Art and Twilight

Sandstone and rock art on the edge between night and twilight. 

The diffuse sunlight mingling with the remains of the night. 

And the ancient art observing this passing of the sky for hundreds or thousands of years…

A new area for me, Gold Butte National Monument. So many times you find a new place and feel like this is the greatest spot ever.

Stone Hand

After some climbing in Idaho at the City of Rocks this weekend we walked past this formation.

It reminded me of the Hand of the Desert sculpture in the Atacama Desert in Chile by Mario Irarrázabal.

I’ve always loved the imagery of the hand reaching from the desolation into the vastness of the sky beyond our atmosphere, pointing to the immensity from where everything originated. 

I awoke around 12:30am and hiked back to the rock. I arrived too early, before the rising of our galaxy’s center.

For 45minutes I waited in the darkness, hunched from the wind and allowing my pupils to fully dilate.

Soon I saw the light from thousands of years ago meekly illuminating the bushes and stones.

A single bright meteor flashed green across the sky as it’s extraterrestrial nickel burned up. 

Soon the galaxy became visible. Jupiter brightly sitting in the Dark Horse Nebulae. 

With only the starlight as a guide I hiked the mile back to my warm sleeping bag.

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper rock in Gold Butte, and ancient storyboard, illuminated under the light of a half moon, light reflected from our home star. 

The Pleiades sits high in the sky early in the evening before the colors of sunset have sunken below the horizon. 

Warm and comfortable nights are coming to the desert.

Desert Vision

Moonless nights can sometimes feel the brightest. Is this the sight I saw when I took the photo? 


But that does not make the photo untrue. 

This is 30s of light built up on a sensor. With light adapted eye I saw glimpses of the photo in my peripheral vision. 

Shadows on the ground, cast by photos traveling across the galaxy. One can see, experience, these sights at night with patience. 

This vision cannot be rushed, it must slowly build in your eyes and nervous system as it does in the camera.

Desert Wash

A small puddle of water in a dry wash reflecting the stars of our home galaxy.

I use to think the space beyond our planet was dryer than our driest desert.

However, liquid water is believed to exist on Mars, Ceres, Europa, Enceladus and Ganymede.

Perhaps Venus use to have a shallow watery ocean as well. 

Liquid water undoubtedly flows through a ravine on unknown exoplanets, currently carving canyons thousands of light years from our home.

And there exists a cloud of water vapor more than 12 billion light-years away and containing 140 trillion times more water than in Earth’s oceans.

It’s difficult for me to image that where there is liquid water the chemistry of life has not evolved.

Water is ubiquitous. Hydrogen and Oxygen are in the top three most common elements in the universe. 

Carbon is the 4th. 

Perhaps life is ubiquitous as well.

Lunar Crater Nevada

I drove into the Nevada desert hoping to find dark skies and a few Eta Aquariid meteors, the remnant dust of Halley’s Comet. I found the dark skies but the only a few meteors ignited in our atmosphere.

Instead I found a crater, a scar that once poured lava across this landscape about 15,000 years ago. A memory of our planet’s continuous metamorphosis.

For two days I wandered the crater’s edge. One other sightseer drove up for about 3 minutes. Took an iPhone photo and left.
A rattlesnake and the yipping of coyotes were the only other visitors.

The first night clouds and rains hid the stars and any chance of burning meteors. The second day the wind quieted and the pale blue sky stretched over head.

That evening, just past midnight, my alarm went off and I trudged around the rim once again. The air was warm. My ears listened for my rattlesnake friend hoping he had other plans for the evening.

The atmosphere meekly emitted airglow, smearing red and green under the Milky Way’s arch.

Rock Art

Rock art I stumbled across in Gold Butte a few months ago.

I saw some stone and a dirt track so I headed across the desert until the road ended.

Joints in the rock beckoned like hallways. Some spiraled to the summits. Other crawled deep and hid from the sunlight.

Memories of those who lived around these stones were etched on innumerable walls.

Many origin stories are tales of emergence. Peoples coming from the earth.

In a sense it’s true. Life emerged 3.5 billion years ago, a product of chemistry and and perfect conditions. Perhaps within deep hot hydrothermal oceanic vents, perhaps with organic molecules that rained upon the earth in comets and meteors.
Our origins are still an open question and perhaps we can never be certain.

However, our cellular ancestors arose early due to our planet’s perfect conditions.

The chemistry of life evolved in complexity and into consciousness, until billions of years later it carved this art upon these stones.

I find it fascinating that this chemistry could create meaning in this universe.

Joints in the rock beckoned like hallways. Some spiraled to the summits. Other crawled deep and hid from the sunlight.