Saturday, December 30, 2023

Six of My Favorite Experiences of 2023

Natural Bridge, Virginia

Great, bright portal,
shelf of rock,
rocks fitted in long ledges

The world heaved—
we are next to the sky

- H.D.
from The Cliff Temple

Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia
Hard to pick my favorite aspect of this incredible geological portal; from the awe-inspiring view of the giant rock arch, the shades of the rock layers inside the cave, the ecosystem created in the creek around the rock structure, etc etc. There are trees there which only grow in colder environments farther north, not normally in this region, yet which thrive around the Natural Bridge area because of its cooler air provided by the shade. A tree trunk of a cedar tree there was 1,600 years old. The archway is just so massively epic in itself, though. 

    The rock arch was a sacred site for the indigenous Monacan tribe, the place of a major battle victory over the Powhatan tribe. Thomas Jefferson, who called Natural Bridge the "most Sublime of Nature's works" acquired the rights to the land in 1774 for a small sum. As a young surveyor, George Washington is said to have surveyed the Natural Bridge site in 1750, carving his initials into nearby rocks. The site was also immortalized in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, when the giant whale is described in chapter 133: "But soon the forepart of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia's Natural Bridge..." The lore around this place is interesting, the views of the limestone tree-trunk-looking textures of the outer layer astound the eye, but the vibes felt being there under the rock arch, that was a noticeably powerful grounding and centering sensation. And yet, my favorite part might have been the shades on the inner rockface, a molten stillness that I found very pleasing to stare at.  

The Great Buddha of Kamakura, Japan

This giant bronze Buddha statue on a hillside in Kamakura, Japan was originally built around the year 1252. Being there I felt reverence and peace. Amazing to appreciate the craft of this bronze equipoised Buddha, which was once gilded and covered by a temple hall but has stood in the open air since about 1498 after storms and tsunamis. The Buddha seated in lotus position holds such a grounded harmony in his being, akin to the hills and trees adjacent to him, he's been there helping humans on the path toward nirvana thru many cycles of time, survived many destructive events. It's a sanctuary of sereneness and contemplation that I was grateful to experience firsthand. I really enjoyed the Kamakura and Zushi regions of Japan.  

El Nido, Philippines

El Nido limestone cliffs with shades of light at different hours of the day.

To see a scene from up high on a hill showing a broad seascape pocked with dozens of these tall limestone cliff islets, that was an immaculate life moment. Pure bliss. These exotic tropical Pacific isles are inviting and embracing. Looking out at this view one morning I saw a Great hornbill float over to a tree branch. I saw monkeys. Experienced the glorious simplicity of island life in El Nido, Philippines. Friendly people, fantastic fresh food. It's a wonderful place in what feels like the far edge of the world.  

Anthony Chapel, Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, AR

I found this most impressive chapel in a forest of the Ouachita Mountains in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The structure made mostly of glass and wood panels evoked the surrounding trees. The view from the altar inside looking out, embedded in lush forest looking down a hill toward a lake, makes this a place like no other. 

Prehistoric shark teeth fossils in Sherman, TX

In a small town in north Texas, you can find fossilized prehistoric shark teeth, dating back millennia when a shallow sea covered Texas and central North America, during the Cretaceous period more than 140 million years ago. Sifting thru silt and mud in a riverbed, yielding treasures of shark teeth from so long ago, was incredibly gratifying. I examine these fossilized shark teeth, trying to wrap my mind around the vast expanding scales of deep history these ancient shark* remains would be lingering from. Unfathomable spans of time, and yet the shark teeth are so damn sharp, so damn real, so obviously shark teeth, in a place where there are today definitively NO SHARKS anywhere nearby to be found, deep in the heart of north central Texas. Yet here you can find and tangibly connect with unique relics from many worlds ago. 

(*Cretaceous era sand shark Scapanorhynchus, early relative of today's goblin shark.)

Dinosaur footprint tracks in Canyon Lake, TX

This was an impromptu, spur of the moment discovery that ended up being so completely and utterly mind-blowing. So hard to believe it's real. So much evoked from these footprints, the stories astound. Dinosaur tracks, indicative of Iguanadons walking along a silty coastline during what would have been the Early Cretaceous period 100 million years ago. The large herbivores were being followed by a pursuing apex predator Acrocanthosaurus, eyeing the tracks and gripping the ground with its sharp claws while carrying over five tons of bodyweight running at speeds up to 20 mph. All of this evinced by the very obvious sets of tracks imprinted on the Glen Rose Formation rock layer exposed at a ranch in Texas hill country. 

1 comment:

  1. Though Kamakura buddha is indeed great the Nara one is amazing. The amount of copper almost bankrupted the flegling Japanese state.