Place Where You Live:

Zion Canyon, Utah

The river bottom is filled with cobbles, some made of basalt from ancient lava flows far to the north which were brought to me here by flash floods of yesterday. Black stone mixes with white, red, rust, yellow and green. Sandstone, limestone, chert. A paint box of regional geology is mixed beneath my feet. The place where I live is a place of rocks.

When people visit my home, hardly anyone stops to wonder at river cobbles, though. Their eyes are caught by the heights, towers of stone thousands of feet above the river bottom where the cobbles paint the sandbars in an impressionistic rainbow of rock. These towers of stone were so impressive to some early visitors and residents that words of things heavenly and holy filled their vocabulary of place: the East Temple, Towers of the Virgin, the Great White Throne. But these sheer cliffs of sandstone are not heavenly. They are here, now, and very much of the earth.

Each year the high snows of January sneak their way into cracks in the rock. Freeze and thaw. Rock breaks from water in flux. The snows are replaced by irrepressible heat when scorching summer days linger and grow long. In July the thunderstorms come: torrents of rain fill slot canyons, the Virgin River floods in a flash. Again, rock is broken by water in flux. Precipitation in one form or another rips this land asunder, and every day the canyon gets a little bit deeper.

My life here is defined by my placement relative to the cliffs. Vertical topography frames my existence. I am small here. But I am large next to the river cobbles. I hold them in my hands, their smooth roundness the shape of time in the river. The heavy and pot-marked basalt is a stranger here, brought by the river to a place far from its origin. I, too, am a newcomer to this place, but I have begun to settle in beneath these canyon walls. The sound of the water smooths my jagged nerves. I am surrounded by, and become rooted in, rocks.