It is beautiful as the landscape changes from desert only, to mountains on either side. The Inyo’s were to the east, and on the west the Sierras. The eastern view of the Sierra’s is so much different than from the western view from the valley. They are snowcapped, ragged mountains that jut out of the landscape. They are shockingly beautiful, but after my initial awe, I thought about how foreboding they look at the same time.
It was easy to see the beauty in my surroundings, but then I was not forced to this place. The snow on the peaks rising above the desert floor delighted me, but then I wasn’t put behind barbed wire. I laughed at the cold wind, but then I would not be trying to keep warm behind wood and tar paper walls. When I looked to the mountains they delighted me, but then I looked around and my delight was gone. When I looked around, I was at Manzanar.
I walked around for miles, and saw signs. Each marking a spot. Each designating a part of someone’s life. The doctor’s quarters, a garden, the children’s village, the mess hall, a barracks, the cemetery. It was all there, the places that we expect from a small town. A place to live, to work, to relax and to die. This small town though was behind barbed wire, and the people there had been sent against their will.
Manzanar is a place of rugged beauty, and unimaginable pain. The history of this place shows what can happen when we give in to fear, racism and the worst of America. Thankfully though, that is not all of the story. While the people who lived through it, did not start this chapter, they did finish it. And in the retelling of those years, we see in their experience perseverance, strength and beauty. In their part of the story, we see the best of America.