Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors so when the time came to choose a traveling companion for a trip to Arizona, I chose her words. Her novel Animal Dreams takes place in Arizona and her descriptions became the perfect background music.
I read this description while on the plane and couldn’t wait to get out there:
“The canyon walls rose straight up on either side of us, ranging from sunset orange to deep rust, mottled with purple. The sandstone had been carved by ice ages and polished by desert eons of sandpaper winds.”
Once I finally stood near the canyon walls, I made sure to notice the colors threading their way through the rock and all the layers representing centuries of creation.
After hiking up a steep path, ancient cliff dwellings came into view. From down below, the dwellings couldn’t be seen at all. They blended in with the canyon to the point of invisibility. Everyone figured they built their homes that way for protection against potential enemies. Later, I read this passage and saw the cliff dwellings all over again but in a different way:
“The walls were shaped to face the curved hole in the cliff, and the building blocks were cut from the same red rock that served as their foundation. I thought of what Loyd had told me about Pueblo architecture, whose object was to build a structure the earth could embrace.”
Tucked away in a crevice between the cliffs where sunlight acted as a calendar, petroglyphs told their own tales. They spoke of the people who lived there high above the ground, of hunting parties, and of women with Princess Leia hairdos.
Kingsolver describes petroglyphs as a record of progress through the generations:
“There were antelope, snakes, and ducks in a line like a carnival shooting gallery. And humans: oddly turtle-shaped, with their arms out and fingers splayed as if in surrender or utter surprise. The petroglyphs added in recent centuries showed more svelte, self-assured men riding horses. The march of human progress seemed mainly a matter of getting over that initial shock of being here.”
Now that I’m back home, I can revisit the red rock canyons any time with a turn of the page.
(And the Twitter goat club will be happy to hear there’s a goat in Animal Dreams.)
Writer…Uninterrupted – during Vacation
Do you choose novels based on setting? Have you ever taken a favorite author along on vacation?