Water Still Runs Downhill

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There have been no postings here for the last week or so because I was off to a family reunion (where we had a wonderful time). We were just outside of Zion National Park in southern Utah, a place of stark and majestic grandeur. At night the sky was so full of stars you could knock them down with a pole. No cell phone coverage, despite a great deal of sky. Anyhow, I had better things to do than to figure out how to post things here, and so we did some good vacating.

One day my wife and I decided to drive down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which we had never seen before. It was only about a hundred miles away, and as I was talking to my brother-in-law (who had gone by the canyon on the way up to the reunion), he mentioned that nothing does justice to it. Nothing prepares you for it — not pictures, not descriptions, nothing. And that turned out to be exactly right.

The first forty miles or so of that drive were typical of the scenery you see in your average Western. In fact, a lot of Westerns have been shot in that area, so it may be more than “typical” — it may have been the actual backdrop to your favorite shoot-out. We then began to ascend from 6,000 feet to 8,000 and the terrain became more green, although the green was of a scrub pine variety. When we got to top, the last thirty miles or so was I think the most beautiful drive I have taken in my life. On either side of the road was about a quarter to a half mile of meadow, and then lush pine forests interrupted with white streaks of accenting birch.

When we got to the Grand Canyon, we walked out on a spur called (I think) Bright Angel Point, and took in the canyon. You are of course expecting words like “breathtaking,” and I won’t kid you. It was all of that. We could see about 160 miles, and the view was enough to flummox anybody. God is beyond all artistry, beyond all commentary.

In fact, the only thing I saw that day that was more remarkable than the view was the dogmatic pronouncement of some lunatic geologists on the origins of the Grand Canyon, a pronouncement emblazoned on a sign that was provided there for our edification and amusement. The greatness of God and the folly of man were both there, side by side, so that we could simply look from one to the other.

The sign said that over the course of 5 or 6 million years, the rocks that used to fill up the canyon just floated off into the sky, leaving this gaping hole in the earth. Well, no, it didn’t say that, but what it did say was every bit as crazy. We were 8,000 feet above sea level, and the sedimentary layers along our walk there contained sea shells, fossilized sponges and the like. According to a very friendly park ranger, after the layers were laid down by (lots and lots of) water, the whole thing got lifted up into the sky, where we were then standing admiring the view. Now the canyon was cut by (again) lots and lots of water — and there are only two logical possibilities. Either the canyon was cut before it was lifted up to its current height or after. If before, then where did the water run to? If after, then where did the water come from? Now I admit that I have a presupposition in this, but it may not be what you may think. My presupposition is that, whenever the canyon was cut, water ran downhill.

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