This landscape is a visual sea of impossibility. The shapes, shadows, planes and dimensions are almost baffling to observe, like an optical illusion or a giant jigsaw puzzle. There is no moving of the pieces, of course, but just trying to understand where they are in relation to each other is quite a challenge. My human eyes are not trained or experienced at reading such a landscape and I am humbled by the initial spatial bewilderment.
In the midday haze, bright splashes of red draw the eye to smoothly rounded buttresses. A hundred castles on top of fortress walls and undulating shelves in gradients of colour that reveal an overarching consistency to the whole swerving chaos. Tracing the layers of paler rock suggests a measuring system and a way to tell the time – that once, these cousin rocks were joined and formed together. In the centre of this vista is a stack of sandy-coloured pieces, higher than its neighbours, as though determined to hold onto its yellow head and shoulders while all the rest are worn down to the colour of magnificent flowerpots.
Little green trees dot the entire landscape, fading into grey-green shadows on brown. On the horizon, a vast flat shelf of dark green, high up against the pale blue, cloud-sausaged sky. A few caves arch into vertical red cliffs, offering shelter in unreachable places. Dark, wobbly cloud shadows ripple across the scenery, chasing and disappearing into hidden valleys to reappear smaller in the distance, surprisingly small and suddenly far away. Ravens soar and swoop into the chasms a mile below – I wonder if they know how lucky they are?
These experiences are so important for the conservation of our planet, as well as our psychological wellbeing. Without the opportunity to experience nature, to recall the childlike fascination with natural beauty, we can easily lose touch with our place in the wider picture. From the experience of a lifetime in the Grand Canyon to witnessing small wonders like a bee in a flower, this is how we remember our role as caretakers of the Earth. We are part of ecology, not separate from it, and a regular dose of awe inspired by those moments of connection with beauty and shared appreciation is a richness available to all and so necessary. You don't have to go all the way to the Grand Canyon to experience it.
The human mind is small when thinking of small things.
It is large when embracing the maker of walking, thinking and flying.
Native American poet, Joy Harjo.