Nature’s Cathedral

By Andrew R. Duckworth

Photo and editing by Andrew R. Duckworth

Wind whipped plains of grass and desert ferns, from the old county road to the canyon. The red and orange running in parallels canyon. The dry, ancient, molded from nature’s fingertips canyon, as if God had taken a stick and drew a line in the near-desert. Some days, the heavens open up and pour water through, but those days are rare. Mostly sunny, occasional clouds. At sunset, if lucky, one might see strips of pink, orange, gray, brown, blue casting over the horizon. And underneath that colorful canopy, the dusty roads, the plains, the canyon.

There were plenty of legends about that canyon, many of them plausible, like how the native tribes had their horses slaughtered at the hands of those expanding west, the armies. Park rangers still tell the story. It is not the center of conversation anywhere around the canyon, but somehow blood cries out from the baked clay, phantom voices, phantom neighs.

The canyon is a holy place, a cathedral, a temple, a basilica. Minerals glisten in the sunlight, like colorful stained glass. When the sun sets, in pour the stars like candles lighting up an altar. And climbing up the cliff sides, like ornamental marble carvings, the altarpieces. A place of the sacred, but also the desecrated, the extinction of a way of life at the hands of the greedy.

How many mythic stories are gone? How many candles extinguished? How many lives were taken? The canyon seems to hide the story, too busy presenting the marvels of nature. Years have come and years have gone and blood was washed away by the rare rains. After such brutality, God had to pour new life into that place. Chaos cured through order. The rain.

Somehow, the plant life stays sustained. Somehow, the rabbit finds nourishment. Somehow, the deer still move through. Somehow, a few wild horses graze. But most horses belong to owners traversing through the canyon. Is any cathedral truly complete without life? Nature’s cathedral, giving praise to the One who created.

“Amen!” Said the settler, gazing upon new found lands, gazing upon some sort of promise. Promise of what? Promise of discovery. Promise of solitude. Promise of the ancient ones carried over to those who step foot in nature’s cathedral.

“Amen!” Says the tourist, stepping onto the cliffside, looking over a barrier constructed just for them near a small stretch of parking spots constructed just for them. More memories scraped off of nature’s face. More stories wiped away.

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