The mariner and his first mate are cruising toward Albuquerque, our second port. We are passing through the Texas Panhandle. Hour after hour, there is no sign of human life, no notable elevations other than some that remind the mariner of ocean swells. There is nothing to do except hold the lay line. As time rolls by, one becomes aware that the Panhandle has permanence – a stillness. It is a forgotten land while the rest of the world sails into an unknown future.
Suddenly, a very tall structure looms on the horizon. Quickly, one discovers it is a giant Christian Cross. It stands easily 120 feet tall – a proselytizing presence by itself. Mariner has a new understanding for the gargantuan, hyperbolic nature of the divine symbols of kings and gods typical of the ancient Abyssinian, Babylonian and Egyptian religions. Perhaps that is a weakness in Islamic and Christian religions today: their God denies images – let alone 120-foot images.
We cruise into New Mexican waters. The deserts seem more amenable to sharing with humanity – though barely. Occasionally, there are signs of managed fields and abandoned wooden huts. A new phenomenon occurs called a mesa. The mesa fires the imagination of travelers, realizing that, at the top of these flat, seemingly displaced forms, was the bottom of a body of water large enough to be a small ocean.
Before that, though, it was a mountainous region that collapsed when tectonic activity drew away the deep magma. The land we cross today is older than the Rocky Mountains – 80 million years old. The mesas resist erosion longer than surrounding surfaces, sustaining a fascinating, somehow historically obligated role to remind humans that they are indeed a short term renter of Earth’s sphere.
The mariner sails into an expected front of rain and snow that will encompass us all the way to Albuquerque. Hold the lay line.