Memories of the Baroque period

A story set in Lake Powell, Arizona

Jim Esch
7 min readNov 29, 2021

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I have no idea what part of my brain this story comes from. It originated in Summer 2020 as a sketch, a paragraph of free-writing — playing with setting and imagery. The muse called for a story, so write one I did, following her lead, taking notes. I first posted it at Substack in September 2020.

In pontoon boats, the tourists leave Page, Arizona and head up Lake Powell, past slot canyons, buttes and far off mesas. To the east rises Navajo Mountain, like a benevolent yet all powerful god. They dock the boat and walk across the planks to the shore, then snake through a narrow canyon, rounding bends deeper into what is feeling like a rock cathedral. Then they see it. Behold the rainbow rock bridge, gateway to the Navajo holy realms. Although no tongue is there to give voice to sacredness, they feel it. A hush descends on warm beams of sunshine.

For reasons he can’t fathom, he suddenly thinks of Baroque architecture. Perhaps because it is so antithetical to this place, worn by time into smoothness and raw, energetic grandeur. This is nothing like Venice, he thinks, with its ornaments and opulence, the walls with slotted windows, the domes and spires arising from the mist. This is nothing like that. Then he sees there could be some fundamental connection between the places. Rainbow bridge and Navajo Mountain seem haunted by ghosts of a nation mostly missing in action, lost to time. And parts of Venice linger too, forgotten by all, like the ghosts who…

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