Sheila and I continued our drive along Route 179 towards Sedona city proper, minutes away. Up ahead, I caught my first glimpse of Bell Rock, my heart skipped a beat. Its fiery hues in the shape of a bell (hence the name) loomed over us as we approached it slowly. I’m glad I wasn’t driving or I would have probably driven us off the road. Without looking away, I reached into my bag, blindly groped for my camera and freed it from its case. I managed to take a couple of pictures before it disappeared behind us. Beautiful! This was just a teaser, the amuse bouche before le plat principal.
Budding Artist Colony
Sedona is a budding artist colony. Some of America's most talented and respected artists are featured in the wealth of galleries around town and in places like Hillside. We browsed beautiful and unique works of art in oil, watercolor, acrylic, ceramic, clay, bronze and silver. A visitor to Sedona will immediately understand this bounty of talent.
Scenery Makes for a Burst into Song
Scenery has the ability to inspire, perhaps even stick-figure drawers like me. Actually, I might be a hopeless case. There is a lot of natural art here and being in the midst of all this beauty, is uplifting. So much, in fact, that later, as I stood by the Chapel of the Holy Cross surrounded by this blazing glory, I thought I was going to burst into song!
Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross was designed and built in 1956 by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built directly into a butte, offers a dramatic view of the valley 200 feet below. Inside, the chapel is dim. What little light there is comes from candles in red votives and the fading sunlight streaming in through the all-glass wall behind the altar. To the left are stairs that lead down to a gift shop.
What most people come here for is the 360-degree view from the plaza in front of the chapel (first photo above). The sweeping vista is simply stunning! If you look closely at the natural rock formations on the hillside nearby, you will see two similarly shaped rock pillars dubbed "the Two Nuns" (photo below). To the left of that is the unmistakable image of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus, the Madonna and Child. This is the image you will find in countless Sedona-inspired prints and paintings. And these are the ones Sheila pointed out.
What I proudly discovered on my own was the image of an eagle's head that seemed to be sculpted directly out of the hill. The photo on the left below is how it looked from where we stood and on the right is the zoomed-in photo.
Sheila suggested we have lunch in Tlaquepaque (tuh-lah-kee-pah-kee), a quaint stucco-walled and cobble-stoned village of shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. Not to be confused with the Tlaquepaque in the Jalisco region of Mexico, though, this place may have been patterned after it. The sun streamed through the branches of the sycamore trees and onto outdoor patios where diners feasted on Mexican or French cuisine. I succumbed to the temptation of buying two prints from one of the galleries, I plan to hang these in the powder room of my future house.
I chose the Secret Garden Cafe, a few yards from the courtyard fountain. It turned out to be as enchanting as it sounds. We went directly to the outdoor patio, the day was too beautiful to waste indoors. Wrought iron chairs were draped with warm woven blankets for diners to wrap around in should it start to get chilly. I ordered the corn chowder, it was excellent (I want to duplicate this) and the chicken salad. We enjoyed our meal in this serene garden setting shaded by lush foliage.
Sedona is the spiritual mecca for new-age folks. The area is said to be saturated with energy from vortexes – a funnel of spiraling energy coming from deep within the earth. Twisted juniper tree branches are an indication of where the energy is strongest.
It is no surprise then that there are many psychics here. Would you like to have your aura photographed or get your chakra balanced? Fancy a past-life regression? How about a regular psyshic reading? You can have all this done and more at the Center for the New Age, across from Tlaquepaque. The center has a wide range of books on this particular subject matter, pamphlets explaining the power of the vortexes and maps to the strongest points, healing crystals and the like.
Sheila insisted on sponsoring a psychic reading for me. I obliged. Concetta (fifth person down the list on the link) was warm and friendly, not at all what I expected. She led us into her retreat upstairs where we sat on comfortable chairs covered in pink satin and scattered with velvety throw pillows. A light breeze carried the soothing sound of the creek outside through her window. What happened next was more like a conversation between friends than a psychic reading. She told me nothing I hadn't already heard from countless psychics and coffee readers before her, but most of it was head-on. She was indeed insightful, however, I've long forgotten what it was she told me.
Sedona – An Experience, Not a Place
People visit Sedona for many different reasons. Some come to frolic in this big outdoor playground and hike the monoliths. Others want to get away from it all, to relax and be pampered in one of the many spas. Still others come on a spiritual journey, for the vortexes, the healing energy that comes from within the earth. Many, like me, come for the spectacular scenery, the pure natural beauty. Whatever your purpose for visiting this magical place, I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Sedona isn't a place, it is an experience.
Read more of Christine's journey at her blog.