Tag Archives: Larry Lindahl

Guest Blog: The Lost Jewel by Larry Lindahl


Courtesy of Larry Lindahl

Courtesy of Larry Lindahl

Since the Slide Fire was first reported on May 20, the blaze has burned 21,217 acres of Oak Creek Canyon and is 90 percent contained. Below, photographer Larry Lindahl shares his thoughts about the fire and its aftermath.

The smoke blanket hangs motionless, obstructing majestic Thunder Mountain into a blue-gray ghost. Out of sight, over the rise, hidden from the masses, the burning of canyons and cliffs between Flagstaff and Sedona continues a slow but certain death. All we see is the smoke, transient evidence of mass destruction.

Many of us grieve, feeling the sadness of loss, knowing the jewel of Sedona, West Fork, will be severely altered by this devastation. The media has the maps and incident reports, numbers of personnel, lists of equipment, measurements, action plans and the reassurance that no structures were lost. And, thankfully, no human lives.

But for many of us, the loss is deeply emotional, a feeling of helplessness, anger, depression, longing for what was and remembering. Oh, yes, remembering. For me, West Fork was a church and a school, a playground and a sanctuary, a friend and a favorite relative, the ancient past and now an uncertain future.

Assuming the maps and reports of the fire are accurate, I brace for the reality that West fork is burnt beyond recognition, a disfigured and charred presence that once breathed as a beautiful and vibrant living being.

Some avoid the pain of loss with anger, withdrawal and denial. Some give the quick answer that West Fork will return, nature heals, fire is natural. Yes, and so is death and dying, and deep sadness. In the darkness of what has been lost are memories, only memories, and a grieving soul knows it can never return to what was.

Being with the mystery of emotions is not easy in our culture. “Get over it and move on” is our society’s way of handling the uncomfortable. I am not one who can escape these emotions. It’s been hard many times, but I feel the entire spectrum. West Fork, I cried for you yesterday.

My emotion slowly shifted, I’m entering the void of acceptance, walking through the pain of loss, and then last night it rained, and I felt the sky was crying, too.

West Fork was my church and school. I married my wife, Wendy, in West Fork on a brisk winter morning with a dusting of snow in the shadows. Our two lives were meeting to flow as one at the confluence of West Fork and Oak Creek, two streams meeting to flow as one.

Months earlier, I was photographing Wendy, on a warm afternoon near the confluence, doing her favorite yoga poses for a promotional flyer. We felt that first flutter of attraction not far from where we would give our vows to each other there in West Fork.

West Fork was my school as well as my church. It’s where I learned to connect with the subtle energies of nature. It’s where I learned to preserve a temporal moment in a photograph that held the imprint of those subtle energies.

And from that school I began having my photography published in Arizona Highways. A two-page photo spread of West Fork in early morning, the water making a crystal-clear reflection of what was above — a mirror of heaven on Earth — opened my second photo portfolio. The magazine article was titled Secret Sedona and garnered the magazine an international nature-photography award.

From that magazine article came a book with West Fork pictured on the back cover, one of seven photos of the canyon in the book Secret Sedona. On a special day in my life, I sat with the Arizona Highways books editor at Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market in Oak Creek Canyon. We sat in back and ate lunch, and I signed the contract, a moment that would change my life in so many interesting ways.

Afterward, we took an afternoon hike together in that very special place called West Fork. Halfway in, a bright-red, black and white bird caught an insect in mid-air only a few feet in front of me. Those moments in West Fork are so very special in my heart: so much beautiful history, so many vivid memories.

West Fork was my playground and sanctuary. Several summers ago, I backpacked, with one of my best friends, the entire length from near Flagstaff down to the confluence in Oak Creek Canyon. He and I scrambled along with his two boys, plunging into pools of cold, clear water and floating our gear through slot canyons before setting camp on a sandy beach in the heart of the canyon.

Our trip ended as a warm and gentle rain fell quietly from the summer sky. The glisten of rain made the rose-and-peach sandstone deep with color. Delicate flowers and grasses grew between river cobbles and cracks in the bedrock. It was moist with life, vulnerable and open. Secret gardens were waiting where hidden pools invited us to swim. The warm mists were primal and welcome. We shared our experiences soul to soul. We explored and played in this Eden.

West Fork was a sanctuary and a playground. It comforted me and healed me. It held me in its silent embrace. The breath of God touched it on a daily basis. It was nothing less than my vision of true paradise.

I’ve hiked in West Fork with my parents, authors, photographers and photography students, and my wife and friends, yet mostly by myself.

In the solitude, uninterrupted, listening and discovering, I found hummingbirds raising their young, fish darting to the next pool, butterflies by the dozen on one cluster of flowers, bergamots in bloom, monkeyflowers, golden columbines, lupines, penstemons, great blue herons, Cooper’s hawks, Steller’s jays, Coconino sandstone, red cliffs of Supai formation, maples and alders, clouds and blue sky.

But not today. Right now, as I write these words, the sky is thick with gray smoke. West Fork is burning, and there’s nothing we can do. The church is on fire, the school is burning, the playground is in flames, and the sanctuary is covered in ash. One of my best friends is dying today, just over the horizon.

I mourn the loss. Don’t tell me fire is natural — this one wasn’t. Don’t tell me it will come back again — not like the paradise I knew. Don’t tell me to move on, that life is about change — I need to feel and not turn away from these emotions. I am truly sad, and there’s honestly nothing I want to change about that. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. If the sky can cry, so can I.

—Larry Lindahl


Filed under Eco Issues

Pick Up Our Sedona Book at Enchantment Resort This Month


Our book Secret Sedona: Sacred Moments in the Landscape, authored by Larry Lindahl, is the featured item this month in the gift shop at Sedona’s Enchantment Resort. January is a beautiful time to visit Red Rock Country, especially if there’s snow on the ground.

In addition to Lindahl’s vignettes about the landscape, wildlife, wildflowers and hidden cliff dwellings of the Sedona area, the book also includes a variety of enticing hikes in and around the town. There are hikes geared toward novice hikers, as well as loop hikes, hikes to arches, hikes into canyons … and much more.

Of course, if you’d rather read about Sedona’s beauty from the comfort of your home, you can order the book directly from us at this link.


Filed under Books, Et Cetera, Hiking

Q&A With Roger Naylor On His New Book With Photographer Larry Lindahl, Arizona Kicks On Route 66…

Photography by Larry Lindahl

“If the Grand Canyon is the heart of Arizona, then Route 66 is the main artery…” Writer and frequent Arizona Highways contributor Roger Naylor couldn’t have said it better… and now you can read about his love affair with Route 66 (and his thing for homemade pie) in the book, Arizona Kicks On Route 66… Of course, this project could not have been done without another Arizona Highways contributor, photographer Larry Lindahl. Larry’s photos are beautiful and rich in detail… there’s a real sense of nostalgia… you’ll want to hit the Mother Road after checking out some of his images below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This dynamic duo traveled the longest intact portion of Route 66 (we’re talking 158 miles) to create this stunning book — a 9×12 masterpiece, showcasing the magic that is Route 66… it’s truly a slice of Americana.

Below, Roger talks about the book, his obsession with pie and working with his pal and colleague, Larry:

Why did you decide to focus on Route 66?
If the Grand Canyon is the heart of Arizona, then Route 66 is the main artery. A pulsing and vital link feeding the towns that stretch across the northern half of the state. There’s such a blend of history and scenery, of small towns and wide open spaces, of Wild West and mid-century Americana that I just found irresistible. I’ve always loved road trips and Route 66 Arizona is the ultimate. It rambles across stark badlands, cloud-swept plateaus and a desert painted in scandalous hues. The road explores forests of tall pines and forests where trees have turned to stone. It brushes past volcanoes, craters and the ruins of ancient civilizations. It’s a beautiful, bewitching drive, plus there are burgers and pie. What else do you need?

What can readers expect from this book?
They can expect a love letter to Route 66 and Arizona. Visually, it’s a stunning book. It’s a big 9 x 12, which is a great showcase for the spectacular photographs of Larry Lindahl. And I kept it a fun, breezy read. There’s plenty of information—where to eat, where to sleep, what to see and do, including some side trips—but there’s also a rhythm to the book, a sense of movement. So many Route 66 books feel static because the narrative is viewed through a kind of historic prism, lamenting what’s no longer there. I touched on the history of the road because it’s fascinating but I focused on what’s still going gangbusters. Route 66 exudes a timeless quality but it’s vibrant and vivid and alive as new businesses open and additional restorations salvage existing ones. I believe Route 66 is about to undergo another renaissance and it’s great to be part of that. It’s a book that will make you want to jump in your car and GO!

Route 66 is a very popular “destination,” will readers find anything unexpected in your book?
There are no other Route 66 books devoted solely to Arizona so I was able to go into a lot more depth. And I give readers truly important information, like the joints that serve homemade pie. I have Pie Alerts throughout the book because there are two places where you should always be able to find homemade pie—cooling on Grandma’s windowsill and in cafes and diners along Route 66. In the interest of journalistic integrity I should admit, I like pie.

A lot of smaller attractions that often get overlooked are included in the book like the Native American dances on the lawn of the Navajo County Courthouse during the summer, a mystical, beautiful experience. Great little museums like Old Trails in Winslow, Ash Fork Museum and Kingman Army Airfield Museum. And there are some oddities, like Giganticus Headicus, a 14-foot-tall tiki head in the Mojave Desert and the “Trail of the Whispering Giants,” which is a completely different giant noggin. There are also lots of natural attractions that readers may not know like Shaffer Fish Bowl Springs, Mesa Trail in Cool Springs, the Boundary Cone formation and lots more.

Did you learn anything new about the Mother Road, if so, what?
It wasn’t something I didn’t already know but it still startled me to discover how widespread the passion for Route 66 is around the globe. I knew it was an international icon but it was so much bigger than I realized. I’ve met tour groups from France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Australia, Norway, Japan and at least a dozen other countries. Larry and I have a Route 66 Arizona Facebook page and every day we hear from fans from all over the world. That wavy ribbon of road symbolizes freedom and a sense of adventure that resonates with people no matter what language they speak. They come to Arizona because this is holy ground for Route 66ers. The preservation movement began right here in Seligman, led by Angel Delgadillo, the town barber who decided to save this road. And he did!

That’s something else I learned: Route 66 exists today because of a few determined people who decided they could make the world better. La Posada, Wigwam Motel, Cool Springs, Hackberry General Store and so many others are all just stories of people that decided to save a piece of our heritage. How cool is that?

You collaborated with photographer Larry Lindahl…how did you guys work together?
Larry and I first met while working on an Arizona Highways story several years ago. We took a balloon ride over Sedona, which was a blast. For the book, we traveled Route 66 together once or twice but for the most part operated independently. Like all great photographers, Larry pursues the magical light of early morning and late evening. For my purposes, I needed to visit places when they were open and bustling. We kept in contact as we crafted the book so we knew what ground each of us was covering. At the end we were thrilled at how perfectly the text and images fit together. But I don’t think we were surprised. We both have a passion for the subject matter and just tried to capture it in our own way. It was an honor for me to see my words so beautifully illustrated.

What was your favorite part of the book?
I included a series of vignettes called Route 66 Arizona Moments throughout the book. They’re small personal stories from my travels—watching a sunset and moonrise in Painted Desert, listening to a kid play piano at La Posada, spending the night underground at Grand Canyon Caverns and more. These are my favorite memories of traveling the Mother Road. Because I think that’s what stays with us from a journey, intimate moments. It’s great to have the big experiences and see the sights but what we cherish afterwards are the times we stop at a diner in the middle of nowhere and have an amazing burger and piece of pie. Or we pull off the road to watch horses graze in meadows drenched with sunflowers. Or we step out of store to see fierce thunderclouds bruising the sky above sandstone cliffs. Life is all about moments. And I hope the book encourages folks to go out and gather a few more of their own. When Mother Road calls, you have to answer.

Details: The book is available in stores and visitor centers all along Route 66 Arizona. It can also be ordered from Amazon. For more information, check out Roger and Larry’s Facebook page.

For Even More Details: Roger and Larry will be discussing the book and signing copies at Well Red Coyote in Sedona on June 2. 928-282-2284, http://www.wellredcoyote.com.

1 Comment

Filed under Drives, Photography, Q&A

Signs of An Era

The neon "diving girl" sign at the Starlite Motel in Mesa, before she toppled in an October windstorm. Photograph by Larry Lindahl

Editor’s Note: For photographer Larry Lindahl, Mesa’s famed diving girl sign was both an iconic remnant of a time gone by and a symbol of a meaningful relationship with his father. Sadly, she toppled during a windstorm in October 2010. Restoration efforts are currently underway. Here, Lindahl shares his personal reflections about the sign.

Dad and I watched the diving girl sail down from the neon sign into water of wavy, blue neon. Over and over again, her blonde hair, tan body, and green one-piece swimsuit would light up at the top of the sign like a 1950s Jantzen ad. She would first appear gracefully folded at the waist, blink out, light up again straight as an arrow, blink out, and then reappear splashing into neon water with perfectly pointed fingertips.

Sure, we probably both fantasized of the sign artist’s curvaceous model, but it was the handcrafted bending of neon tubes, the engineering of the sheet metal, and the electrician’s circuitry that held something far deeper for us.

The beacon for the Starlite Motel soared above old U.S. Highway 60 in Mesa, the once-popular route to Phoenix, now bypassed by the freeway system. I remember on that warm evening, back in 1992, how I pointed out the sign painter’s brush strokes in the diving girl’s weathering patina. Dad talked about the sequencing of lights and the work in the vertical stack of big, block-letters spelling “MOTEL,” the reason for the eye-catching marvel of engineering in the first place.

Dad was in the neon sign business in Seattle for 25 years. We didn’t know when this bathing beauty might make her final dive, when her neon lights might go dark, or that she would crash to the ground in a windstorm 18 years later.

During World War II, Dad flew in bomber raids over Germany, and when he came home, he became a sheet metal worker who made neon signs. At the sign shop, a company artist would sketch a unique design for each client. Then, it was my dad’s job to build the custom curves and angles by cutting, bending, and fastening sheet metal into the over-sized structural box. This two-sided housing became the backdrop for the sign painter and glass bender, and where the electrician hid his wires, transformers, and circuitry.

Dad hadn’t worked on the diving girl sign, but found it after he retired, when my parents began staying winters in Mesa as snowbirds. The evening I was with my dad, I began to set up my camera and tripod beneath the glow of neon. We watched the gas-filled tubes shine ever more intensely against a twilight sky brushed with pink clouds. I carefully repositioned my tripod taking more photos as he witnessed me in my element.

Dad had finished his working years cutting, bending and fitting air conditioning ducts into buildings. It was hard work for his aging body, and he came home tired and stiff from crawling around in tight spaces.

The boom years of the neon sign business didn’t make it through the 1970s. Once seen as a symbol of a modern era, neon signs began to be viewed as tacky, garish, and tawdry. The handmade signs reminded civic leaders of the past, and they wanted to be moving into the future. With neon falling out of favor and becoming out-regulated in many cities, vacuum-formed plastic signs moved in as the preferred look. Coming out of a mold, each sign looked the same. Unique craftsmanship was overtaken by uniformity.

The sign company Dad worked for moved to cheaper real estate, on the other side of the state, in the early-1970s. My parents stayed put in the home they would own for fifty years, where they had added additional bedrooms, and dug in the garden that fed our family.

In his prime, Dad had helped build two of the best-known neon landmarks in Seattle. For the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of the city’s two major newspapers, his company built a 30-foot neon globe. The P-I name and motto revolved in eight-foot tall neon-red letters, divided by large white stars, around the gigantic globe with neon-green continents overlaid with neon-blue lines of longitude and latitude. A neon-gold eagle, wings stretched to the sky, signified the daily paper’s coverage of the world.

In 2009 the Seattle P-I became one of the latest big city newspapers to shut down their presses. And from across the country, a color photo of the P-I globe that Dad proudly helped build, was featured in the story about the closure in the New York Times.

Dad also helped build another neon landmark. Rainier Beer was a popular local beer before small breweries were hip. His sign company built the colossal neon-red “R” that once towered over the brewery building beside Seattle’s downtown I-5 freeway. But times change, and with a history of over 100 years, the company closed, and the building sold. New owners, with respect for the iconic red “R,” donated the sign to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. So, my blue-collar dad now has work in a museum.

Dad and I had a rough relationship at times, but on that warm desert evening that we watched the woman performing her neon dive, we stood and silently admired each other. I saw him as a proud neon sign maker. He saw me as a passionate photographer. We watched the neon girl dive one more time, and then silently drove back to my parents’ retirement community. I saw my dad and his work a little more clearly after that evening.

A few years later we said our final goodbye, and it was another silent moment. He looked me in the eye with a tender love I had rarely witnessed. I stood in the door of his hospital room after celebrating his 82nd birthday, and we knew. We knew we wouldn’t see each other ever again, and with his trembling hand he waved goodbye. My dad, the neon sign maker, sheet metal worker, and World War II veteran, was waving goodbye from his generation to my generation.

He held honor in the fact that he had flown on his last B-17 bomber mission on July 4th, our country’s Independence Day, the day we celebrate our freedom and its inherent responsibility. It was 1944, and he had safely returned to Kimbolton Air Base in England after his last raid into enemy air space over Nazi Germany. He was lucky. Nearly 4,750 of the infamous B-17 bombers were lost in combat — shot down by Luftwaffe fighters or shrapnel from anti-aircraft guns. He had beaten the one-in-three odds of his plane not making it home.

Photograph by Larry Lindahl

In his life, my dad showed me the strength of a man willing to die for his country and a worker who enjoyed the engineering challenges of crafting neon signs. But his spirit had traveled as far as it could go. He died of Parkinson’s disease on March 6, 2004. That summer we scattered his ashes on the slopes of Mount Rainier. Standing in the wilderness meadow, I cupped my hands together holding his ashes, and with deep respect, flung them straight into the sky, for his one last flight.

— Larry Lindahl


Filed under Et Cetera, In YOUR Words, Vintage AZ