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May 4, 2017

The Looooooong Break

I'm back!

Sorry about the break, but I needed time to write, to read, to travel and time to think.

I know that's no excuse. I could have just popped in here and written something - what I'm writing, reading, thinking, etc.

But it was my alone time.

Everyone needs that. I am convinced I need a lot of it.

It's probably a delusion on my part, but spending time with myself has always been a big part of my life. When I was a kid it involved lugging tons of books home from the library and long bike rides and lone exploratory walks. As a teenager, it involved my record player and my bedroom and even more books from the library. I also took long walks. I wrote a lot of nonsense back then during those many hours in my room. But it was a good part of my life. Creative and positive as most things that include music and books tend to be. Those stolen bits of life were so good that now when I feel stressed or anxious or too many things from the outside world impinge on the inner world, I retreat to alone-space for a while.

Living with others means that alone-space has to be carved out of each day. But it's doable. I have headphones. And nighttime. And cats to share it with.

So now just a few pictures of our latest trip to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes on the planet - the American Southwest. America is still there in all her glory. But sometimes you have to look for her.

Our first night in Denver (just prior to the SSA 2017 meeting) included a tradition I almost never break when visiting the U.S. I need a real American-style burger. And, if possible, a margarita. Mission accomplished.

Here was the view of the Rockies from our hotel room in the Denver Downtown Sheraton. I've seen much much worse.

We walked from downtown through a quaint Denver suburb to the Denver Botanical Gardens. There's not much blooming in April (tulips!), but that's not the point. It's an immersion in plants and gardening styles. In arrangement of form and function, a welcome immersion in a gardening climate, or microclimate, not too different from my garden in far western Germany - between U.S. zone 5 and 6 - but considerably drier. But I was surprised at how many plants we had in common, the botanical garden and me in mine. Iceland poppies, violets, calla lillies and many more.

On the many paths through the garden, we discovered this artificial waterfall and our next garden project (even if ours might not be quite so grand and I doubt we will have koi - koi and tuxedo cats would not be good friends).

More margaritas after the meeting started. Of course there were.

At the 2017 Seismological Society of America Meeting, I was gratified and encouraged to learn that the spirit of science and the fight against science-deniers is very much alive in the U.S.A. from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's speech and very moving speeches from Frank Press Public Service Award Winner Professor Michael E. Wysession and Professor Gail Atkinson.

After the meeting, we followed Simon and Garfunkel's advice to Look for America and drove down to Mexican Hat, Utah for a quick two days to soak up the beauty and revel in that kind of alone-time that only comes with experiencing nature. We did it as best we could - by driving and that's not ideal - but it was what we could with the time we had.

We first picked up our rental car in Denver and headed down to Moab, our first overnight stop. We celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary at the same place we celebrated our 20th - at Miguel's Mexican Baja Grill on Main Street, a small but lovely Mexican restaurant in the middle of Moab. Reserve early or be prepared to wait for a table. We decided to eat early to beat the crowd.

Next we left Moab and headed down to Mexican Hat

We made photo shoot stops on the way at the Mexican Hat formation (left), Navajo Twins (right), and Gooseneck Canyon (bottom left).

Here at right we met one of the permanent residents of Gooseneck Canyon. He was only interested in our tortilla chips but was willing to pose for his lunch.

After a peaceful night in our hotel, The Hat Rock Inn (a very comfortable stay AND the view of the sandstone formations just above the San Juan River from the pool and hot tub is worth the price alone), we made the short drive down to the Utah-Arizona border, the Navajo Nation and Monument Valley.

These few photos cannot begin to capture its beauty that we, of course, shared with the many other motorists and tour vehicles. But it was April. I'd hate to see the traffic jams come June through August. I'd say April is a fantastic time to visit.


Our trip was complete on our last night in Mexican Hat when we treated ourselves to a Texas-style steak dinner eaten outside and cooked on a wood-burning swing grill. Perfect. 

On the return drive, we elected to drive through the Colorado National Monument - an area of geological transitions from Basin and Range to uplift and the Rocky Mountains. It's the land of free range cattle and other wildlife. We discovered that not only the mythology but the reality of the Marlboro Man (and Woman!) is still alive. We found a tiny slice of America here, intact and wonderful. No cell phones, no Walmarts, no distractions.

Our return to Denver consisted of a quick stop at Idaho Springs, with a restored gold mine (which we did not, unfortunately have time to visit) as a tourist attraction, before leaving the Rockies the next morning and heading to the Denver International Airport and home to Germany.

Photos: K.-G. Hinzen