7.23.2017

Serenity

A month ago, I decided to put in a request for a week off of work, in hopes I would go out of town. The ideal goal was to go to the beach in California with friends, as I usually always crave during the summer. That didn't pan out but Arcosanti is always a back up plan. When I was considering it, there was a big forest fire going on in the town of Mayer, Arizona, not very far at all from where Arcosanti is located. The fire was just on the other side of the freeway. That town was evacuated and the fire at the time was only 1% contained. I didn't even have any knowledge of this until a blood donor brought it to my attention when we were engaged in a casual conversation about summer travels. I thought that option was out of the question but then just a few days before I booked the trip I discovered the fire had been recently 100% contained and there was only concern for flooding. I booked a room last minute and was set for three nights which I had only done once before.

This is my second time going during the summer, which is not ideal but can be tolerable. Because the hotel room is technically a greenhouse, it gets really hot during the summer. The room is all concrete, concrete walls, concrete ceiling, concrete floors. No air conditioning, basic pluming, screen doors, and either a space heater or oscillating fan depending on the season. The heat also means that there will be more insects hanging about both inside and outside the rooms. I planned to go out when the weather wasn't bad, but expected storms in the next night or so. Driving there is always a little stressful, it's not far, but the upwards cliff edge highway is nerve wrecking. Despite my life on these roads, they still scare me. However, due to my job with the blood drives, we go up to Prescott and Flagstaff often and these roads have become more and more traveled over a short time. This was the first time that the drive wasn't really stressful at all. I am always relieved when my vehicle makes it successfully.

On the way up I really only saw one section of land that was charred by the fire. A very gloomy sight. Weeks before I had worked at a blood drive in Prescott and we had to drive a long way around the fire but we could still see the smoke over the tops of the mountains. If I didn't know there was a fire, it would of just looked like clouds. It was an eerie sight. Once we arrived in Prescott, we could see more of the smoke and you could smell the fire. As bad as it sounds, it smelled good, like campfire. We were able to drive the usual route back and got more of a glimpse of the smoke, but never did see the fire itself. It almost look like a volcano because the smoke rested between mountain peaks. Here are some photos I took of that drive.







Sad but beautiful were the only thoughts we had.

It was still pretty hot when I arrived, around 4:30pm, however it was still 20 degrees cooler than it was in Phoenix. I stayed in room J, pretty sure I've been in that room before, but this time it had 3 twin beds inside. It was the only similar type of room I wanted that was available for 3 consecutive nights. As I was bringing my luggage up to the room, I noticed a girl sitting outside the room next to mine, just chilling and drinking a beer. I introduced myself right away, her name was Jennifer. I had a bluetooth speaker in my purse that was quietly playing music. I told Jennifer that I was hard of hearing and if I play anything too loud to let me know. She said that she was somewhat deaf, so I laughed and said that we would be alright. I had to make multiple trips to get all my stuff, one the final trip to my room, there was a guy now sitting with Jennifer, he just nodded awkwardly at me but didn't introduce himself. I unpacked immediately and as always can't really decide what to do next. I was contemplating swimming, hiking was out of the question. Instead I sat out on the patio to enjoy the view and slight breeze as it felt better than inside the room. I also met another neighbor a few doors down named Brandon.

Just around 6pm I got my backpack ready with water, a water bottle full of red wine, my room key, and my wallet, and hiked up for dinner. Dinner wasn't as impressive as usual, perhaps it was leftovers from Saturday, but it was still okay. They raised the price a dollar for the dinner buffet. Since it is summer and the sun sets later, I decided to go to my usual cliff edge sunset spot after dinner. Up north from the spot it was very cloudy and dark. The sunset wasn't much from where I was sitting, but I did get some pictures and a video from the spot. As I saw some color of the sunset further west, I walked in that direction to take more photos. I found a beautifully simple star shaped structure that I don't think was there the last time I visited. The sky had beautiful pinks but only showed up in my photos as more orange than anything. I then went back to my room to sit outside and watch the rest of the effects of the sunset to the south and east. There was a beginning of a lightning show out northeast. As it got darker I went down to my car to smoke and watch the lightning some more. It never did storm at Arcosanti and only got down to 70 degrees that night.






















After awhile of watching nature I went inside the room and watched a couple episodes of Top Chef, thankfully the room had the WiFi router there and internet wasn't an issue the first couple of nights. Due to the weird bed situation, I was not really happy with the arrangement of the beds I created and haphazardly chose a bed to sleep on. Despite going to bed relatively early, I did not sleep very well at all. The size of the bed and the direction/placement of the bed and the oscillating fan were not in my favor. I also should share an incident that happened. I always bring a styrofoam cooler for my snacks and drinks, but I had to buy a new cheap one which broke in half the first night as I was rearranging water bottles. Most of the ice and water poured out all over the floor. All I could do was cover everything with towels and wait until the morning to buy another one at the nearby gas station. It was quite humorous but annoying too.


Here are some major realizations I had after the first day being there:

Serene is the word that comes to mind here. Everything I feel is serene and I'm hardly doing anything. The biggest stress I feel here is deciding what to do next and how to get people not to talk to me. Serenity takes over the second I reach meadows that tell me I'm near. The drive out of the cliff edges, at the top of the mountains, is a flat land full of overgrowth that always takes my breath away, no matter the season.

I like to people watch here, nature watch, insect watch, all of it. But the people watching has become more interesting especially since my last time here. I can't stop fantasizing about strangers in unlikely fantastical situations. Which, is really fun.

Being in nature makes me introverted. Even when I work on the blood drives up north, I'm more to myself. I believe it's similar to camping as a kid. We didn't talk a whole lot that I can specifically remember. Dad would tell stories, share experiences, and educate us of the surroundings but it was great deal of sitting and walking in silence. Just enjoying and taking in our surroundings. Also it is what I have made in terms of my traditions every time I come here, I isolate myself. I enjoy it and feel very independent here.

Pre-storm and post-storm clouds look like inverted magma.


The darkness here no longer scares or stresses me. I know what to expect here. I didn't use a flashlight once. I could stand in the middle of darkness and not have a worry. The bugs in the room no longer phase me. There are some that I leave be, and some that I catch and release outside, as simple as that.


The next two mornings I did exactly the same thing. I ate a snack, got dressed and drove to the gas station. The first morning I tried to find a cooler, but they only had a really small one but referred me to the dollar store across the street. I bought ice and a fabric cooler, which I later decided is not really meant to hold ice as it leaks too and doesn't keep the ice frozen for very long. To keep the cooler from leaking everywhere I would periodically pour the water from the ice into a water bottle and just have it to drink throughout the day. After replenishing the cooler with ice, I showered and prepared to go swimming. I was very excited about this. In the many visits here, I have never swam in the pool. If I remember correctly, on my very first visit here the pool was still under construction or not even there at all. Most of the time I usually travel here in the cold seasons where swimming isn't ideal. But I was on a mission to swim and I was really hoping I would have the pool to myself. Which I did for the 2 hours that I spent there. The pool is on higher ground than the hotel rooms, you have to hike up a pathway to get there. It sits on the edge, creating a balcony that overlooks all the land. It's always a beautiful sight, even if I never stepped foot in the pool. I took pictures as soon as I got there, arranged my stuff and took of my shorts and hearing aids and dived right in the deep end. Because of the distant storm the night before, there were a lot of dead bugs along the edges of the shallow end, I mostly swam around the deeper ends. I would swim a lap, float, and hang out at the edge and just stare out at the mountains and clouds. I did this back and forth for over an hour. The water was cool, the wind felt great. Wasps would come and go, fetching a drink of water from the pool. There would be anywhere from 1 to 15 of them in the pool at any time. They would fly over, land carefully at the surface, sip water for up to 10 seconds, and fly away. They never bothered me and I didn't bother them. Once I actually started to feel cold, I stepped out and dried off a little and sat in a chair in the sun. I warmed up and dived back into the pool only to do it again a bit later. I eventually started to get hungry and went back to my room after drying off in the sun.






After swimming, I sat on the bed closest to the window in my room and ate food while staring out. Very few people were out and about, perhaps only one or two of the other guests and an employee cleaning the unoccupied rooms. After eating I decided to write in my notebook about my stay so far. Almost every time I stay at Arcosanti, I document the basics of each trip, any noteworthy things, the mundane things, the realizations, everything I'm typing here. I do this not for others, but for me. It reminds me what happened on each trip, a travel through time and memory. As I've said before, each trip is similar in terms of activities and routines but the experience is always so different. It has a lot to do with my mental, emotional, and creative state at each time.

Just a few weeks prior to the trip a three of my friends and I decided to make a book club, which we named 5 Finger Fairy Book Club, it's supposed to be a dirty term we invented late night while drinking. The first book we decided on is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that 2 of the club members have read before. I had not read it before and started it on this trip. I'm really grateful that I started it here because I was able to focus on it and enjoy the nature around me simultaneously. This provides the most perfect reading environment for myself personally. The book gave me an eerie feeling from the beginning, and after reading the first two chapters or so I decided to read a bit about the author. Finding out more about him and his son, I started to cry. I cried hard for a good 5 to 10 minutes but didn't want to rehash my last experience here when I grieved for David Bowie. Thankfully it was just about time for dinner so I put the book down, wiped my tears, and got ready. I do not wish to talk further about the book as that is not the main focus of this post, however I could not put it down for a good portion of this trip.

My evening plans consisted of going to dinner, watching the sunset in the usual spot after dinner, and then hanging out by the room. The weather was similar to the first night but only slightly better, no storm activity that night just more clouds. I was really wishing for a storm. This is one of the handful of trips were there were so many clouds that I could not see any stars any of the nights. Dinner was better and lived up to the usual expectations. I bought a bottle of wine from the cafe as I really under packed in that department.










I really enjoy seeing the animals and insects in the area. Every now and then I'll discover a new being I hadn't seen there before. There were signs warning of watching for snakes, which I had never seen in any of my visits. However, this time millipedes made a few appearances.

I read more that night and went to bed pretty early. I rearranged the beds again earlier that day, making one of the beds most similar to position of my bed at home [facing east]. I was so exhausted but still didn't get much sleep. I think that is mostly due to the size of the bed and the fact that it has wheels. The wheels at the end of the legs make for easy arranging but move with every movement you make on the bed. Note to self: always ask for a room with a queen bed.

The next day was a replicate of the previous day. Went down to the gas station, bought more ice. Showered, went up to the pool. This time the guy that was hanging out with my neighbor Jennifer was already there in the pool alone. I just went and put my stuff down, organizing it all, and he got out of the pool and came to the table where I was to grab his towel to dry off. He awkwardly said hi. I told him also that I am hard of hearing and will be taking my hearing aids off, thus wouldn't hear him if he tried to talk to me. He said nothing pretty much and sat down in the sun with a book as I dived into the pool. It was kind of awkward sharing the space with someone else, so I tried my best not to look or swim towards his direction. I know it was mostly his awkwardness that I was reading into. After about ten minutes or so, he got up and started getting his shoes on. We waved goodbye and that was it. A handful of people were out and about walking near the pool but no one else joined me for the rest of my time there. The pool was cleaner, there were less winds, and less wasps. It was a bit warmer than the previous day, and I had found out after the fact that UV rays were high that day, causing my skin to redden but not to burn. The sky was extra cloudy in the distance, a beautiful and never tiring view. Being in the pool reminded me how much I love the sun. The sun always makes me happy, makes everything clear. Swimming controls my body temperature and keeps me cooler for most of the day. I have always felt one with water. I swam proficiently at a very young age, years of swimming matches, countless visits to lakes and beaches over the course of my childhood. I miss it. I don't do it enough. Swimming here made the heat worth it, bearable too.



After a couple hours of swimming and sitting in the sun I went back to my room to eat, read, and write. I brought other books that I am currently reading, but I just couldn't get to them. All I wanted to do was read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I got into over a 100 pages in the course of the couple of days. Stopping every few paragraphs to stare out at the land outside. It makes one very reflective, profound, and thoughtful.



The bug situation was pretty minimal despite the heat is what brings a lot of them out. The first night after opening up the curtains I discovered a large brown fuzzy spider. Those are the kind of spiders you don't risk. So I took the only cup I brought and a paper plate and caught it and threw it outside. Later that night I was doing something at the sink and went over to the bed, only mere seconds later I looked up at the exact spot I was standing and there on the ground was a big scorpion. Caught that and released it. Later that night there was a baby scorpion on the wall in the bathroom. I decided to leave it alone for the time being but found it the next morning on the wall not too far from the bed I had slept in. Caught it and released it. That night after hanging outside, I went in to find another large scorpion in the sink. Caught that and released it.

That last night of my trip, while hanging about waiting for dinner more dark clouds started to come in. I was excited for the storm to come. I had been waiting for this. It started to rain a little bit before dinner time so I decided to hike up to the sunset spot early to enjoy the sights. I was getting wet and smiling. After sitting at the spot for a little while I realized I forgot my wallet. I hiked back to my room to get my wallet and hiked all the way back to the cafe. I was really wet at that point but it felt incredible and out of breath. It was so humid in the cafe the water turned to sweat. I took several pictures outside. After dinner I went back to the room to sit outside. The storm only lasted a little over a half hour.







When you can see this much land all at once, the storm looks like impending doom.



Just some fun edits I was playing around with.



This photo is dedicated to my friend N.
After sitting outside post storm, Jennifer walked up to her room and I couldn't see her but heard a scrape and saw a big millipede being thrown across the sidewalk into the planter. A few minutes later I saw her scooping with difficulty the same millipede that was persistent about getting into her room. I had a big chuckle about it. We laughed together at the comical moment.

The second night, I believe, I decided to watch a movie, one I had only skimmed briefly in the past. A film called 30 Beats, a film revolved around connections people make through sex. It's not the best film, but what touched me was in one of the scenes towards the end, the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance made an appearance. It was the same print that I had, the scene involves a young adult guy who was reading the book and an older woman was seducing him. She asked him to read a passage, he just stared at her. So she told him to read the third line or so on page 99. I had not yet gotten that far in the book yet, but when I did the next day, in fact that line was there.

"When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process."



Overall, I realized that I never really notice how much I need these trips until I come back. I had been inspired lately but hadn't done a whole lot about it. Once on the trip, everything comes in floods to my mind, at an overwhelming pace sometimes. I write, read, sometimes draw, watch films, etc. My mind is calm and only slightly unorganized. I usually like to go to the hookah lounge the day I get back home, that's where I will write about my trip. Instead, I didn't write about my trip, but I made an unexpected post. It was the next day I started drafting this post and had been doing so in parts over the course of a few days.

Music was a big part of this trip as well. I invested in a bluetooth speaker months ago, I use it with my phone at home and anytime I have to drive at least 20 minutes somewhere. I don't care to invest in a stereo for my car, so this works great and I can take it anywhere with me. Last month I went to Yuma for work and with my headphones listened to the score of the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It was so eerie but worked well with the surroundings and I actually even slept on and off during the trip for the first time. I never really ever have an opportunity to listen to music as I sleep since I take my hearing aids off at night, so this was an especially unique experience. I haven't listened to anything but the radio and 80's rock for the last couple of years. I've been stuck in it. This was the beginning of bringing me out of that. So for my drive up to Arcosanti, I listened to a Spotify mix of Nine Inch Nails. I listened to it all the way up there and while I was in my room until dinner time. A long lost and only recently found pen pal friend of mine from Canada also recently recommended the artist Chelsea Wolfe. I'm getting into her, and it reminds me a lot of Portishead but still different. I even got back into one of my favorite bands The Gathering and listened to their newer albums that I had been reluctant to listen to due to the change of singers. I have been listening to The Gathering pretty much nonstop since. This is the music inspiration and experience I have been needing ever since my passion for Journey has recently declined only due to hardcore repetition.

Once I got back from the trip my brain has been fuzzy. Reflective and happy but not remembering simple details. I hung out with my mom for a day after I got back, it's always a great time with her. That night I went out to my regular bar with a friend I haven't seen in a long while. I haven't been there forever. It was a calm but well needed night and that's when I realized I really couldn't talk or recall things as well. Just that fuzzy afterglow brain, I guess. It definitely makes a difference when you don't speak for 4 days and then get thrown in social situations and have to talk again. It always takes time to adjust.

Going to Arcosanti gives me the recharge, the invigoration that I need. Again, I don't really notice it, the prominence of it while I'm there, it is when I get back that I truly feel it and the necessity of it. My mind is free again, not ground down from work and the mundane distractions I choose over art. It also helps my digestive system, it kind of resets everything. I've lost a few pounds in just this week, less mindless eating, eating better, and less portions.


So to finish up this post, I wanted to sum up a list of ideals, that help make the trip the best that it can be, from the collective data of all my varying trips there.

  • Spring or Fall seasons are best and should still welcome the use of the pool. Winter is still great if pool isn't required
  • Queen bed
  • Private bathroom
  • 3 nights minimum
  • Bring a cooler that keeps ice and food cold as long as possible with little to no issues or leaks
  • Don't overpack creative mediums, you never end up using it all
  • Cloves are better

Below is a picture of me on my first visit seven years ago sitting on the cliff of the sunset spot, after it is a picture of me on my last day on this recent trip.


The face of serenity.