This May, my wife and sister-in-law and I traveled from our home in Sedona, Arizona, to Grand Canyon National Park and Lower Antelope Slot Canyon near the border of Arizona and Utah. Both of these places re-awakend our sense of wonder at the creativity and beauty of nature.
We experienced the Grand Canyon from the inside by taking a boat tour that began from where the Colorado River resumes its journey toward the Pacific below the dam that creates Lake Powell. Just to give you as sense of the size of the dam, it's over 700 feet high and 300 feet wide at its base. My use of a wide-angle lens diminishes its immensity.
As we drifted with the current, I began to reflect on the high sandstone cliffs that towered 2600 feet above us. How long did it take for these cliffs to form, I wondered? When I got home, I learned that the oldest visible layers date back as far as 1.8 billion years. As I thought about this, I wondered if that age includes not only when the rocks were formed, but how they were then forced 7000 feet upward to their current altitude and then worn down by the force of the Colorado River. It turns out that the wearing-down process has been going on for five to six million years. And what's even more intriguing is how sheer some of the resulting cliffs were. This one must have been 200-300 feet high:
One way could judge the immensity of the canyon's depth was to look from the raft up to the viewing area at the edge of the canyon, which is about an inch from the left side of this photo. The people looking down into the canyon were quite minuscule, just a bit larger than dots. As we continued to drift down the river, I experienced a sense of wonder once again at the immensity of the Canyon.
We also visited the Antelope Slot Canyon, in Page, Arizona, about an hour from the canyon. The slot canyon was formed by water expanding the cracks and crevices in the red sandstone rock of the area. We had to climb down steep sets of stairs to get into it, and then we walked slowly along the sandy floor of the slot canyon, which was probably only 100 yards long or so, gazing up at all the ways the sun lit the red rocks.
As you can see from the man's shadow, the sun is almost directly overhead, which lit the rocks beautifully as it reflected off the sandy floor. (My wife, Marjorie, is the woman with the hat on.)
As you can see, the shapes of the rocks are quite phantasmagorical, and the juxtaposition of light and dark create an especially beautiful experience.
This image captures an area about six feet by four feet of the sand formation. I was moved by the light, lines, curves and light - it was like the inside of the cave was glowing.
As I slowly walked through each chamber of the slot canyon, I feel that I was in a magical space. In our culture, we don't often talk about our experiences of wonder and awe very much. Is this because we don't get out into nature much?
As I think about this, I realize that, as a photographer, I often take my iPhone out of my pocket to experience and capture the beauty of the world around me. Perhaps I could say that, because I have my iPhone in my pants pocket all the time, I am more alert to the light, shadows, shapes, and types of beauty wherever I am.
I would like to conclude this with a picture of the petroglyphs that we were brought to by our guide during a pause going back up the river. Created by the ancient Puebloan people 800-1200 years ago, these beautiful artworks evoke the spirit of their age. I've been pondering the role they played in their society - artwork? Spirituality? Connecting with the spirits of the the deer? I was also intrigued by the deer at the very bottom of the cliff. Were the two sets similar in intention? Or was the line of deer above the ones at the bottom of the cliff the spirits of the deer descending into a deer body? At any rate, it was a beautiful moment on our raft trip, one that remains alive within me.