Beyond the Woo

By Doranna Durgin

It was bound to happen—I’ve finally set a book in Sedona. I mean, take one writer of things fantastical living only an hour away from the red rocks, canyons, and vortexes. Give her a decade of exposure.

The inevitability of it is clear.

Seriously! Only an hour away from the woo-woo!

Not that my characters were as enthused.

Lucia Reyes: Shopping? In tourist Trap World? I don’t think so.
Lisa McGarrity: Reckoning? In Faux Woo-Woo World? I don’t think so.
Trevarr: [  ]

Oh, right. Trevarr. He’s like that.

Sklayne: Me. You forgot about me.

Sklayne. He’s like that, too.

Sedona has to be both the most over-appreciated and under-appreciated place in the world. Think SEDONA and you get crystals and vortexes, mantras and spiritual retreats. Because, sure…there’s a lot of that going around.

But drive to Sedona from Flagstaff, and you end up winding through a canyon with dizzying hairpin turns, dropping a couple thousand feet in short order. Ponderosa pines and scrub oak cling thickly along the red rocks in a stark green and bluff-red contrast, and rushing creek and riparian water habitat thrives below. It’s alive and it’s stunning and it’s unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been. Suddenly you look at it all much differently. You look beyond the woo.

You think, “This is a place I’d like to sit. I’d like to spend time. I’d like to write about. I’d like to help preserve.”

Sklayne: Vortexes. Tasty.

Right. That’s the thing, isn’t it? So alluring, the temptation of the woo-woo.  Sometimes I think it shadows the amazing nature of what’s already there. Because right there in Sedona, the world changes.

Sedona sits at the Mogollon Rim, the profound natural dividing line between the Colorado Plateau and the lower Basin & Range country. Spend a few winters in the higher northlands, and you know right where the snow line lays: Above Sedona, it’s chains and closed roads. Below it, the fog clears out and suddenly you’re driving clear and free.

Above Sedona, the land is all silent volcanoes and cinder fields supporting skiing and ponderosa pines growing thick and deep; the amazing San Francisco Peaks were formed by your classic hot-n-heavy volcano, topped by the classic dome explosion. Below Sedona, it’s a quick descent through juniper scrub desert to the broad sloping valley bowl of classic hot, hot desert. Saguaro, prickly pear, cholla spring up, while grasses grow sparser by the moment. Picture your cowboy hero, crawling along the ground with his tongue hanging out, a rattler coiled up not far away.

And there in Sedona, you have it all, both above and below. North Sedona is full of canyons, swirling wind-formed rocks, Vultee Arch, and a plethora of stunning trails and views. As if I could resist taking the reckoning action out into those settings!

Lucia: I’m pretty sure you could have. Or warned me to pack hiking shoes. And, the way things turned out, a bulk pack of sanitary wipes.
Garrie: Bring it on! I’ve got ghostie vibes to hike out.
Sklayne: Squirrels! Tasteee!
Trevarr: [  ]

South of Sedona’s main road, the land plunges down into the red rocks–striking red bluffs in formations so distinctive they all have names (Snoopy, Lucy, Chimney Rock, The Mittens, The Cow Pies, the Rabbit Ears….). It looks like someone turned the Earth’s crust upside down and left us all gazing at the roots of the rock.

Truth is, I enjoy the woo-woo. The vortexes, both male and female in essence; the crammed, tight little shops along Highway 89. There you can get crystals, furs, a plethora of T-shirts bearing eagles, wolves, and largely misrepresented Indians, and–if you look in the right place–maybe a badger skull to add to the collection at home. (Ask me how I know.)  Geodes, vortex tours, and any little thing with a whiff of New Age magic…this is the place! It’s all worth a little wallow.

Sklayne: Tingles!

But for me, the rich treasure of the area comes in the land, which carries a woo-woo all of its own—just because it is. And in the end, even if it was crystals and vortexes that tickled my idea generator, it was the land that drew me, and which helped drive this story. What the land and its creatures deserve.

Lucia: Let’s just sit on Sterling Ridge and look down on the pass for a while.
Garrie: Non-ethereal woo-woo. Want me some of this.
Trevarr: *stands so close to Garrie*

…Sklayne: When can I eat it?

Storm of Reckoning (978-0-7653-6165-3; $6.99) by Doranna Durgin will be available from Tor on February 1, 2011.

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