Dry Mud and Sand. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 25, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Dry, cracked mud on top of red sand under reflected canyon light, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
I almost titled this photograph, “Another Photograph of Mud.” But I have resisted that temptation, and once again used a simple more or less objective title. But, indeed, this is almost a photographic type when it comes to the Southwest, and one that is awfully difficult to pass up. These formations come about when silt-laden water rushes down desert canyons, washes, and streams, leaving behind a layer of very wet silt. The layer may be thin, as it was in this case, or it may be quite thick. In one narrow canyon last year I slipped into such silt-mud and it almost seemed like there was not bottom!
I’m not sure quite what explains our fascination with these formations. Is it because they are among the most transient features of the physical landscape, disappearing and then reforming every time it rains? Is it the patterns themselves, which can have a wonderful geometric quality and, at the same time, embody a randomness? Is it the combination of the colors of the material, which can range from white through black with many colors in between, and the reflected canyon light? Possibly it is all of these things and more.
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