What draws a Green Man into the desert?
What draws a Green Man into the desert? Melodies, bones, and ghosts, I'd say. We go on these pilgrimages from time to time, searching for our heart's home, and often it's the border country of the American West that calls. Coyote? Well, yes she's here, but more often than not, it's that little man with the flute that lures us into a world that borders our own simply because the ghosts linger longer in arid land. Take the North Platte River -- on one side the Mormon trail, and on the other side the one used by other settlers, and everywhere a sense of the First Nations people of the plains. Their memories seem to linger, insisting on atonement, or at least recognition. And the melody? It comes on the wind, in the incredible lightning storms that light up the night sky. The bones of dwellings are here too -- or why would so many be fascinated by the Anasazi that peopled Mesa Verde so long ago. Here the ghosts linger because so many seem to have died violently; oral traditions say witchcraft, archeologists confirm that many died a brutal death amongst these kivas.
Have you stopped to see the horned skull of a cow bleached white and hard? Thank Georgia O'Keefe, for she was drawn here too, inspired by the starkness that seemed to have a spiritual component. Like it was to many of northern European ancestry, the vibrance created by mixing native, Anglo-German and Spanish cultures was irresistible. I'm not sure she's to blame for the New Age seekers of Sedona, but I do know she seduced me, just as the land itself seduced my people in earlier generations. Every day I wear a turquoise bracelet my grandmother picked up in the 1930s, and when I look at the cars and tents that were used to get to Arizona, I'm amazed. My grandfather's family made the journey to Oklahoma in a covered wagon. You can see the effect of the wide open spaces in their faces, peering out of old brown photographs. The land itself has seduced many and sundry.
Where would the Southwest be without those stolid Germans who brought their accordions with them? Or the guitars of the Spanish? Hollywood may have stereotyped the cowboys, but there's no denying that they were on to something, even if they ignored the incredible hardship faced by the men who drove cattle in the 19th century. Charles de Lint, in Forests of the Heart, wove a story around the Southwest, this place that has become the adopted hearts home for so many. Was he drawn by the music or the scenery? Hard to say. His animal people have been here for a long time, as fans of Somewhere to be Flying know; perhaps they, like me, still wonder how long the Magpie Margaret and whiskey drinking Coyote danced together in the dark. It's a place to dance, to write lonely songs, to appreciate vast, painted vistas, and to indulge in vibrant colours, and stark adobe buildings.