All photography and text by Stu Jenks (c) 2015. (except for the Goggle Maps screen-save at the end of the post)
No one knows who made it.
My friend Tom Baumgartner, who initially showed me his Google Earth screen-save of the place, did a thorough web search but found nothing on it. No names. No photos. Nothing.
So I packed up the truck the next day and drove the four hours to see it for myself.
(Full disclosure: the license plate on my Pathfinder reads "Spirals.")
By dropping a pin on my Google Maps, I found the spiral just outside an entrance to the Kofa Natural Wildlife Reserve. Without Google Maps, satellites, smart phones and computers, I would have never found it, for it can not seen from the road.
I parked my truck when my phone told me to stop and walked toward where I thought it might be. I found it, and immediately knew what it was.
Some man or woman or people had carved a 60 foot spiral into the desert floor as a meditative labyrinth. I know a little about labyrinths being a big fan of the two at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and the one at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona. I have walked these mystery mazes many times. I know how to do that: Clear my mind as best I can or rather, in my case, be aware of the bat-shit-monkey-mind-craziness I'm thinking, acknowledging that with as little judgment as I can muster, and eventually bring myself back to these two important questions:
What time is it?
Where am I?
I had Pamela's Baby Rocking Chair with me on Friday. I set up my sister's chair on the edge of the spiral, put on the 28mm prime on my 5D Mark II and took a number of images. I got one or two I liked. I knew I had coverage. I knew I was done for now.
So now it's time to pray.
I entered the spiral with Pamela's chair in one hand and my iPhone in the other. I took some video for my Facebook friends and upload it to the web as I walked. I thought about my worries about finding a new studio, my worries about not having enough money to pay my bills, my worries of perhaps I need to gain so more hourly employment, my worries about perhaps not being as good a boyfriend I thought I was. My worries, my fears, my thoughts, my thoughts, my god damn thoughts.
And I walked and walked and walked some more.
It's a very big spiral, a very long freaking walk I tell you, but I'm grateful to the long freaking walk because after not too much time, I was back on those two questions again:
Where am I?
What time is it?
Then suddenly I saw the bigger metaphor of this spiral. It's symbolic of my life's journey from birth to death. My childhood in the outer loops, each taking a long time to orbit the center, like how a single day was an eternity when I was a six. That it took less time for each cycle around, as I lived life and loved and approached my death in the center of the spiral, the last revolutions taking no time at all, like how Christmases come faster and faster each year now.
And then I arrived at the center. I put down Pamela's Chair and sat. I took a quick photo of me sitting in her chair with my iPhone. I sent that up into the inter-webs too, then sat back down in my little rocking chair and took it all in.
I don't think I thought about anything for a few minutes. Just sat. Looked at the distant mountains. Rocked in my chair. I maybe had one or two thoughts about how much time I had till the sun went down but that was about it.
I suppose the spiral had worked its magic.
After a while, I walked back out, enjoying the journey back to my birth.
I took some more shots once I exited. I watched the Sun set behind some mountains to the west. It started to get dark. Time to go. I loaded up the Pathfinder but first I drove down the few hundred yards to the kiosk at the entrance of the Kofa. Quickly I realized I was in the wrong place. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be back at the spiral labyrinth. I raced back and caught the last bits of light in the sky. It was glorious.
I don't know if my walking the spiral really changed me that much. I was still irritated with a narcissistic woman in front of me at the McDonald's in Quartzite, who special-ordered every freaking thing off the menu, but I did have a delightful brief chat with a trucker, as we both waited for our coffee and food.
"You on the road?" he asked with a smile, thinking I was a trucker too.
"Yes I am," I said.
To get to The Spiral Labyrinth of Yuma County, take U.S. 95, south from Quartzite, for around 10 miles. (or you can come up from the south from Yuma as well.) Take a left (east) on to Palm Canyon Road and drive toward the Kofa Natural Wildlife Preserve. When you get to the entrance to the Preserve, turn around and drive back on the dirt road for around 400 yards. Park your vehicle on the side of the road and walk to the south a hundred feet or so. It's over there somewhere. Enjoy and be respectful. Someone or someones put a lot of work into making this sacred space. It is magical.
"Connecticut Children's Spiral: The Arizona Trail, north of Oracle, Arizona" (c) 2012 Stu Jenks
The above image taken with a 70-200 mm on a 5D Mark II. The below image taken with a iPhone 4S with the panoramic feature.
And my prayers, thoughts and yes, this one not-so-little spiral, go out to those in Newtown, Connecticut and across our country and world.
Hug your children and your loved ones a little longer tonight, and tomorrow, and next week, and during this holiday season, and throughout the new year. Love is precious, and it can be gone in an instant, in so many ways.
"Mustang Mountain Spiral, Arizona" (c) 2012 Stu Jenks
No story. Just an image. OK, one short one. This looks nothing like the reality that I took it in. And I did very little in CS4, besides make it a black and white. It's the wondrous truth and the glorious lie of photography.