A Raven is a Hole in the Sky
Apache, AZ. In the remote southeastern corner of Arizona, there's a place where the hard desert landscape seems to soften and the long road rises gently toward New Mexico and the horizon. Out here, state lines and international borders seem like weaknesses of the human mind. The locals often refer to this land as "Baja Arizona," and Mexico seems just as close as the US.
There's only one paved highway. Along the roadside, under the open sky, is a rounded monolith, made of smooth stones held together by concrete. It’s the monument that commemorates the final surrender of Geronimo to the US Government in 1886 at nearby Skeleton Canyon.
History is burdensome here. One can't help but think of that weary band of the last Apache holdouts being pursued by thousands of soldiers across this land until hunger and despair overtook them. For white America, it's considered the event that marks the end of the Indian Wars of the 19th century.
Looking south, one imagines the vast deserts rising into the great Sierra Madre that anchors our continent to the Earth. Close to the northern side of the highway, however, stand the Chiricahua Mountains. They are a mecca for wildlife, birders, and researchers. Home to perhaps the greatest biodiversity in North America, they are my destination. It is where the world comes together.
I’ve stopped at this place several times, and the afternoon sun is always warm, but never too hot. A comforting wind gusts strong and steady, blowing in over the distant curve of the planet. The flowering stalks of the agave rustle, and if the wind picks up, the wire fence along the roadside will begin to sing.
A rusted and rattling metal carport canopy shades two picnic tables. So close to the highway, so exposed to the elements, it's hard to imagine anyone willingly stopping here to eat.
I choose not to sit, however. I hold my camera in the middle of the road, where one can see for miles. And I always get the same feeling…of being very far from home while being very close to where I want to be.
Once, where the mountains end, was a tiny black dot, a raven. Some things know no borders, some things need no roads. Some things are bound by no fences. A raven is a hole in the sky.