Sedona´s Inner Landscapes

Some trips take longer to process, to really find within ourselves what it is we went looking for there, REALLY, as opposed to what we set out to achieve. I took several as yet unreported trips in 2015, and perhaps the most unreported one among them was my sejour in breathtaking Sedona.

There were many peculiarities to the trip. My whole US tour had to do with equal parts art and love. Sedona, though, was special. It was the one trip I had to explain. “Why are you going to New York?,” people asked, which prompted me to play the poetry reading card (which was the truth, but not the whole truth). “Why are you going to Chicago,” elicited mentions of my very good friend who teaches music at the University of Chicago; someone I had known through all my adult life, who had played a key role in me becoming  a writer, but whom, alas, I had never met in person.

When they asked about Sedona, I had to go into the details of my interest in Max Ernst, his fascination with the place, the unreal red rock formations, and people were often still not satisfied. My friends out West were the most puzzled, because I had never been so close to LA and not made a point of stopping by. The fact is that I had been invited to a festival in Rio and my US tour had a set deadline that did not permit my usual LA visit.

Sedona from Veronica Pamoukaghlian on Vimeo.

The trip to Sedona was different from most of my trips, because it was a thing I was doing purely for myself. I had previously considered spending Thanksgiving in Chicago, but my friend was going to be away, and it then occurred to me that I had wanted to go to Sedona for decades. When I asked myself why I had never done it before, I could think of no possible answer, so, I logged onto Skyscanner and bought a ticket from NY to Phoenix, and booked a place with an impressive view of Red Rock on airbnb. Once everything was booked, it was a done deal, I would finally get to see Max Ernst´s imagined landscapes, I would get a chance to catch a glimpse of the marvelous house he had built with his own hands.

A couple of weeks later, when I was lying on the beach in Rio surrounded by love and beauty, it occurred to me that because I hadn´t done the honorable thing and visited MOMA, I had missed out on some Ernst paintings. In fact, I was only able to summon the courage to initiate a possibly ill-fated search for Ernst´s home on my very last morning in Sedona. In a way, I felt that the beauty and the significance of the place were more Ernst to me than any painting could ever be. Nevertheless, I will probably research every museum with a modern art collection next time I am in any major city, because I did cry with joy every single time I glimpsed one of Ernst´s marvelous works, notably, in 2014 in Zurich.

DSC_0410 DSC_0392 DSC_0381

Sedona was everything I had anticipated and more, infinitely more. I arrived in the middle of the night, after I got the Arizona Shuttle driver to keep me awake by telling me the story of his life all the way from Phoenix airport to what they call downtown Sedona, which is more like a road with a couple scattered coffee shops and spas every couple of miles and, albeit invisibly at that hour, surrounded by otherworldly red rock formations everywhere you looked.

Sedonians like to tell stories of what the red rocks look like, a Disney cartoon, a wild animal, or a famous movie star, but the truth is that they mostly look like themselves, like a testimony of a past of balance and perfection that we have somehow lost in the less than biblical flood of modern times.

I can´t really describe Sedona. I could tell little anecdotes of my ascent of Bell Rock with a cancer-fighting old man who is both creepy and endearing, a man who is allegedly beating cancer by taking people to the top of Bell Rock every single day of his life. I could mention the delicious Oak Creek brew and cactus fries, my fabulous dinner at MARIPOSA, where we drank Uruguayan wine, the charming souvenir shop owner who seemed to be the only person in all of Sedona who had any inkling of who Max Ernst was and where his actual house was located, how I made tzatziki and ginger-butter cod at a lovely house in Flagstaff, my gracious Chinese hosts (all American-styled ambition and China-made politeness), how I survived (and thrived) in a place with no public transportation, without a driver´s license. I could mention all of that, and I would still be leaving out the most important parts.


While I will eventually, or perhaps, unveil my photo and video pilgrimage to Ernst´s house, below is a poem I wrote in Sedona (in Deutsch, I will add others in Spanish and English soon). The video above is of my usual Sedona walk from the house to the shopping area. There is something powerful in Sedona, and I will not be the one to betray it by trying to put it in words. It´s kind of falling in love for the first time, you can try to explain the reasons why, but you can never really succeed, because, if everybody could see that, then everybody would be in love with everybody; if there were somehow a transparent logic that no one could refute. As things are, I have no logical reason for being in love, I just am.

Sedona West (Nov 29th, Sedona, Arizona)

010-max-ernst-theredlistAm Westen liegt Freiheit
Man sollte immer nach Westen
fahren, fliegen, fliehen
Am Westen standen
Stein und Ewigkeit

Von Hitler
von Stalin
immer nach Westen
bis an die Freiheit

da findest du deine
Europa nach dem Regen
da fandest du
die Seele deines Kunsts

das Rot
das nirgendwo roter wird
der Himmel
blauer als der Wind

Durch deine Augen
reise ich

Ich finde das,
was steht hinter den Augen
Dein Alles
Der Herz
deiner Schöpfung

Die Freiheit
der Menschen
die im inneren
Freiheit finden

Kein Käfig könnte dich

Les cages
sont toujours imaginaires
(da mahltest du
ein Vogel)

Ich glaube an dich
und liebe dich

und liebe dich


B&W photo: Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning in Sedona
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