This picture of me and this article on Sedona appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.Sunday, February 8, 2004 (SF Chronicle)
DESTINATION ARIZONA/Spirit of Sedona/New Age pilgrims, artists congregate
at an ancient source of inspiration with a flavor of the Old West.
Marlene Goldman, Special to The Chronicle
Sedona, Ariz. -- "We're the only two people in Sedona who haven't changed
our names," my guide quips, regarding this desert town's myriad psychic
healers and energy workers. "The planet names are all taken, and the
Within a few days in Sedona, I indulge in a holistic pedicure and a
reawakening crystal bath, and have my Ayurvedic doshas analyzed, my aura
photographed, and my chakras balanced no less than three times, once
without me knowing.
"This is an extremely tolerant town," says Dennis Andres, who is leading
me on one of Sedona's numerous "vortex" tours. "You can't shock anybody.
If you said, 'I'm signing up for two people on the tour, me and my
invisible friend,' nobody would bat an eye."
Amid a sea of tourist shops, art galleries, cowboy bars and timeshares,
Sedona has emerged as a metaphysical hub in an otherwise conservative
state, featuring therapeutic spas, medicine wheel tours, New Age shops
with names like Crystal Magic and Crystal Castle, and the all-encompassing
Center for the New Age.
More than 4 million tourists a year visit Sedona, a town of just over 10,
000 that lies within an easy two-hour drive from spring training sites in
Phoenix and Scottsdale. Some visitors simply stay a few hours on their way
to the Grand Canyon, while others take time to explore more of the
dramatic scenery and arts scene.
My first vortex stop is Airport Mesa, which overlooks the town and
surrounding red rock monoliths. We arrive in the morning to witness a rare
low- rolling fog amid the formations, though this spot is most popular at
sunset, when the rocks turn a fiery crimson and gold.
Here Andres details a brief history of the town, which was founded in 1902
-- how it was named after one Sedona Schnebly, the daughter of a wealthy
land owner and wife of one of the town's first settlers, T. Carl Schnebly.
It's not quite the mystical explanation I had expected, but an improvement
over Carl's first choice to dub it Schnebly Station, which was thankfully
deemed too long by the post office.
We head to two other energy centers, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, where
Andres guides me through short but intense meditations. At Bell Rock,
named for its shape, Dennis encourages me with eyes closed to visualize my
own energy melding with the commanding formation. At Cathedral Rock, which
some sources say was considered by local Native American tribes to be the
birthplace of the first man and woman, I am told to "set my intention" and
choose something I want from this place.
In the past, Dennis has had reports of seemingly infertile couples soon
having babies. I presume this wish fulfillment has something to do with
people eliminating the static from their lives in Sedona's serene setting,
but it doesn't make the space any less powerful.
Later, with two newfound friends, I make a dawn hike to the Seven Sacred
Pools at Soldier's Pass. One of them equates the pools to the seven
chakras -- energy points in the body. They meditate while I watch the
rising sun catch the peaks around us and focus on a reflection of the
rocks in one of the pools at my feet.
Sedona was considered sacred by a number of Native American tribes in
North America, with many making the journey to perform ceremonies in this
land of the gods. According to the "History of New Age Sedona" by Toraya
Ayres, the contemporary spirituality can be traced to the late 1950s, when
Mary Lou Keller, a real estate agent, moved to Sedona and founded the
Sedona Church of Light, which met at her home. She also began teaching
Sedona's New Age tag first emerged when Judy Fisher, founder of the Church
of the Living God, rented the Keller Building and placed a "New Age
Center" sign in front and set up shop, selling crystals and holding
meetings. The New Age wave peaked in 1987, when thousands descended on the
town to witness the harmonic convergence of the planets.
Today, the Center for the New Age is filled with healing crystals, guiding
angels and meditative Buddhas -- truly one-stop metaphysical shopping. I
set up an aura photograph and am greeted by Jamie Butler, who has me place
my hands on biofeedback sensors and shoots my photo with a large Polaroid
that she says will capture my electromagnetic energy fields in colors.
As we wait for the picture to develop, she predicts I will be filled with
gold, like most in our society. Gold represents the logical mind,
systematic thinking, multitasking. "You're left-brain dominant," Jamie
says. "You could have a fleet of spirit guides around you, your higher
self out there screaming, but you won't be able to hear it."
But as she peels the back off, there is only one small splotch of gold on
my left side. The rest of me is covered in swirling green and turquoise,
which Jamie says is really white behind blue. Green is self-healing.
White, she says, is the highest vibration of spiritual energy, and
turquoise the communicator and teacher. She seems impressed.
"You have an amazing channeling window. You definitely have had past
lives, an old soul. You already have the ability to tap into the other
side, enhanced intuition," Jamie says.
Sedona itself has several sides, mainly Uptown Sedona, West Sedona and the
Village of Oakcreek. Most touristy is Uptown, home to trading-post shops,
a smattering of art galleries and the town's primary source of historic
information, the Sedona Heritage Museum.
Hidden off the main strip in an old apple orchard, the Heritage Museum, in
what was the house of the pioneering Jordan family, is a retreat from the
timeshare hawkers and other tourists in Uptown. Most visitors never make
it here, and many locals don't even know it exists. Filled with relics
donated by old-time residents, the museum offers historic background on
Sedona's founding families. But its real highlights are the Cowboy Room
and the Movie Room.
The Movie Room sports photos, posters and memorabilia from some of the 80
or so films that have used Sedona as a location, many of those traditional
Westerns, and the actors in them. John Wayne made it to Sedona to produce
"Angel and the Badman." Sedona has even named a few streets after movies
-- "Broken Arrow," "Johnny Guitar," "Copper Canyon," "Shotgun" and "Last
Wagon," to name a few.
The Cowboy Room features a couple of old saddles and photos of roundups
from the 1940s. Though I see little evidence of real cowboys in Uptown
Sedona, ranching was a large part of the area's economic history. It seems
fitting that Sedona was the founding location of the Cowboy Artists of
America. History has it that in 1965, world-famous artist Joe Beeler,
along with Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen, sat at a corner
table in the Cowboy Club, which was then the Oak Creek Tavern, and founded
the artist group, which continues to focus on Western art. Today, the
Cowboy Club's wooden walls still showcase works from numerous cowboy
Art in general plays a large part in Sedona's history. Sedona's active
arts community, which now numbers over 300 artists, began to gel when Max
Ernst came to live in the city in the 1940s and used Sedona's landscape
for inspiration. Uptown features a few art galleries on Jordan Road, but
most are located in a region known as BTY, Below the Y intersection where
Highways 179 and 89 converge. The small stretch is home to the majority of
Sedona's more than 40 galleries.
The best way to delve into the art scene is with tours by Wet Paint Studio
Tours, which organizes visits to artists' homes and studios. On my tour, I
meet the metal and ceramic team Larry and Gayle Taylor, who describe their
techniques in detail. Their colorful home is filled with whimsical figures
at every turn. We sit for an hour discussing art and Sedona.
"Originally this was going to be our retirement home," Larry says. Neither
Gayle nor Larry practiced art before moving to Sedona six years ago from
their corporate America existences. "When we got here we realized we could
either make money as artists or sack groceries at Safeway."
Tara Golden, who runs Wet Paint Studio Tours, organizes home visits
depending on which styles of art the customers prefer. She works with
everyone from glass blowers to contemporary clockmakers.
Seven miles south of Sedona, the Village of Oakcreek is also home to an
array of shops and spas. For most visitors, this is the first stop driving
to the city from Phoenix. It also affords the first views of the red
rocks. Vehicles dot the roadsides en route as tourists break out their
cameras for photos of Bell Rock. Close by, the Chapel of the Holy Cross,
which looks like it's jutting straight out of the rocks, is another
roadside attraction. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright student Marguerite
Brunswig Staude in 1956, the gigantic cross structure, and the red rock
vistas from inside, are evidence why this spot is included on all the
city's vortex maps.
It's in West Sedona, along Highway 89, where I find true local flavor.
Sedonians pack restaurants like Pizza Picazzo and coffeehouses like
Ravenheart here, where I also locate Sedona's small nightlife scene. "We
call it Slow- dona," one L.A. transplant says, referring to the city's
scant late-night offerings.
On Friday night, the action is at the Laughing Coyote, where a band called
the Echoes is blasting out basic rock while a few cowboy hats take to the
dance floor. I meet a fellow New York transplant who informs me of a New
Yorkers' support group of sorts that meets regularly in Sedona. In this
town of meditative spirituality, I am sure that is an energy center of its
If you go:
The closest commercial airport to Sedona is the Phoenix Sky Harbor
International Airport. The Sedona Phoenix Shuttle runs from the airport to
Sedona for $40 one way or $65 roundtrip. A rental car is best for visiting
the many places of interest around Sedona. Take Highway 17 north to
Highway 179 and follow it north to Sedona. The drive is about two hours.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Sedona Bed & Breakfast Inn, 55 Hozoni Drive; (800) 525-3756,
www.casasedona.com. Adobe-style bed and breakfast at base of Thunder
Mountain amid desert pine and juniper; from $165.
El Portal Sedona, 95 Portal Lane; (800) 313-0017 or (928) 203-9405,
www.innsedona.com. Elegant hacienda with 18-inch thick adobe walls,
courtyard and fountain; suites from $225.
Southwest Inn at Sedona, 3250 W. Highway 89A; (928) 282-3344;
www.swinn.com. Southwest decor, decks with red-rock views; from $99.
Sky Ranch Lodge, top of Airport Road; (888) 708-6400 or (928) 282-6400,
www.skyranchlodge.com. Best views in town; from $75.
WHERE TO EAT
Dahl and DiLuca Ristorante Italiano, 2321 W. Highway 89A; (928) 282-5219,
www.sedona.net/food/dahldiluca. Tasty Tuscan dishes, fresh pasta; nightly
entertainment. Entrees, $15-25. Dahl & DiLuca Cucina Rustica is another
location in the Village of Oakcreek; (928) 284-3010.
Heartline Cafe, 1610 W. Highway 89A; (928) 282-0785;
www.heartlinecafe.com. Seafood, grills, roasts and lighter vegetable and
pasta dishes. Entrees, $15-$28.
Rene at Tlaquepaque, Highway 179 in Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village;
(928) 282-9225; www.rene-sedona.com. Romantic atmosphere, French-style
Continental cuisine. Entrees, $20- $30.
Tara Thai, 34 Bell Rock Plaza, Village of Oakcreek; (928) 284-9167. Thai
Spices, 2986 W. Highway 89A; (928) 282-0599. Excellent Thai restaurants,
the latter specializing in vegetarian, health-conscious fare. Entrees,
Pink Jeep Tours, (800) 873-3662 or (928) 282-5000, www.pinkjeep.com. The
most commercial of Sedona's many options, offering roller-coaster rides
over the Red Rocks and tours to Native American ruins.
Earth Wisdom Jeep Tours, (928) 282-4714, www.earthwisdomtours.com. Hiking
tours, Jeep tours of the rocks, combination Jeep and horseback rides,
medicine wheel tours, vortex tours and tours to Indian ruins.
Meta Adventures, (928) 204-2201, www.MetaAdventures.com. Private guides
for hiking, touring and vortex adventures.
Sedona Soul Adventures, (928) 204-5988, www.sedonasouladventures.com.
Personal spiritual retreats with local psychics and healers. One-off
sessions available; more typically arranges eight to 15 sessions over the
course of three to seven days.
Wet Paint Studio Tours, (928) 203-4156; www.sedonaarttours.com. Connects
tourists with artists in their studios.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce, 331 Forest Road; (800) 288-
7336 or (928) 282-7722; www.sedonachamber.com. ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2004 SF Chronicle