Once upon a time the great Rocky Mountains were at the bottom of the sea, and later on they were as high as Tibet, only recently having found a middle way. Next door the Colorado Plateau hasn't budged much in 600 million years, and it damn sure won't trouble itself to move out of my way.

There are softer scenes, but by and large it's a blasted and brutal place. Every place that's too low to be scoured by wind and snow is blistered brown by the hot days of the high desert. It's crooked and craggy and hostile enough that it's easy to blink and stagger, feeling oneself to be miniature and unprotected underneath the menacing hammer of the sun.

The incredible frozen motion of flowing rock is wrapped up in every vista, which is precisely the crux of the confrontation: somewhere clocks without numbers are counting out whole epochs like ocean-mountain-desert-dune. The urban intellectual may read Heraclitus in a high-rise, nodding sagely and agreeing that "everything flows; nothing abides", but it is another thing altogether to physically brush up against the vastness of geological time. Here the logical mind begins to look frantically for distractions, because the only truly appropriate feelings in the moment of this confrontation are ecstasy or terror.

A dramatically eroded badland naturally encourages meditation on change. And because each view holds something of the beginning, of genesis, then each observer becomes an uncanny original witness to the awesome birth of Earth. Even the sky is bigger here! In the liminal places where mountains are on the move, there is another confrontation: what are all the dynamos of Man compared with patient powers that lie secret in the Earth?

Almost incredibly, after a period of recovery from the initial confrontations, one eventually begins to question how it could be possible to dwell elsewhere. There is the strong sense that only this is the real world, and this is all of the real world, as if when one goes far enough from comforts and company some veil begins to lift.

"Utah" was the word spoken by the Earth long ago
when it smiled and dreamed, cracking canyonland grins
and throwing colors like paint across cliff and valley,
Dreamed a long, slow dream of ice and fire and with the wind
and the sun and rain, up came the hills, up came the arches,
and all of it grabbing for sky.

So I walked all day across a land dipped in yellow fire
where all the stones were the bones of the living Earth
and the salt was white script wherein I read a plan
I could nearly, but not quite, understand.

Desert dunes at dusk with sleepless sands
that sighed and flowed when night-winds rolled
down past rocky draws brought me dreams and finally

Then in the harsh light of desert's dusty day
the sun rode up the steep walls of crumbling mesas
where I saw how subtle colors rioted 'round red rocks
and the joyful gentle creatures made their wordless home