The subject here is sandstone, all the marvels, antiquities, colors, and layers of it, the things ancient seas have built and wind and water have carved of it Arches National Park is not misnamed. Among its other wonders and glories, great sandstone arches abound.
I am going to write Ellen Tauscher, my congresswoman, to ask, nay demand, that something be done about the names perpetuated by the Park Service. I demand that Double Arch be renamed Petrarch and Beatrice Arch, Turret Arch must become Plutarch. In honor of Utah's own Brigham Young, Landscape Arch must become Heresiarch. West Window and East Window must become Patriarch and Matriarch. My demands go on and on, but those are the non-negotiable ones.
I hiked up to Heresiarch today, the extraordinary long narrow one on the cover of flyers about the park. Part of it fell down in 1991 which made it still longer and narrower. There were people under it at the time but they ran away upon the initial rockfall and no one was hurt. There is even a picture of the rock falling. The Park Service has now gone the Forest Service one better by closing off the area underneath for fear of Hazardous Arch Failure.
When I was at Balancing Rock it occurred to me that though the thing has been where it is for tens of thousands of years, it must eventually fall. One would have to be a schlemazzel on a cosmic scale to have Balancing Rock fall on him. But we all have to go sometime. I think it would be good to go in a way so innately preposterous that there would be an inkling of laughter at the last. But later. Much later.
Reading about and seeing geology, deep time, and uniformitarianism is always relieving. I consider the layers in the sandstone as I walk over them. Each tenth of an inch thick layer is a year's cycle of seasons and there are miles and miles of them as I walk, and more miles and miles of them that eroded away long ago. Life seems less serious and compelling then.