Navajo sandstone can only look like it does after hundreds of years of erosion--in this case, that erosion comes from flooding. The red color derives from iron in silicate minerals; silicate minerals make up over 90% of Earth's crust. Depending on how porous or permeable a rock is, varying mixtures of hematite, goethite and limonite can form within the quartz grains. That's where the different colors in Navajo sandstone come from.
Hematite is one of the oldest known minerals and shares the same crystal structure as corundum--for all you July and September babies, corundum is your birthstone! Red corundum is a ruby and blue corundum is considered a sapphire. Sapphire is now mined in all the colors of the rainbow, but only a certain red is reserved for the status of ruby--considered one of the rarest and most precious gemstones. Hematite is often found in dark colors, like gray or black, but when it forms next to goethite, it can be more red in color.
Goethite is named after German writer, philosopher and Renaissance man, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Goethite was first described in 1806 after samples were found in Herdorf, Germany in the Hollertszug Mine, but there is evidence of goethite being used as a pigment on the Lascaux Caves in Southern France. The fossil record from the caves indicate the Late Stone Age or Upper Paleolithic era--basically anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 years ago. By the way, humans, as we are today, are believed to have emerged only 200,000 years ago--so let's not get too cavalier about time, shall we? Miracles don't happen overnight. That is perhaps why I have loved rocks or geology my whole life, even collecting baskets of them as a child. Every stone I picked up and studied was a piece of living history. Rocks are Earth's storytellers, holding the secrets of our past, our present and our future.
All of Earth's minerals derive from space. As in, outer-space. Every time you see a tree, an animal, a rock...the elements that make up those integral pieces of nature all come from beyond our galaxy. That includes humans, too. Similar to Navajo sandstone, based on the conditions of where a life-form is created, that life-form has variations that differ from similar trees or plants or animals or rocks that evolved in say, a more tropical climate versus a colder climate. Goethite is more common to tropical climes, so what we see as a desert today in Arizona, was once wet, lush tropical lands with lots and lots of water. Goethite is essentially rust, but both hematite and limonite are the two principal iron ores on planet Earth. When we consider human evolution, iron ore played a major role in the way societies formed. Without it, the technology we use today (and often take for granted, like miracles...) simply wouldn't exist. Mining for iron ore started about 3,000 years before Christ's birth, or more than 5,000 years ago.
Limonite actually forms from the hydration of hematite--or when hematite gets wet. Limonite ranges in color from brown to yellow and was sometimes called the "lemon rock" as a result. Like goethite, limonite only forms in hot, wet tropical areas--the soil that formed there is called lateritic soil. Laterite is rich in iron and aluminum and is often a rust or red color because of high iron oxide content.
Can you believe ALL of that history is contained inside the sandstone that makes up Antelope Canyon?
When you look at something like "The Corkscrew," everyone can see its beauty--but it takes a certain level of gratitude to see a rock as a miracle. Goethe's poetry and philosophy influenced the Transcendentalists of New England--people like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson...even Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville were on the fringes, as well as Louisa May Alcott. Transcendentalism was a metaphor of the processes of nature, but applied to human existence. Remarkable to consider such history when looking at Navajo sandstone, don't you think? By the way, goethite was not named after Goethe because of his philosophy; it was named after him because he was responsible for opening multiple mines in Germany as a member of the Duke's privy council.
Goethe is one of the most widely quoted literary minds in the history of humanity. Like Emerson before me, I consider Goethe to be one of a handful of influential writers in the last 15,000 years. His connection to the miracle before me--and you--is no coincidence. Neither is his connection to New England.
Much of my early scholarship focused on the Transcendalists; I was born in New England so was influenced by those very people and the places where they lived, like Walden Pond. As a result, Goethe was a big part of my research. I even used one of his quotes in my grandmother's eulogy eight years ago--that is how much Goethe has influenced me (and, how long he has been renting space in my brain).
As I considered the evolutionary process that went into the Navajo sandstone itself, but also, the formation of what is now known as Lower Antelope Canyon, all of this interconnected history--of the world, of literature, of humanity, philosophy, physics, geology--ran through my mind. In multiple languages, to boot. Not only that, Beethoven and Mozart were playing a veritable symphony in my head--both of whom were inspired by Goethe, and who in turn, inspire me the way that Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne and Melville did when I first stuck my toe in academic waters. My life was somehow integrated in the Navajo sandstone, in the sedimentary colors, the evolution of it's curves...tears stream down my cheeks just thinking of it--the miracle that is now 1,775 miles away from where I am is still somehow connected to me and my living history in ways not even I understood until this very moment.
Humans are always praying for miracles as if miracles are instantaneous. Miracles take millennia to form. We see a miracle like Antelope Canyon in a single moment, as if it took but a moment to happen. As if it was there just so we could see it, take pictures, and move on with our lives. But in reality, when we pray for miracles, we are praying for change. Evolutionary change. Change that requires physical effort. And, physical effort requires time.
Change may feel sudden, like driving to Antelope Canyon and seeing it start to emerge on the wavy horizon as if by magic. But that's not the truth. The truth? Change only occurs over the course of years in conjunction with cumulative physical efforts. You cannot reunite with the love of your life if you never see or speak to that person, no matter how much time passes or what you do in the interim space between then and now. You cannot change your career by thinking positive thoughts either--you have to research the educational tools needed in the profession you seek, and go through the years (if necessary) of training until you have actually acquired the expertise you need.
Luck (or fate, if you will) had nothing to do with how Lower Antelope Canyon was formed. It was time. And lots and lots of physical effort. We could not have that kind of miraculous beauty any other way. It is the same for our own lives. Our own bodies. If you want to be more fit, move more and eat less. Do that for a year and you'll see change. Do it for a month or two, and you won't. Same with the pursuit of any ambition or goal. You must be as single-minded as Nature itself. As undeterred as the Sun shining in the sky.
If you put in the time and effort, beauty will always be the result. The power of creating a miracle is in your hands. Right now. You just have to want it. And, never give up. Visualize your miracle and take the time you need to put in the deliberate effort in order to manifest that miracle in your world. That takes commitment. You can't just walk away or change your mind or make excuses when pursuit of your miracle gets a little difficult. Or, a lot difficult. I mean, you can give up, but if you do, you'll never experience a miracle. And, that seems such a shame.
You have the power to recognize and create literal miracles...why not use it???
Post-script: I hope this essay can take you to the other side of whatever obstacles stand between you and your miracle; I chose the video below because my friend Jason, singing and performing his own song, broke his neck on January 4, 2012. But Jason did not give up. He did not make excuses. He did not lay on his back and cry. He worked hard every single day for two years until he could not only walk again, but dance. Sing. And perform live in front of his fans. Most people with Jason's injury never move the same way again and often die. I was told I'd never walk again, too. I was also told I had two years to live in 2001. Picking up what I'm putting down? Let no one discourage you from your miracle. You CAN do this. You just have to put in the time and effort. Stop making excuses and start moving toward your miracle TODAY!!!!
*photo courtesy of Housel-alum and talented artist, Alex Salsberg, who is also a fellow New Englander! To check out Alex's art, go to PokeGravy.com