3 Gossips. Roadside attractions are everywhere in Arches . The challenge is not discovering them, but electing how to take in each. A few moments away from the chill of the air conditioner, the thump of the music or the conversation which you would gladly get out of should the circumstance allow, you find the parking lot, the turn out, the wide spot in the road and you pull over. Emerging from your vehicle you realize why you elected to be in this place at this time. These formations are truly THAT large, difficult to discern how they were formed, but clearly transforming as surely as the weather changes in Moab.
Ram. This incredible formation is the stuff of imagination for all ages. To the child it is that missing Lego piece in their Star Wars collection, for the older sibling it is either intellectually curious, something of general interest or one less stone to view before the car is headed back to town and the chill of the air upon the skin is matched only by the excellent wi fi connection in the room allowing for continual posting of what one did during the day and how the time committed was either worth the effort or a store in the great Karma warehouse. It is large, provocative, engaging, Trojan horse, the rocking horse you never had; it is there and as hard as you try to pull yourself away, it pulls you to it. The numerous signs warning of danger to the desert floor, its primal ecology should there be random trampling, restrain the body, but there are no barriers to the imagination, to the soul.
Misplaced Memory. There are reminders of visitors throughout the park. Cars, well traveled trails, bins of trash, recycle and the occasional discarded bottle. But in your walks around the monuments there are discoveries which allow the mind to be taken to a different time in the park's history. A time when settlers walked across the desert with little more than the promise of something better. Never certain of what the next day would present, hounded by wind, rain, snow and predators there was always the risk that a scarf would fly away, Skipping quickly across the desert floor and then coming to rest in the unsuspecting tangle of desert sage. Or is it just the discard of someone who had no care for the garment, gladly parted for someone else to care for. Then again it could be the last thing a beloved relative bestowed and has meaning far in excess of its apparent value. So you let it be. Perhaps it will bring relief, perhaps more mystery, perhaps it ends in one of the bins around the park. The fate of roadside attractions is seldom determined by a single event..
Courthouse Rock. Wing foil is associated with sailing and yet as you emerge from your vehicle and begin to take in the image, you are not quite prepared for its size, its majesty, its complexity. Crevices, cracks, fissures, pieces that seem placed by some mythic ceramic worker who has gone deep into the desert, created the pieces, hauled them back and completed their creation. Perhaps visiting annually to see what the sand, air, snow, rain and sun have done to its work. As your breathing returns to normal, you ask more questions, look at the angles, the formations, understanding the force necessary to create such a shape; the engineering. Yet there it is. Solitary in its presence in the park, compelling in its presentation. Come back next year and it will have changed; the question is will you notice?
Pre-Historic Dunes. Unlike their compatriots whose form is determined more by the last puff of wind or disturbance by the rare visitor, these ancients have seen the time and have become hardened to its changes. Not succumbing to the forces of the earth mother, these dunes went within, became harder, less vulnerable to the ravages of the high desert and more attune to their own survival. Their strategy worked for like every outcropping in the park, change is inevitable, indeed welcomed, but their defenses hold strong; layers are added with the blessing of the wind, sun and rain.
Tipping Rock Discovery. Scale is important in understanding the natural monuments in Arches. Note the lone hiker standing beneath Tipping Rock; let your imaginations get the better of you. Yes they are THAT large. As you stare up at the images you begin to realize what an amazing place you are in. Formations of endless fascination, grouped so close together your mind begins to wonder, 'what else is out there?' For the moment you are content with the masterpieces visually feeding your soul. Take a long slow look, this will be remembered for time.
HooDoos & Windows. When you stop along the road, in the designated areas, look beyond the obvious reason. Turn around, then again. See that monument from where you stand; it will change as you draw closer or perhaps as you pull away. Though vast in size and area covered they are fragile to the elements brought upon them. These sculptures of the earth mother ever changing, ever teaching, ever taking the breath away. They are treasures who can not be measured in conventional wealth but must be 'valued' on the 'essential to soul' scale. That scale would be unable to calculate a corresponding 'commercial value' as no heart is ever truly for sale.
Setting Sun. As the sun declines in the west the shadows of the monuments within Arches present. Their density at first surprising, then you remember the geography covered, how the points along the road where you can pull off provide optical images that may not match the reality. As the sun moves to the horizon the glow on the monuments becomes subsumed in the shadows that will cast their tail over the desert floor till sun shifts the visual dynamic; new day will have begun.
HooDoo Abstraction. There is little rhyme nor reason for these enormous sculpted creations. Each with their own subtle uniqueness. Whether it be the coloration of the minerals within their rocks, the forms made that are unique particularly in the context of their surroundings. It is as if 3 artists were asked to present a piece, none knowing what the other was doing, blindfolded, placing their pieces on the high desert mantle and then uncovering their eyes to see the result. The apparition of sculptor's tools forming the nubs, bumps, crevices is quickly dashed when the current tool for creation, wind from the desert, hits your skin. Thin, precise in its temperature, varied in its content, but constant. As you head for your vehicle a slow laughter builds, you realize that as you live with art in formation it is best to ask questions as the answers are likely as elusive as the full history of each monument. Do not take the park in gross. Allow each of its roadside attractions to provide a unique memory; doing so will feed your desire to return as you anxiously discover the changes, subtle, massive, discreet with the thin desert air sliding constantly over your exposed skin.
Garden of Eden. The best explanation you will receive as to why some monument or vent or geyser or lake has its given name is due to namesake, activity behavior or reminder of something familiar. I am thinking that 'Garden of Eden' was coined by the settlers’ children as they spent countless hours, days, weeks, months exploring the hoodoos, cliff faces, openings only to go back and do it again. Yeah, Eden, why not? If old dudes can 'speak in tongues' kid should be able to 'speak in play'
Hole in Slab. Late afternoon sun illustrates the fragility of these behemoth structures. The window on the right, slowly carved over time, crumbling at not much pressure, deforming and reforming to accommodate. Like other pieces of the slab it must adjust to the changes wrought by the sculpting forces of wind, rain, snow and heat. As you marvel, there is an admiration for the serendipity of the forms, a hint of calculation & craftsmanship that is uniquely the earth mothers. As I gazed upon this slab I closed my eyes and slowly expelled. Day was drawing to an end.
Carved Entry. As I stared into the opening above the pre-historic dunes, I could hear the thrash and roar of water sloshing through a small pore that grew ever wider. When water receded, wind, sand, sun & rain began to add their fine sculpting touches, never ceasing, striving for perfection to the point of potential collapse
Water Flow. This is not on any map, there is no parking lot with pit toilet. No this attraction is found with patience and keen eyes. The slip rock gracefully arranged in the patterns of the water that ran over it for time. The saline enriched soil forming ridges that only became more pronounced the longer they were out of water. Today this elegance presents to those who seek not with the goal of 'seeing it all' but more with the mindset of 'what will Arches present to me today'. It is the curious mind, the steadfast, patient eye that discovers the non-posted gems. It often takes but a few minutes and is much more pleasurable than the flicker of the lights in your hotel room.
.Windows. It waits for the feet of the visitor, the touch of the child, the curious stare, the marvel at its size and form. How did it get there, why is it shaped the way it is, why are there not more 'windows' close by? Standing at the base of the window, looking up you see the imperfections of the effort by the moving water, the earth mother and others that brought this shape about. Sit for a moment, watch the visitors come and go. Notice how short the visit, a few photos, perhaps a selfie and its back in the car with a focus on the next meal or exiting the park. So few fully appreciate what they have seen, fewer still understand the complexity of the formations. Yet and still, they are drawn. They return. Something about that first visit was not enough. There is an ache within the soul that calls for a reason unknown. That ache resolved when your foot is upon the desert floor. The hunger partially quenched until it returns. For many it is one less item on the bucket list. For those who hear, it is far more.
Adieu Moab. To the ancients, these formations were sacred. They held the mysteries of their people, their travails, sorrows & joy. Walking amongst them was not a casual encounter, it was a time of renewal, to celebrate what the earth mother had brought forth, to gather from within the crevices and cracks that which aided in sustaining them. They were not focused on the next fascination; they walked with reverence and listened. Was the eagle speaking to them or just heralding its dominion? When they left, it was with heavy heart for there was so much to learn & so little time to take it in. Those that hear do not leave the park; like the ancients, it becomes a part of them. Its mysteries are left where they lay, its majesty forever etched in the mind, what was seen, heard, discovered placed within a very sacred place in the soul. A place that is returned to as the demands of life require. As I packed the camera for the last time I knew I would return. There is something about a moon reflection that compels no different result.