Catching Red Rock Fever, Sedona Style
"Where schedules are forgotten and one becomes immersed in ancient rhythms, one begins to live." — Sigurd Olson
When the moment arrives for a visitor to say farewell to Red Rock Country and its startling sunsets, timeless red rocks, and wild undisturbed landscapes, the symptoms rarely vary: a moist eye, lump in the throat, perhaps a last look over the shoulder at shadows stealing over Bell Rock, and often a vow to return someday.
To locals, this distressing condition is simply a case of Red Rock Fever with symptoms familiar to them since the fever comes and goes all year long. Indeed, many are in these environs because of Red Rock Country’s zest and gusto, not forgetting the mystery and remnants of ancient cultures. For the unsuspecting visitor, however, this fever arrives like the throb of a new love, and not even the Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber or local when it might strike.
It could be at the first light of dawn when the red rocks emerge from snowy mists on the horizon like ancient amphitheaters or in the blossoming days of early spring while on a jeep ride to an ancient native ruin. It might occur during the green gold days of autumn at the sight of a bald eagle falling like a feathered bomb over Oak Creek in pursuit of a Rainbow Trout or the discovery of a wary deer sipping from Oak Creek’s icy waters near the bridge at Tlaquepaque.
Politicians have caught the fever too, from Chip Davis to Bruce Babbitt. When Stewart Udall went down Oak Creek Canyon into the first time in the 1960s, the young Arizona Congressman blurted, “This place must be our next national park”. Udall went on to become Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy and Johnson Admirations. While that particular notion landed on the political cutting room floor the belief that Sedona, and environs are a remarkable piece of the planet, was burning ever so brightly in the hearts, and minds of visitors and locals alike. “Nothing in this place is normal”, once mused Allan Caillou, the famed author and screenwriter who moved to town from Hollywood after many years of film and TV. “It takes an effort of will power not to find yourself here.”
Inspired by almost improbable natural beauty, and delighted that wilderness and modern civilization still can exist side-by-side, new arrivals often discover hidden aspects of themselves. Then, charged by fresh energy, they plunge into activities they had not dreamt about—or had time for—back in Minnesota or Manhattan—everything from kayaking to massage therapy, art classes to new age workshops and balloon flying over the Verde Valley. “I am humming with new perceptions,” said New England visitor, Elizabeth Nolan. “Images, humbling colors, sights and sounds won’t ever be forgotten.” Adds Georgia from Virginia, “I discovered silence as if I had entered another dimension.”
Truth be known, there is a special energy in Red Rock Country. People call it by many names, ranging from the geological to the mystical, but it is noticeable, and it fuels the creative process. For example, an artist can create in any environment says long-time local artist, Jack Proctor, “even in cities full of pollution, even inside the gray walls of a prison. For me, the shapes and colors of Sedona’s red rock country contain a lifetime of artistic study.”
Speaking of this special energy, renowned gallery owner Jim Ratliff told me years ago, “It can only be used in a positive way. If people use that energy to create something negative, they do not stay around long. They have to go somewhere else. The red rocks spit them right out of here.”
Despite the best efforts of legions of poets, writers, musicians to describe the landscape, it has to be seen to be believed. That is when the fever strikes. “I never want to leave”, stated Holly from Missouri. “How blessed I am to have been part of this utopia at all.”
Article by Jim Bishop.
ABOUT SEDONA AUTHOR JIM BISHOP
“My object in living is to unite my avocation and my vocation”
–Robert Frost from “Two Tramps in Mudtime”
James Bishop, Jr.James Bishop, Jr., a twenty-five year resident of Greater Sedona, is an author, free lance writer, editor and creative writing instructor who is also committed to grass roots organizing, arts advocacy and environmental sanity. Since leaving the nation’s capital for the West two decades ago, he has served as a consultant to government agencies and non-profit organizations ranging from The RAND Corporation to the Grand Canyon Trust, The Aspen Institute at Wye Plantation to American Rivers and the Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District and the Sedona Creative Life Center. His writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines from Seattle to Denver, Prescott, Arizona to Washington D.C. His book, “Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist – The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey” is now in paperback.
Before moving west from D.C. and New York City in the early ’80s, Bishop was a senior member of the White House Energy Policy and Planning staff responsible in 1977 for creating the nation’s first comprehensive energy plan focused on the nation’s renewable energy potential. A year later, he became Director of Communications for the Federal Energy Administration, Chief Spokesman for Energy Secretary James Rodney Schlesinger and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental and Institutional Relations. In 1980, Bishop received the Secretary’s Medal for Outstanding Service that included an innovative energy conservation education program.
Nowadays, Bishop, the descendant of Nantucket whalers and the Delaware Indian Nation and the son and grandson of distinguished artists, is far from retirement in Sedona... (READ MORE)
For more about Jim Bishop, visit him online at www.NewTerritoryArts.com