This is Part 1 of my 2016 journal excerpt from the series “Climbing Bryan’s Mountain.” Part 2 features a Video of a bike ride slogging up to and zooming down from Bryan’s Mountain, otherwise known as Bell Rock, an iconic formation in Sedona, AZ.
July 28. For some reason the Oak Creek Estados, our condo complex, no longer allows the Arizona Shuttle to drop people off here. I asked the driver about this, and he called into the office to get permission to do so just this once. I was occupied with this change until I stepped off the shuttle and looked up. I kept looking up every chance I got as I hauled my suitcases into our little Arizona home. Next day I biked up to Bryan’s Mountain (what most people call Bell Rock) and sent this text to family and friends: “I arrived last night under a spectactular sky, the Milky Way arcing brilliant overhead. But it’s been a frantic year and I felt hurried and unsettled all night and morning until I dropped all the unpacking, cleaning, rearranging and biked back up to Bryan’s tree. I’m beginning to settle down. I think it’s because he still speaks to me up here from some eternity that shows how small time is and also most of what we worry about. Love to you all from Bryan’s mountain.”
Last year when I got here I found an April issue of Kudos (a local paper) that one of our guests had left. It carried a front-page story about the Village of Oak Creek going for Dark Sky status, one of only seven cities, including Sedona, so designated. (It got it.) But last year there were either clouds or a bright full moon wiping out starry brilliance, so that I was a full five days into my stay before I got my first magnificent sky. Not this time. A magnificent sky always brings back one of my strongest memories of Bryan. The first night we spent in the condo when we brought Bryan and Mike with us to help rehab it, Bryan and I sat on the patio looking up, stunned at a sky so bright and deep and alive. He kept saying, “It’s crazy we have a place here. Crazy.” Every night, brilliant sky or not, I step out on our patio and remember.
August 24. At least once during our stay Linda and I climb up to Bryan’s Mountain to have dinner by his tree, trying to time it so we get here just at the height of sunset when the mountains glow with amazing bright reds and deep oranges. Airport Mesa supposedly has the best sunset view and every evening you’ll find dozens, or hundreds, of tourists there, but for us nothing beats the sunset we see on Bryan’s Mountain. So a couple of nights ago we’re there munching on snacks and sandwiches when suddenly a drone appears about 100 feet over our heads. Its owner has been flying it around the mountain but has definitely stopped to have it look at us. We laugh and wave and see some lights or lenses seem to focus on us, then seem to nod at us before it zooms off. Shortly afterwards another drone zips over our heads, not stopping as it shoots down the mountain side before disappearing into some short pines below. And today while biking up there I ran into three people—father, mother, son—just putting their drone away into a impressive looking padded carrying case. The father’s a photographer. He said he’d send me a pic, but since he seems to want to sell some of these aerials, I doubt I’ll ever hear from him. It seems I should say something about technology intruding, spoiling nature and our few precious moments in it, but that just seems heavy. One of these days maybe I’ll get a drone myself and fly it around up here, and when the first drone seemed to wink and nod at us when we were having dinner we just laughed.
♦ Go to the Lead Post in the “Climbing Bryan’s Mountain” series.
♦ In 2016 Emmanuel House, the organization started as a living memorial to Bryan by Rick and Desiree Guzman, was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world.