Wisdom Sits in Places
July 13, 2015

The Community Commonwealth Map exercise has been by far the most fulfilling activity of my internship, for me personally. The Panhandle region has always had this sense of place that pulled me back and drew me to the area although I was growing up thousands of miles away.

The Commonwealth Map exercise is divided into twelve separate categories, ranging from ‘Renewable Energy’ to ‘Leisure and Recreation’ – with ‘Sense of Place’ being one of the twelve categories. However, in my opinion, all of the twelve commonwealth categories contribute to Amarillo’s overwhelmingly unique and nostalgic sense of place. I will be using an example from the ‘Natural World’ and ‘Arts and Culture’ categories to prove how both significantly contribute to the sense of place in Amarillo that is so important to me.

Just over 30 miles outside of Amarillo, is Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, measuring at 70 miles long and at some places 20 miles wide. Below is an image I took last year of Red Star ridge, a trail within Palo Duro Canyon, while I was on a hike with visiting environmental activist and author, Rick Bass.

Red Star Ridge, Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Red Star Ridge, Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Conversely, just a few miles outside of Amarillo on I-40 West, is Cadillac Ranch. An art installation by Ant Farm artists: Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels. Commissioned in 1974, this installation consists of ten different vintage Cadillacs cemented upright into the ground, which are now graffitied by the public. Below is an image I took two months ago while on a tour of the art in our region with visiting Art History Professor Emeritus and previous Art History Department Head at the University of Oregon, Dr. Sherwin Simmons.

Although the message of the art work is rather elitist, at face value the painted vehicles share a connection with the prevalence of automobiles and the open highways of Route 66 and the two major interstates that divide Amarillo and contour its history and relation to oil, just as Palo Duro Canyon is so much of our history. I’m thoroughly intrigued by the divergent perspectives we have in regards to the best use of landscape and the variety of interests we can host as a result, all of which contribute to Amarillo’s unique sense of place. Now I know the conflicting yet similar longing I have for open landscapes and adventures upon open roads all tie back to Amarillo’s sense of place and will likely forever be a part of my identity.

“Knowledge of places is closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one’s position in the larger scheme of things, including one’s own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is a person.”
― Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache 

Side profile view of Cadillac Ranch.
   Side profile view of Cadillac Ranch.
6th Street Entrance to Historic Route 66.
6th Street Entrance to Historic Route 66.