I spent some time in the desert, and while on the trail I started to wonder: Will beauty still exist even when we don’t?
It’s that “If a tree falls in the forest” question — If there’s no consciousness of some essence, can you really say that the essence is there?
This bothered me for a little bit as I rounded the corner, plateaued over damp, red sand, and reached an overlook with an old wooden sign laying there. “TRAIL ENDS,” it informed me.
There are grains of sand that were freed today by the brush of wind that lifted as the sun rose, starting a new stage of this grain’s cycling after being trapped in a rock layer for millions of years. One wonders if the sand begets rock, as the columns tower above me, or if the rock begets sand, as the desert washes downstream on the Colorado.
I took it in.
Next morning the sun will rise, that push of air will pour its way through the valley, through the draw in the creek bed, through the crevices between soft layers of earth. A few drops of rain will splat on the red rock, darken the spot before it disappears into the porous sediment and the surrounding ether. There’s a callout from a juniper branch, and a raven takes to that updraft welling from the heated sands before it perches on the slickrock petrified perch overlooking it all.
The beauty preceded us; it became us; it becomes us. So, it goes on, beyond us, and will be there waiting for whatever comes next. I take solace in that. We will not always be here, but the essence endures.