There's a soothing lull to the sound of a major airplane's engine. Massive turbines spinning in synchronization, drawing in air from one end and ushering it out the other. It's a sound one grows used to after years of flying. This plane, however, did not sound like that.
Disembarking the first plane, we boarded another-- one smaller and more intimate in stature. The front-end propellers chopped and butchered through the air, lifting the small aircraft with the sound of a never-ending, hyperactive .50-caliber machine gun. Despite the shortest distance between two locations being a straight line, the wind fought back-- not recognizing the supposed authority of the plane, and as a result, carried us this way and that way.
No peanuts. No inflight Cameron Crowe movie. No leggy stewardesses wielding flirtatious smiles and hot towels. Barf bags. They had plenty barf bags. And took extra care to remind us of their usefulness. No one had to use them, thank God. We landed as we took off: with a thump! and a thud! and a ch-chug-ch-guh! The bumps smoothed out, the engine subsided, and we were struck by the sight of our destination.
Terrestrial skyscrapers that protruded upwards from the ground. The busy, yet orderly, traffic of wind. A bustling population of earth, dust and minuscule lifeforms.
Out there in the middle of nowhere... was a city made entirely of nature.
Look left, and there were mountains. Look right, and there were more mountains. We were surrounded. Outnumbered. Completely encapsulated by natural walls that rival the man-made one in China. There was nothing. Nothing, and yet, everything.They say that nature abhors a vacuum... but out there, nature cherished it. Protected it.
It was like a scene from a movie. A secluded area where the soft-spoken sheriff and the black-eyed outlaw face off at high noon. A desert stronghold where a super-spy is held captive by an international villain. Or a far off place where a young prince is wrongfully banished from his kingdom, forcing him to trek back to his rightful place as king. In fact it was a scene from a movie. Planet of the Apes was filmed there. Along with the single, solitary strip of road that this earthen city allowed us foreign visitors, was our living quarters: the Amangiri Resort. I'm certain the architects were inspired by the work of the Heavenly Creator when they fashioned the resort after its surroundings. Hues and tones of brown and stone were used as a compliment to the dominating landscape.
The resort was an island in the middle of a sea of desert. After the tour of the resort and it's amenities, we had dinner. A full evening of food, alcohol, and conversation. We were so caught up in the meal, the liquor and the declarations of past accomplishments and future projects, that we seemed to have forgotten our place in this natural city. We completely dismissed the true power in our presence. The sun came down from on high to remind us. As the Circle of Life set far below the tips of the surrounding proud rocks, it showed us what true accomplishment was-- true wonder. It made sure we never forgot it. As the orange of the dusk sky bled into the blackish-blue of the night, the city's police force stood at the ready. Stars standing guard and keeping a twinkling, watchful eye over the land.
Nothing could describe it better than the song from Les Miserables, wonderfully sung by Russel Crowe, in my humble opinion:
Stars In your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Filling the darkness
With order and light
You are the sentinels
Silent and sure
Keeping watch in the night
Keeping watch in the night
Out there, nature was the dominant species. We men were grateful enough to merely witness it. It was humbling to be so small against the massive landscape. To look at the aged rocks and know that they were the definition of true existence. A helicopter tour the following morning did nothing to shrink the Geo-City. No matter how high we flew, no matter the heights we rose, complete visual comprehension of our surroundings were still not possible.
We soared over Lake Powell. The whup-whup-whup! of the above propellers muffled out as we were overtaken by the sheer sight of the city's reservoir. A single boat, tiny and insignificant from our altitude, cut through the surface of the body of water. At 186 miles long, 25 miles wide, the boat seemed to fare no better than a hamster in a wheel, or a mouse in a maze. Going... going... still there. So close. No cigar. We hiked the terrain. Quadriceps pushing down, calves pushing up, feet scrapping against the surface. The more land we covered, the more there was to explore. It was never ending. A bottomless pit laid out horizontally instead of vertically. It was the blank canvas of a painter; the unwritten first page of a writer; the untapped stage of a dancer.
Adventure. Expression. Freedom. Joy. Love. Inspiration. Power. Connection. Existence.
We left with our ill-conceived thoughts of our own self-worth purged from our minds. The only thought that remained in our head was the visually orgasmic wonder that all the words of the English-language couldn't even begin to adequately describe. The immutable gravitas of Utah's own utopia.Oh, yeah. Utah.Not the desert plains of Africa. Not the jungle greens of the Amazon. Not the tranquil countryside of Paris. Utah, Arizona, United States of America.Our own backyard. Who'd'a'thunk?
Words by Rich Etienne
Shot at Lake Powell and Amangiri
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