I hadn't been driving long Wednesday morning, heading west out of Sedona toward Kingman, Arizona, when I spied a cluster of giant figures in the distance and so immediately pulled over. I clapped my hands with glee when I got out of the car and saw a group of fellas wrangling giant icons of spirituality, loading them on a trailer like they were goats or cattle. Turns out I had happened onto the grounds of the Mago Earth Park in Cottonwood, where major statue relocation was well underway. In an ironic and hypocritical gesture, religious intolerance by a large Catholic church across the road has forced the owners of the Mago Earth Park to remove a 32 foot tall statue of Mago (mother earth) that serves as the focal point of their contemplative garden. Seems the god-fearing Catholics weren't too happy about what I'm sure they conceptualize as a false idol standing exactly one foot taller just across from their steeple. They've successfully spearheaded an effort to force the owners to remove the Mago statue, so I guess all of Mago's golden courtiers will go with her to her new home. Too bad. I hate it when the cranky people win.
Still, giant golden statues are a good start to any day in my book - and this one was surely bound to be full of magic if that's how it began.
I didn't feel that I had any special abilities to contribute in relocating docile religious leaders, so I resumed my journey.
Not long after I left Cottonwood, the road began to wind significiantly, threading its way between rusty red mountains covered with timber and dusted with snow. At one of the numerous switchbacks along the way, I saw houses way high up on a ridge above me and shortly thereafter began up a long steep incline leading to their vicinity. Like going to a mountain kingdom! On the first hairpin turn off the megaramp and into the outskirts of the town of Jerome, I spied a group of sculptures made out of found objects by the side of the road. I quickly pulled over and hopped out of the car to investigate.
Once I started looking around, I was amazed with the intuitive compositional skills and just downright personality of the sculptures, some making me laugh out loud when I saw them. The artist had used interesting specimens of wood and stone and other natural items and then added found objects seemingly dug from the mounds of an old dump.
I say dump because there were telltale bits of glass (well, telltale to me since I poke around in dumps alot) strewn around everywhere, with an especially thick mantle around the base of one piece called "A Flowering Relic" I especially liked this particular piece because it felt like a wonderful take on a strange old Southern tradition I love - the bottle tree. This tree had all sorts of discarded objects on the tips of the branches in lieu of the usual bottles. I like to think the glass bits at the base were a tribute to the conspicuous absence of their more intact relative from the tree above. I noticed quite a bit of purpled glass among the shards - old glass that's been exposed to the sun for a long enough time that it chemically transforms into a beautiful amethyst color. There was also quite a bit that had iridized, all shades of blue and green and purple. It looked like the contents of Tiffany's had been dumped on the ground around the tree to me, but I left it all intact, acutely aware that each little piece had been lovingly retrieved and put there for a good reason.
I noticed after making several turns about the yard, that there seemed to be a few pieces around the side of the property and so went off to investigate. This is where being nosy comes in so handy! Lo and behold, at the back of the property was yet another sculpture garden, this one with at least twice as many pieces! I walked around excitedly taking pictures, knowing all the while that the images would never represent the pieces adequately - they're just not the sort of thing that translates to 2D very well. You'll just have to trust me that they were extremely compelling in person.
I kept looking at the bedraggled building on the property, hoping for some sort of stirring deep inside so I could possibly meet the creator of this beautiful madness, but alas, I couldn't scare up any sign of life, no matter how badly I wanted to. I knocked loudly on the door, self conscious about the possibility of being invasive, but all was silent. I really wanted to thank the artist, but I'll have to find out who it is first. I've got research to do!
I headed on into town, not knowing what to expect of this mysterious Jerome, Arizona. But one thing was certain - it was certainly off to a phenomenal start!
What I discovered was nothing less than a completely unknown twin of a place I very dearly love - Bisbee, Arizona. What I would also discover is that there was a reason for the simularity. Both towns were huge copper mining operations owned by the same company, thriving at roughly the same time (late 1800s). Then both declined when copper became cheap after World War II, the towns almost shrivelled up and died and then HIPPIES invaded! Those loveable bohemians saved both towns and made them into the quirky, glorious cities they are today. Witness the fact that in a town of less than 400 people, I had blue cheese, carmelized pecans and dried cranberries in my lunch! I could go on and on about the town, but I think it would be too deadly dull for most of you. Just know that I myself am going back for an extended stay and if you're ever in the vicinity, DO NOT MISS IT!
After spending many more hours than I had imagined I would in Jerome, I reluctantly departed and headed off toward Interstate 40 so I could high tail it to Kingman where I planned to stay the evening. The scenery was just gorgeous, and as I gained in altitude through the mountain passes, it began to snow off and on again, sometimes quite heavily. The road flattened out and straightened when I got about 20 miles from the interstate, so I started zooming along, eager to reach Ash Fork well before dark because there was a steel dam there I really wanted to see. I'd have to do a bit of sleuthing and hiking to get to the dam, but I had mapped it's location and knew just where to get off the freeway and where I might park. As I neared the interstate, one of the ominous thunderstorms that had rushed to and fro across the horizon appeared directly over the area I was headed, a solid mass of dark gray that the road just disappeared into. When I entered the edge of the storm, it started to come down like a late summer rain storm in Texas, only what was falling from the sky changed back and forth from snow to ice to rain and back again. Shortly after I merged onto the intersate, it was coming down so hard I couldn't see with my windshield wipers going full blast. Big chunks of ice that looked like flattened snow cones came off the wipers as they tried to clear the glass. Snow and ice were accumulating in the lanes and the truckers had slowed to around 30. I got behind one and just followed in its tracks, wondering how far I'd have to go to get safely off the interstate. One thing was for certain - I definitely wasn't going to the dam! That fine adventure would have to wait until next time.
I ended up calling Mark for meteorlogical support and he helped me decide the deluge was temporary and that I should easily be able to make my goal of Kingman for the night. I turned around and headed back toward Kingman and happily the brief intermission had provided just enough time for the worst weather to move on through and I made it to Kingman without issue. The last streaks of light were fading as I hauled my suitcases out of the car and into my motel room. I needed to get to bed early so I could be in Lake Havasu City bright and early the next day to check in for the Western Pyrotechnics Association convention. Wahooo!