Savor the slow change of stone, canyon and cliff


Hiking under an arch in the Devils Garden in Grand Stair-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

092110 Utah hike 1
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Hiking under an arch in the Devils Garden in Grand Stair-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Out here, change is the work of eons.

Seasons drift through, throwing coal on the furnace of summer, trailing gold over autumn wildflowers, whispering in the winter frost that it’s time to sleep. But the horizon is unchanged, the playground shapes sculpted in shades of sienna and brown and impossible red consistent through a lifetime.

Another lifetime, then, and another and another. A tree lives, then dies, then falls, and the cells that sustained it turn to stone. A grain of sand borne by the wind meets a cliff face and introduces its kids. A million generations later, curious faces gaze through the cliff at whatever lies beyond.

And what does lie beyond? Hoodoo soldiers and rock goblins — guardians of a pinyon- and sage-painted vista whose sandpaper touch is tempting if not always welcoming. There’s so little water. Out here, things are alive or they’re dead, the only black and white in an infinite color spectrum.

There are no straight lines here. The land undulates, dipping and rising, crashing, retreating, flowing into the blue, blue sky. The panorama of Earth is here, created with a geological palette — mountains and plains and jungles of stone.

It’s easy to get lost here, to dissolve into the air and float away.

A single life or lifetime mean nothing out here, a cruelty that ultimately is a benediction. In the split-second of life, familiar flowers bloom every spring, familiar winds blow every autumn, familiar heat encroaches then retreats, and the same spill of stars fills the sky every night.

Nothing changes, not that fast.

But give it time. Give it lots and lots of time.

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