Beyond the 100th Meridian

Introduction

When I was not even four years old, a new branch of my family inserted themselves into my life: my aunt, uncle, and cousins, recently returned from El Paso, TX, where my uncle, who was with the military, had spent one of the multiple, several-year-long stints at Fort Bliss that were spread throughout his career. With them, they brought not only Native American pottery, rugs, silverware, turquoise jewelry and other art work, but also stories of the old and new West, of Indians (of whose mere existence I had, until then, been blissfully ignorant), of a different lifestyle than the city life I knew – simpler and more attuned to nature – and of horses, gold diggers, cowboys, settlers, gunfights, honor, and bravery. For my next birthday, they gave me an almost life-sized teepee which instantly became my most prized possession … and gave me a leverage over the neighborhood kids that didn’t go down too well with some of the local boys.

Thus began a fascination with the American West that has never left me since.

(For those who have read my “About” pages, where I speak, inter alia, about my life-long passion for Greek Mythology and Shakespeare’s works, I pause here to leave room for your imagination to picture the likes of Tecumseh, Geronimo, Perseus, Odysseus, Hamlet, Macbeth, and German western writer Karl May’s heroes Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, all duking it out with each other for my attention [alright, so Hamlet ain’t duking anything out with anybody, he’s just driving ’em all nuts with his neverending questions and brooding] … but, yes, after all these years, all in all it’s still a draw. Yet, I digress.)

By the time I set foot in the West for the first time as a teenager – my uncle and family were back in El Paso – I had learned to ride, had acquired a solid knowledge base of Western legends, lore, literature, movies and history, had survived my first few camping trips, and was familiar enough with the places to be seen to occasionally reroute the tour that my relatives had put together for me, and to drag them to places even they had never heard of. In other words, I thought, I was ready for the real thing.

Except that I wasn’t. All the books, pictures, and movies in the world couldn’t have prepared me for the sheer magnitude of the Western landscape; for the momentous, age-old dignity of its mountains and woods, the sun-drenched, spellbinding and unexpectedly animated expanse of its deserts, the forever-unprobed mysteries of its canyons and prehistoric civilizations, and perhaps most of all, the limitless vastness of its skies. Sure, all of these are clichés – but I suppose I’m resorting to them because even now, I am still unable to come up with something better; other than the recognition that, even in the age of mass tourism, growing ecological sensitivities, and newly-discovered empathy for the Red Man’s plight, the American West simply has to be seen and experienced to be believed.

This section of my blog and the pages and blog posts collected here thus are my little tribute to a region that, although I currently don’t even live anywhere near it, has had a profound impact on my way of thinking ever since I was a child, and will stay with me forever.

 
Grand Canyon: South Rim vistas (photos mine)

The First Nations

https://scontent-bru2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/249568_2150864691561_6860376_n.jpg?oh=4854d84f44781cda833bcdfa834d8ee2&oe=57D65F9A:   https://scontent-bru2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/264012_2196430630681_2184012_n.jpg?oh=e0f100ad4722329e2b9037b553f30221&oe=57D32AAD:
Mesa Verde National Park: Cliff Palace / Santa Fe, Palace of the Governors: Indian Market  (photos mine)

Writers from the American West

 
Monument Valley: The Mittens and North Window (photos mine)

Book Reviews


Yosemite National Park: Half Dome (photo mine)

Other Links
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