Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Mountains Around Me

I used to find South Mountain strange. A long and skinny range below Phoenix that looked so much shorter than the mountains I was used to higher up north. The little peaks seemed sad somehow.

Maybe I just wasn't familiar enough with them. Now I quite like that little mountain range, now that I see it more regularly.

At dusk, the peaks take on an ethereal look in the fading light; they become little shadows of mist. And when the Phoenix sunrise comes right around them, the colors blossom. During the day, I've realized that South Mountain is notable not for the mountain itself but for the profile it makes against the sky. A jagged outline creates not a sad shape but an active one.

Years ago, the Papago Buttes used to disturb me slightly. Huge, rounded apertures in these sandstone formations looked to me like mouths crying out. The land seemed to literally express the pain of the world. Now, though, the perspective has changed. Now I don't look and see the crying mouths; now I look and see the outline of the buttes themselves. Lumps of rock with circles inside them like dents made in clay. Instead of seeing pain I see something sculpted.

And Camelback Mountain? Well, Camelback was never hard on the eyes, but now I see it so often from so many different points of view that I enjoy it especially. I've learned that you get the best view of it from the intersection at Scottsdale Road and Indian Bend, facing south. A distinctive camel shape, again often lit up from behind with the explosive Phoenix sunlight.

Then there are the Superstition Mountains, looking closer than they are and yet somehow also so far away that you can't quite see all of their details and splendor from the city. Sometimes they are foggy; other days they look clear. Often they are majestic, standing off there in the distance.

The city is flatter than what I realize I am used to. But still, if you look, there are plenty of shapes to follow. They are mainly on the edges, off on the outskirts, though some are right in the middle, as well. Maybe none of them are very tall, but they are all distinctive, such singular shapes that they take on the look of friends as you pass by them day after day. Such shapes, always appearing different throughout the day or with various types of lighting, always keep your eyes drawn in. Always there is plenty to see.

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