Tag: Colorado River

Just about water.

Having no drinking water puts every other aspect of living in the shade!

Yesterday afternoon, around 4pm, local thunderstorm activity produced some rain.  Not much but sufficient to wet the ground.  It brought to an end several weeks of intense drought complicated by what is now more than 55,000 acres of fires burning in southwest Oregon: more details here.

Oregon Wildfires
A Redmond Hotshots crew on the Douglas Complex conducts a burnout operation to create a barrier to the wildfire’s advance by removing fuel in its path.

Anyway, this is not about fire, irrespective of how potentially dangerous it can be in this part of the world, it is about water. So with that in mind, here’s a recent ‘Tomgram‘ from William deBuys, with introduction by Tom Engelhardt; republished with Tom’s generous permission.


Tomgram: William deBuys, Goodbye to All That (Water)

Martha and the Vandellas would have loved it.  Metaphorically speaking, the New York Times practically swooned over it.  (“An unforgiving heat wave held much of the West in a sweltering embrace over the weekend, tying or breaking temperature records in several cities, grounding flights, sparking forest fires, and contributing to deaths.”) It was a “deadly” heat wave, a “record” one that, in headlines everywhere, left the West and later the rest of the country “sweltering,” and that was, again in multiple headlines, “scary.”  The fire season that accompanied the “blasting,” “blazing” heat had its own set of “record” headlines — and all of this was increasingly seen, in another set of headlines, as the “new normal” in the West. Given that 2012 had already set a heat record for the continental U.S., that the 10 hottest years on record in this country have all occurred since 1997, and that the East had its own sweltering version of heat that wouldn’t leave town, this should have been beyond arresting.

In response, the nightly primetime news came up with its own convenient set of new terms to describe all this: “extreme” or “severe” heat.  Like “extreme” or “severe” weather, these captured the eyeball-gluing sensationalism of our weather moment without having to mention climate change or global warming.  Weather, after all, shouldn’t be “politicized.”  But if you’re out in the middle of the parching West like TomDispatch regular William deBuys, who recently headed down the Colorado River, certain grim realities about the planet we’re planning to hand over to our children and grandchildren can’t help but come to mind — along with a feeling, increasingly shared by those in the sweltering cities, that our particular way of life is in the long run unsustainable. Tom

Never Again Enough

Field Notes from a Drying West 

By William deBuys

Several miles from Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon, Arizona, April 2013 — Down here, at the bottom of the continent’s most spectacular canyon, the Colorado River growls past our sandy beach in a wet monotone. Our group of 24 is one week into a 225-mile, 18-day voyage on inflatable rafts from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek. We settle in for the night. Above us, the canyon walls part like a pair of maloccluded jaws, and moonlight streams between them, bright enough to read by.

One remarkable feature of the modern Colorado, the great whitewater rollercoaster that carved the Grand Canyon, is that it is a tidal river. Before heading for our sleeping bags, we need to retie our six boats to allow for the ebb.

These days, the tides of the Colorado are not lunar but Phoenician. Yes, I’m talking about Phoenix, Arizona.  On this April night, when the air conditioners in America’s least sustainable city merely hum, Glen Canyon Dam, immediately upstream from the canyon, will run about 6,500 cubic feet of water through its turbines every second.

Tomorrow, as the sun begins its daily broiling of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, and the rest of central Arizona, the engineers at Glen Canyon will crank the dam’s maw wider until it sucks down 11,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). That boost in flow will enable its hydroelectric generators to deliver “peaking power” to several million air conditioners and cooling plants in Phoenix’s Valley of the Sun. And the flow of the river will therefore nearly double.

It takes time for these dam-controlled tidal pulses to travel downstream. Where we are now, just above Zoroaster Rapid, the river is roughly in phase with the dam: low at night, high in the daytime. Head a few days down the river and it will be the reverse.

By mid-summer, temperatures in Phoenix will routinely soar above 110°F, and power demands will rise to monstrous heights, day and night. The dam will respond: 10,000 cfs will gush through the generators by the light of the moon, 18,000 while an implacable sun rules the sky.

Such are the cycles — driven by heat, comfort, and human necessity — of the river at the bottom of the continent’s grandest canyon.

The crucial question for Phoenix, for the Colorado, and for the greater part of the American West is this: How long will the water hold out?

Major Powell’s Main Point

Every trip down the river — and there are more than 1,000 like ours yearly — partly reenacts the legendary descent of the Colorado by the one-armed explorer and Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell. The Major, as he preferred to be known, plunged into the Great Unknown with 10 companions in 1869. They started out in four boats from Green River, Wyoming, but one of the men walked out early after nearly drowning in the stretch of whitewater that Powell named Disaster Falls, and three died in the desert after the expedition fractured in its final miles. That left Powell and six others to reach the Mormon settlements on the Virgin River in the vicinity of present-day Las Vegas, Nevada.

Powell’s exploits on the Colorado brought him fame and celebrity, which he parlayed into a career that turned out to be controversial and illustrious in equal measure. As geologist, geographer, and ethnologist, Powell became one of the nation’s most influential scientists. He also excelled as an institution-builder, bureaucrat, political in-fighter, and national scold.

Most famously, and in bold opposition to the boomers and boosters then cheerleading America’s westward migration, he warned that the defining characteristic of western lands was their aridity. Settlement of the West, he wrote, would have to respect the limits aridity imposed.

He was half right.

The subsequent story of the West can indeed be read as an unending duel between society’s thirst and the dryness of the land, but in downtown Phoenix, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles you’d hardly know it.

By the middle years of the twentieth century, western Americans had created a kind of miracle in the desert, successfully conjuring abundance from Powell’s aridity. Thanks to reservoirs large and small, and scores of dams including colossi like Hoover and Glen Canyon, as well as more than 1,000 miles of aqueducts and countless pumps, siphons, tunnels, and diversions, the West has by now been thoroughly re-rivered and re-engineered. It has been given the plumbing system of a giant water-delivery machine, and in the process, its liquid resources have been stretched far beyond anything the Major might have imagined.

Today the Colorado River, the most fully harnessed of the West’s great waterways, provides water to some 40 million people and irrigates nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland. It also touches 22 Indian reservations, seven National Wildlife Reservations, and at least 15 units of the National Park System, including the Grand Canyon.

These achievements come at a cost. The Colorado River no longer flows to the sea, and down here in the bowels of the canyon, its diminishment is everywhere in evidence. In many places, the riverbanks wear a tutu of tamarisk trees along their edge. They have been able to dress up, now that the river, constrained from major flooding, no longer rips their clothes off.

The daily hydroelectric tides gradually wash away the sandbars and beaches that natural floods used to build with the river’s silt and bed load (the sands and gravels that roll along its bottom). Nowadays, nearly all that cargo is trapped in Lake Powell, the enormous reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam. The water the dam releases is clear and cold (drawn from the depths of the lake), which is just the thing for nonnative trout, but bad news for homegrown chubs and suckers, which evolved, quite literally, in the murk of ages past. Some of the canyon’s native fish species have been extirpated from the canyon; others cling to life by a thread, helped by the protection of the Endangered Species Act. In the last few days, we’ve seen more fisheries biologists along the river and its side-streams than we have tourists.

The Shrinking Cornucopia

In the arid lands of the American West, abundance has a troublesome way of leading back again to scarcity. If you have a lot of something, you find a way to use it up — at least, that’s the history of the “development” of the Colorado Basin.

Until now, the ever-more-complex water delivery systems of that basin have managed to meet the escalating needs of their users. This is true in part because the states of the Upper Basin (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico) were slower to develop than their downstream cousins. Under theColorado River Compact of 1922, the Upper and Lower Basins divided the river with the Upper Basin assuring the Lower of an average of 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) of water per year delivered to Lees Ferry Arizona, the dividing point between the two. The Upper Basin would use the rest. Until recently, however, it left a large share of its water in the river, which California, and secondarily Arizona and Nevada, happily put to use.

Those days are gone.  The Lower Basin states now get only their annual entitlement and no more. Unfortunately for them, it’s not enough, and never will be.

Currently, the Lower Basin lives beyond its means — to the tune of about 1.3 maf per year, essentially consuming 117% of its allocation.

That 1.3 maf overage consists of evaporation, system losses, and the Lower Basin’s share of the annual U.S. obligation to Mexico of 1.5 maf. As it happens, the region budgets for none of these “costs” of doing business, and if pressed, some of its leaders will argue that the Mexican treaty is actually a federal responsibility, toward which the Lower Basin need not contribute water.

The Lower Basin funds its deficit by drawing on the accumulated water surplus held in the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, which backs up behind Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, with the Lower Basin using more water than it receives, the surplus there can’t last forever, and maybe not for long. In November 2010, the water level of the lake fell to its lowest elevation ever — 1,082 feet above sea level, a foot lower than its previous nadir during the fierce drought of the 1950s.

Had the dry weather held — and increasing doses of such weather are predicted for the region in the future — the reservoir would have soon fallen another seven feet and triggered the threshold for mandatory (but inadequate) cutbacks in water delivery to the Lower Basin states. Instead, heavy snowfall in the northern Rockies bailed out the system by producing a mighty runoff, lifting the reservoir a whopping 52 feet.

Since then, however, weather throughout the Colorado Basin has been relentlessly dry, and the lake has resumed its precipitous fall. It now stands at 1,106 feet, which translates to roughly 47% of capacity.  Lake Powell, Mead’s alter ego, is in about the same condition.

Another dry year or two, and the Colorado system will be back where it was in 2010, staring down a crisis.  There is, however, a consolation — of sorts.  The Colorado is nowhere near as badly off as New Mexico and the Rio Grande.

How Dry I Am This Side of the Pecos

In May, New Mexico marked the close of the driest two-year period in the 120 years since records began to be kept. Its largest reservoir, Elephant Butte, which stores water from the Rio Grande, is effectively dry.

Meanwhile, parched Texas has filed suit against New Mexico in multiple jurisdictions, including the Supreme Court, to force the state to send more water downstream — water it doesn’t have. Texas has already appropriated $5 million to litigate the matter.  If it wins, the hit taken by agriculture in south-central New Mexico could be disastrous.

In eastern New Mexico, the woes of the Pecos River mirror those of the Rio Grande and pit the Pecos basin’s two largest cities, Carlsbad and Roswell, directly against each other. These days, the only thing moving in the irrigation canals of the Carlsbad Irrigation District is dust. The canals are bone dry because upstream groundwater pumping in the Roswell area has deprived the Pecos River of its flow. By pumping heavily from wells that tap the aquifer under the Pecos River, Roswell’s farmers have drawn off water that might otherwise find its way to the surface and flow downstream.

Carlsbad’s water rights are senior to (that is, older than) Roswell’s, so in theory — under the doctrine of Prior Appropriation — Carlsbad is entitled to the water Roswell is using. The dispute pits Carlsbad’s substantial agricultural economy against Roswell’s, which is twice as big. The bottom line, as with Texas’s lawsuit over the Rio Grande, is that there simply isn’t enough water to go around.

If you want to put your money on one surefire bet in the Southwest, it’s this: one way or another, however these or any other onrushing disputes turn out, large numbers of farmers are going to go out of business.

Put on Your Rain-Dancing Shoes

New Mexico’s present struggles, difficult as they may be, will look small-scale indeed when compared to what will eventually befall the Colorado. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects the river’s 40 million water-users to grow to between 49.3 and 76.5 million by 2060. This translates into a thirst for Colorado River water of 18.1 to 20.4 maf — oceans more than its historical yield of 16.4 maf.

And that’s not even the bad news, which is that, compared to the long-term paleo-record, the historical average, compiled since the late nineteenth century, is aberrantly high. Moreover, climate change will undoubtedly take its toll, and perhaps has already begun to do so. One recent study forecasts that the yield of the Colorado will decline 10% by about 2030, and it will keep falling after that.

None of the available remedies inspires much confidence. “Augmentation” — diverting water from another basin into the Colorado system — is politically, if not economically, infeasible. Desalination, which can be effective in specific, local situations, is too expensive and energy-consuming to slake much of the Southwest’s thirst. Weather modification, aka rain-making, isn’t much more effective today than it was in 1956 when Burt Lancaster starred as a water-witching con man in The Rainmaker, and vegetation management (so that trees and brush will consume less water) is a non-starter when climate change and epidemic fires are already reworking the landscape.

Undoubtedly, there will be small successes squeezing water from unlikely sources here and there, but the surest prospect for the West?  That a bumper harvest of lawsuits is approaching. Water lawyers in the region can look forward to full employment for decades to come. Their clients will include irrigation farmers, thirsty cities, and power companies that need water to cool their thermal generators and to drive their hydroelectric generators.

Count on it: the recreation industry, which demands water for boating and other sports, will be filing its briefs, too, as will environmental groups struggling to prevent endangered species and whole ecosystems from blinking out. The people of the West will not only watch them; they — or rather, we — will all in one way or another be among them as they gather before various courts in the legal equivalent of circular firing squads.

Hey, Mister, What’s that Sound?

Here at the bottom of Grand Canyon, with the river rushing by, we listen for the boom of the downstream rapids toward which we are headed. Sometimes they sound like a far-off naval bombardment, sometimes more like the roar of an oncoming freight train, which is entirely appropriate. After all, the river, like a railroad, is a delivery system with a valuable cargo. Think of it as a stream of liquid property, every pint within it already spoken for, every drop owned by someone and obligated somewhere, according to a labyrinth of potentially conflicting contracts.

The owners of those contracts know now that the river can’t supply enough gallons, pints, and drops to satisfy everybody, and so they are bound to live the truth of the old western saying: “Whiskey’s for drinkin’, and water’s for fightin’.”

In the end, Powell was right about at least one thing: aridity bats last.

William deBuys, a TomDispatch regular, irrigates a small farm in northern New Mexico and is the author of seven books including, most recently, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest.

Copyright 2013 William deBuys


The stuff of life: literally.
The stuff of life: literally.

If readers will forgive me, I will continue the theme tomorrow with a rather more personal perspective.

Beautiful photographs, part two.

Sent to me by long-term friend Dan Gomez. Enjoy.

This second set carries on from yesterday’s selection.  You will see from one of the comments from yesterday that blogger Pedantry noticed there was a problem with” the height description on the second through fifth images in this set“.  Feedback from others who had this problem would be helpful as I can pass the details back to WordPress.



The Grand Canyon Skywalk

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a transparent horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge and tourist attraction in Arizona near the Colorado River on the edge of a side canyon west of the main canyon. USGS topographic maps show the elevation at the Skywalk’s location as 4,770 ft (1,450 m) and the elevation of the Colorado River in the base of the canyon as 1,160 ft (350 m).

In other words, the height of the vertical drop directly under the skywalk is between 500 ft (150 m) and 800 ft (240 m).

Commissioned and owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, it was unveiled March 20, 2007, and opened to the general public on March 28, 2007.  It is accessed via the Grand Canyon West Airport terminal or a 120-mile (190 km) drive from Las Vegas, which includes a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of dirt road which is currently under development.

The Skywalk is east of Meadview and north of Peach Springs with Kingman being the closest major city.


Palawan Underground River or St. Paul Subterranean River.

The longest navigable underground river in the world.

This is the most famous cave in the Philippines. The longest underground river was discovered a few years back in Mexico somewhere in the Yucatan.

The St. Paul underground river in Palawan, Philippines may not be the longest underground river in the world anymore, but it is still the world’s longest navigable underground river. The navigable part of the river inside the 4000-acre cave of the  St. Paul subterranean river stretches 15 kilometers in length (9.3 miles). St. Paul Cave is the third deepest cave in the country.


The Seven Sisters waterfall in Norway.


Plitvice Lakes National Park in the Lika region of Croatia.


A hotel window view in the United Arab Emirates!


Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper, Alberta, Canada


Villas Vista Hermosa, Costa Rica




Sea caves near Benagil Beach, Algarve, Portugal.


Barcelona, Spain.


The village of Hallstatt in Austria.


Victoria Falls, in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Beautiful display of nature’s balance: Predators and Prey.


The breathtaking Grand Canyon

Powerful prose, stunning pictures and an insight into the last 1.8 billion years of our planet.

The Payson Roundup is the local newspaper for Payson.  To be frank, most weeks it’s a fairly quick read.  That’s not a reflection of the quality of the newspaper, just an acknowledgement that Payson is a small American city some 80 miles NE of Phoenix up in the high desert.  Indeed, the Roundup has a good record of winning awards.

However on the 6th January, there was a stunning article about the Grand Canyon, less than 4 hours driving from Payson.  It was written by Pete Aleshire, a Staff Reporter with the Roundup.  I can vouch for Pete’s literary skills as he teaches the creative writing course at the local college that Jean and I attended last term (semester) and will be restarting  tomorrow.

I am very grateful to the Payson Roundup for their permission to republish this wonderful work.  So here it is.

Woe and beauty on an ancient edge

by Pete Aleshire

This view of the canyon reveals the layers of limestones and sandstones that testify to vanished seas and deserts. Note the strong, narrow white layer of Coconino Sandstone near the top, composed of 260-million year-old sand dunes. Also note in the center of the photo the 500-foot-tall cliff of Redwall Limestone formed on a seabottom 300-400 million years ago. Photo Tom Brossart/Roundup

I took a step — a long step — a million years step. Then I stopped, turned and faced north. Perched on the jagged edge of my life, I looked down deep into the shadowed layers of lost worlds — terrible deaths, fractured continents, vanished seas, mass extinctions.

Taking a breath, I took another step — a long step — another million years.

Curiously, I felt better — my troubles for the moment shrunk to no more than a ledge of Tapeats Sandstone in the wall of the Grand Canyon opposite. A layer of fossilized beach sand laid down 570 million years ago, the Tapeats Sandstone lies atop a mystery of missing stone — dubbed the “Great Unconformity.”

I studied that light, crumbling layer of sandstone in the canyon wall just across the way, knowing that all the great, riotous thrust of life that took us from pond scum to troubled writers has taken place since the lapping waves of a vanished sea left that layer of crumbling gray stone on a barren beach.

Perched on the wind-tormented branch of a twisted juniper nearby, a glossy black raven croaked at me.

“Nevermore,” he gurgled in my mind’s ear.

“You raise a good point,” I said to the raven and the wind that rose up out of the canyon’s 1.8-billion-year gash of time. I let loose a breath, a sigh, a puff of steam — frail and fleeting as life in the shadow of so much time. It should have depressed me, to stand so mite-like on the edge of such immensity. All I had dreamed or hoped or failed to do would not amount to a swirl of dust on this crumbling edge. I ought to have felt insignificant. Instead, I felt obscurely better.

So I took another step. A long step — a million years.

They had not built the Trail Through Time along the edge of the Grand Canyon between the El Tovar and Yaqui Point the last time I lingered on this edge. Now, it offers the most exciting crash course in geology I’ve ever encountered, although I’ve sought after rocks and unconformities all my life — and have even written geology books for confused people.

The 1.2-mile-long trail presents sliced and polished rocks representing almost all of the 24 major rock layers laid bare in the canyon wall from the 240-million-year-old limestone, siltstone, gypsum and chert layers of the Kaibab Formation to the 1.8-billion-year-old Vishnu Schist in the canyon bottom, among the oldest exposed rock’s on the planet’s surface.

Each step along the 1.2-mile path represents a million years, starting in the present and ending up at the 1.8-billion-year-old start of everything.

The Grand Canyon reveals a 1.8-billion year glimpse into Earth’s past from views like these along the 1.2-mile-long Trail of Time, with displays of rocks from each of the two dozen rock layers in the mile-deep canyon. A juniper catches the last light. Photo by Pete Aleshire

The Grand Canyon represents the most vividly revealed slice of Earth’s history anywhere on the planet. That makes the canyon one of the few places a person can grasp both the astonishing violence and the tormented timescale of the planet that sustains us all. This unique cross-section of time comes as a result of the relatively level uplift of the Colorado Plateau in the past 5 million to 8 million years. In most places, such a vast uplift would jumble the buried rock layers. But much of the 130,000 square miles of the Colorado Plateau rose at the rate your fingernails grow without deforming the miles-deep layers of sandstones, limestones and shales laid down on the bottoms of long-vanished seas and deserts.

As the Colorado Plateau rose, the northern edge crumpled into the Rocky Mountains. The southern edge dropped away along a 200-mile-long chain of 1,500-foot cliffs — which north of Payson forms the Mogollon Rim. Oak Creek cut back into that rising edge of the plateau to uncover the striking red rock formations of Sedona.

The Colorado River did the same thing, but on a grand scale. Many geologists believe the Colorado River originally ran north into a vast, interior sea. But as the Colorado Plateau rose, another river that ran south cut backward until it captured the north-flowing ancestral Colorado River, reversing the flow so that it now ran south into the Gulf of California.

This capture some 6 million years ago began the process of carving out the Grand Canyon. As the plateau rose, the flood-prone Colorado River cut down through it, like pressing a log up against a chain saw. Meanwhile, the steep tributaries widened the canyon by carrying those soft layers of sedimentary rock down to the main stem of the Colorado.

A layer of 230-million year old Kaibab Limestone caps the rim. The Grand Canyon reveals a 1.8-billion year glimpse into Earth’s past from views like these along the 1.2-mile-long Trail of Time, with displays of rocks from each of the two dozen rock layers in the mile-deep canyon. Photo by Pete Aleshire

That process started at about the time the genetic evidence suggests humans, chimps and gorillas last shared a common ancestor and continues to this day.

As a result of this vast uplift, the relatively young Colorado River has revealed in the walls of the Grand Canyon the long buried history of the Earth going back nearly halfway to its creation. That encompassed the entire period in which life progressed from single celled organisms in the ocean to its present, dazzling complexity.

The meander down that Trail Through Time reveals much of that history, preserved in the rock layers and the fossils they contain. Of course, erosion has already removed more than 200 million years of that history, so that the youngest rocks on the rim of the canyon are older than the dinosaurs.

A few dominant layers stand out.

Near the top, the fossilized desert sand dunes of the light Coconino Sandstone bear witness to a vast desert that covered the Southwest some 260 million years ago. At that time, what would become North America was part of a “supercontinent” that gathered almost all the dry land on the planet into a single mass.

In the middle of the canyon, lies the great, blood-red wall of Redwall Limestone, formed on the bottom of a shallow sea between 300 million and 400 million years ago. Today, the fused layers of microscopic skeletons of ancient sea creatures forms a sheer 500-foot-tall band of cliffs that pose the greatest single barrier to reaching the canyon bottom from the rim. All of the trails to the bottom must pass through fault lines in the Redwall Limestone, stained red by iron oxides leaching out of the layers above.

Farther down, the easily eroded Bright Angel Shale forms the shelf above the 1,800-foot-deep inner gorge. Shales form on shallow sea bottoms, compared to the deeper marine environments that create limestones. Most of the trails in the canyon run along its wide shelf. Formed 530 million years ago, the Bright Angel Shale represents the era when trilobites ruled the world.

Just below the Bright Angel Shale lies the Great Unconformity, where erosion in the inconceivably distant past removed 1.2 billion years worth of rock. This records another period of uplift, when erosion carried off layers of rock many times higher than Mt. Everest.

Below that unconformity, the story continues — down through a dozen more layers in the inner gorge, each one mounted alongside the trail and polished smooth. The Grand Canyon Supergroup spans the period between 570 million and 1.2 billion years ago, again recording the meanderings of the continents and the ebb and flow of oceans, as the planet breathes in, breathes out.

After another, smaller unconformity, the river finally reveals the inconceivably ancient Vishnu Schist and Zoraster Granite. The schists started as sandstone, limestone and shale, before they were buried, reheated and fused into this dense, primordial rock. The Zoraster Granite ooze up from the molten depths of the Earth, forming veins revealed finally by the relentlessly downcutting river.

I could not see the metamorphosed Vishnu Schist from my perch atop the rim, but I have seen it on raft trips in the dark heart of the canyon where it has been fluted and carved and sandblasted by eons of floods.

Finally I stood stock still, my breath coming still in moist, warm, puffs as the planet spun so that the dust of the atmosphere gave the sun’s long light a warm red glow, reflected off the ancient worlds across the way.

My raven friend — or one of his kin — flew past with an audible whoosh of his wings, then banked to consider the possibilities. He croaked, that guttural warble that only ravens dare.

Odds are, he noted my proximity to the edge and so paused to ponder my potential as carrion.

But I prefer to think that he felt our shared pulse of life and caught the updraft of my yearning.

In either case, he settled on the branch of a weirdly stunted ponderosa pine nearby and we shared the sunset.

The shadows rose up out of the canyon, swallowing continents and oceans.

I kept my gaze on the glow of the Redwall Limestone until the shadow took it, then shifted to the luminous yellow of the Coconino Sandstone.

For I came to the canyon full of woe holding my life in my fingernails, my heart in the shadows. But now my troubles seemed fleeting, the world full of marvels, my life aglow like that desert turned to sandstone in the last light of day.

My breath came in a puff, transparent but warm in the still, cold air.

“Nevermore,” quoth the raven, “nevermore.”

Visitors study the colorful layers of the Grand Canyon from the observation window in the geology museum at Yaqui Point. Photo by Pete Aleshire


Such beautiful words. Any additional thoughts from yours truly are utterly superfluous.