Here at play in the cathedral forest, sunlight lighting up the golden leaves, the breeze running its fingers through them and making them dance in a way that is so very much better than the false glitter and dazzle of Vegas. Though far from pure, I felt cleansed. Human again. There is something comforting in fall. The clarity of the light, the sweet smell of decay. Knowing that in a month or so Winter will begin tucking all of this in for the night. So you get as much of it as you can, you stay up a little bit later just like when you were a kid and you entered into those complex bedtime negotiations, putting it all out on the line in the hopes of getting thirty more minutes.
I never knew Anthony Sloan.
When I heard of his passing I struggled to remember how or why the name seemed so familiar to me. And so I started reading the several tributes to him, and it was clear that the man had had a profound impact on the people around him. And yet, I was still unable to make the connection back to him – until I clicked the link to his website: AnthonySloan.com
And my heart sunk.
Suddenly I remembered, not just why I knew his name, but why I knew his passing, when I first heard of it was somehow going to effect me, to sadden me and ultimately going to leave a void in my life that would be difficult to fill. From time to time I would visit his site only vaguely aware of who Anthony Sloan was, and marvel at the pictures, the words, and the sense of wonder that he was able to convey. His work was – is – an inspiration and a motivation for me. He was like Abbey in his detailed observation, but also had the childlike joy of Ruess, often speaking of recapturing that ability to be astonished at the world and the wilderness. He saw the simple beauty of the desert or the mountains, the blowing of the wind or the falling of the rain. He shared with us that vision through his lens and through photos that were at once spectacular and subtle. His photography is classic, colorful, unique.
His loss is my loss. And I will miss his work. It is clear that those who knew him well will miss him terribly. And my heart aches for them.
There is a vastness of the high country that a picture can never capture. The expansiveness of the views and the minutiae of the plant life up there swirl together and pick at your sense of scale. In our day to day life we saunter confidently through our lifes, barely noticing how everything in our man made world makes such perfect geometric sense. Doorknobs just so, hallways a comfortable width, and so on. Perhaps some piece of the wonderment we feel up here comes from being removed from the habitrails of our normal life. Maybe there is a little piece of our brains that has to turn on and process.
He described Cedar Mesa, UT:
Eventually this road ends, as all roads must do. Though it is quite possible that this is the beginning of a road, and I am traveling backwards. Through space, through time. Often roads end for no discernible reason, but here the reasoning is quite sound, as there is a yawning chasm, a slickrock canyon that silently, inarguably prevents further passage. However, other conduits await…
When all of the explanation and interpretation is stripped away one is left with that most precious of emotions: Wonder. Wonder is that emotion most people have left behind with their childhood, and the emotion that we long for when we reach back to those years. Here there is no separation from the place, no glass wall between you and some forlorn, corpse-cold relics. The ruins and the landscape are one place, together, rather than an archaeological site that through its uniqueness demands to be considered all on its own. By drawing out the approach instead of immediately switching from air-conditioned car to ruins, the transition afforded by gradually shedding modern life allows the deeper significance and meanings of these ancient structures to seep in…
I have sown an interesting seed here in that I have associated the same landscape with both the loss and the memory of my father. By scattering his ashes here there will always be the pang of his loss present in this place. Because this place was one that he loved, and showed to me so that I could love it too, there is at the same time a sense of renewal.
Anthony Sloans ashes will be scattered, like his father’s, at Cedar Mesa, Utah.