension in the life of the nation.
This is a shot of Mono Lake in the Great Basin Desert, coming out of the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern California. The picture doesn't do justice to the vast scale of the scene; the lake was formed over 700,000 yrs ago, and has no outlet to the ocean.
High above Death Valley in eastern California, a hot, stunning and kind of creepy place that was formed over 1 billion yrs ago. It has the hottest temperatures in the Western Hemisphere, and has been inhabited by humans for over 7000 yrs. (god knows how; I'll have to do some research).
Continuing the 5000 meter descent.
Sand dunes at the bottom of the valley. Really, really f'in hot!
When we finally crossed over into the state of Nevada, we found ourselves right close to the infamous Area 51. Apparently the locals have no problem tapping into the mystique surrounding UFOs for a little fun and a little business. I took these in celebration of C4Chaos' great recent article UFOs: Tip of the Cosmic Iceberg.
Ok, back to sacred lands of Turtle Island. On the way to Las Vegas we saw a rainbow and lightning storm during the sun's setting light, all taking place above the hot rugged rocky Nevada landscape.
And we could see it all in the rear view mirror as we headed into the stifling night air of fantastical Las Vegas.
The following day we headed through Utah on Highway 70 toward Denver. Utah is full of canyons, rock formations and other enormous natural marvels of the region.
After a mega day of driving through Utah, we stopped in Parachute, Colorado at 10pm to get some shut eye. In the morning we took a restorative dip in the Glenwood hotsprings- just outside of Aspen- before driving the final leg to our destination that day in Denver.
Although I have no pictures of Colorado and the Rockies, it's yet another spectacularly beautiful place. This trip has really brought home to me what a vast and amazing continent North America/Turtle Island really is. It's no surprise to me the native peoples who inhabited these lands for thousands of years took them to be infused and pervaded by the holy; it sure feels that way. I'm already brewing in my mind another trip with my wife across America, taking in more national parks and exploring the scenic beauty of regions we didn't get to on this outing. I'm sure there's much, much more to see. God bless this piece of Earth that we as humans get to inhabit and for some, to call home.