Regularly, Amos holds forth lamenting the failures of the human species. It is his wont. But there are places on Planet Earth where the planet can still display its own beauty, timelessness and independent reality untarnished by humans. For those traveling the North American Southwest, many earthen displays are available.
The mariner traveled through the Southwest on his way to Los Angeles to attend his daughter’s wedding. Having experienced horrendous traffic, indescribable waste of Earth buried beneath 12-lane highways and interchanges large enough to be cattle ranches, and slowly dying roadside trees and other vegetation from fossil fuel waste, the mariner was sensitized to those moments when Earth’s timeless beauty was on display – beauty undisturbed for eons because there are scant resources for human consumption or destruction.
The first moment with Earth’s museum of art is the Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado on I-70. When highway contractors planned to bulldoze their way through this magnificent canyon, the public rose up in protest led by many environmental organizations and championed by John Denver. The highway planners were forced to redesign I-70 in such a way that the splendor of Glenwood Canyon was preserved as much as possible and wildlife was not disrupted in its natural behaviors. Granted, the canyon would be even more inspirational without the accoutrement of automobiles but still one can view the majesty that only Earth can produce.
It comes to mind that the canyon is one of the planet’s cathedrals. Glenwood Canyon is narrow with vertical cliffs rising far above the Colorado River. The mind senses an upward thrust to the heavens and beyond; the cliffs frame a portal to the Universe. As with all Earth’s displays, the human experience is one that makes us aware that we are not in charge as much as we think we are. 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons is in charge.
Traveling on toward Las Vegas, there is a relatively short canyon that will be missed unless one is looking for earthen inspiration. The Virgin Canyon displays the massive power of Earth. While Glenwood Canyon displays unity with the Universe, Virgin Canyon displays the no-nonsense nature of Planet Earth. The rock formations are huge, suggesting immovable strength. The formations suggest that we are not as strong as the planet by a long shot; the mariner was impressed in the same manner a muscle builder may impress – overwhelming flexes of strength and potential energy.
Driving through the Mohave Desert/Red Rock Canyon, Earth offers continuous entertainment as only large deserts can. If you like colors, Red Rock and the Painted Desert east on the way to Albuquerque are phenomenal; it is obvious the planet was in its bright color phase when these colorful, vast canvases were painted.
Returning from Los Angeles, the mariner and his wife did not stop at the Grand Canyon. The canyon is impossible to absorb all at once. There are the displays of color; observers remark they must be painted by humans but not so. Earth is the origin of all colors and will use whatever color fits its purpose. Further, the vast cut into the canyon by Earth’s own history – a history before time and with no assistance by H sapiens, makes one become aware that the Earth has been around a lot longer than humans; one is reminded that a shallow sea once covered the canyon long before it became a canyon.
There are other artworks in Earth’s museum that are not rock formations. The mariner is in awe of the planet’s oceans. Sitting still on silent rolling swells makes one aware that oceans will do what they will regardless of human intent. The oceans surrounding the planet speak of Earth’s independence and they cavort only with the Sun and Moon to create tides.
When we look at the Milky Way and the Solar system, Earth shares with us its own family of inanimate siblings, cousins and stars. If nothing else, viewing Earth’s family shrinks our species to its proper importance. In times gone by, we borrowed the Zodiac from space as an attempt to explain Earth’s place in human understanding. We continue to this day pondering the existence of gravity and the cause of dark matter. Earth already knows.