(South)Westerward Ho! – Part 2

If a picture is worth a thousand words, one of Aaron Lurth’s photographs is worth 10,000-plus. One of my photos, on the other hand, is usually worth about 100 words, maybe 200 on a day I capture a striking visual image by sheer good luck.

But the best of writers could not possibly find the language to express the magnificence of the landscapes of the Southwest. There is no way to describe the semi-arid plains, the sweep of open country, hulking mountains, playas, arroyos, sand dunes, the jagged rock formations, the incongruity of dammed streams in deep canyons now filled with the dark blue water of manmade lakes. How could I find words to depict the solitary wind tortured piñon pine or desert willow tree clinging to life in a mountainside snowmelt watercourse that is bone dry nine months of the year?

Hemingway was not truly able to make the reader “see” the grandeur of East Africa’s hills and plains or Spain’s arid mountains and plateaus, so it would be foolish for me to try to write the kind of prose (or even poetry) that could reveal the stark beauty of the Southwest. Therefore, I offer a dozen or so of my inadequate 100-word-value photographs in this post about our winter journey through New Mexico.

These photos were taken during hikes along trails in the northeast, central, and south-central regions of the state. Photos of panorama landscapes are doomed to fail because they do not provide the viewer with a 360-degree visage, the true splendor of the scene, the “here” and the “now” of this place, this moment. And they certainly do not reveal the 75 million years of geologic history that shaped them, that “posed” them, for a flash-in-time. They are, in a sense, the worst of snapshots.

Nevertheless, I present these photos in the manner that someone who survived the sinking of the Titanic would offer a splinter of polished wood or scrap of bright brass work in the vain hope that you could somehow see, and understand, the whole of the ship, the essence of the experience. I urge you to travel and see these vistas yourself.

About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
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2 Responses to (South)Westerward Ho! – Part 2

  1. Mike Rainone says:

    Your photography is excellent, but as one who lives in the pine-covered hills of East Texas, I truly do not understand the fascination that you and so many have with red dirt, cacti, and a landscape that looks like psoriasis… At least you and Patti are not freezing your butts off in Iowa. Continued safe travels.

    • From a mountaintop at the Rockhound state park, we can see out across the plains a distance of six or seven miles. At least we could until the sandstorm with 50 mph winds came blasting through. 😋 You cannot do the in East Texas, or in northeast Iowa for that matter.

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