one day at a time…
Friday, 21 November 2003

Pix Of The Day: Another Side Of A Material Girl
CREDITS: © Ian Scott-Parker/PishTush.com. The material girl is the Virgin River.

Dedicated to Rebecca Manson, who grew from being a little girl into a beautiful young woman, just when I was looking the other way! Thank you for the email. What will the world be like when the time comes for you to pass it on to your own grandchildren?

Thumbnail clicks, and text links except the obvious movie links, pop-up larger images.

Saw Toothed Virgin © Ian Scott ParkerWithin the sights and sounds of the material side of the Virgin River, there exists another environment, which must be much as it was before the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Pioneers began their policy of expansion, hell bent on creating an earthly heaven. For 150 years the hand, and foot and wheel, of man has left an imprint on the surface of the land, but in between the marks not much has changed. Walking a few hundred feet one may traverse several thousand years.

The desert floor is only lightly trodden in most places, and the desert plants, some of whose family members are the oldest living things on the planet, refuse to acknowledge man's supremacy. Travelling from Interstate I-15 eastwards along State Route SR-9, the road parallels a saw tooth ridge of rocks, which although colorful is almost ugly in its nakedness. It is the feature that most makes the town of Hurricane, UT, look as though it was built in the midst of a rock quarry. Like so many places in this geological province of Basin & Range, finding a viewpoint is sometimes a frustrating task. The features retreat behind other features, and where one might imagine a clear view to be had, little can be seen. Finding a high viewpoint often means that the feature is far away, too far to be properly appreciated.

The viewpoint for today's featured pictures is reached by taking a back road, then walking across the desert floor, actually part of the lava bluff where yesterday's picture was taken, on an unmade access track. Those man made tracks are still much in evidence, and one needs to pass over a gurgling sewage pipe, going left at a fork in the track at the anticipated dump of freezers, washing machines, beer cans, and the spent shells from gunning them all into the hereafter of trash. In the distance irrigation sprays arc over the golf links, the desert's transpiration rates making the water usage profligate even if this was a wet maritime climate. Jack rabbits bound away in the eerie silence, which is only broken when a slight shift in the air movement brings industrial sounds, clanking from far away downstream.

Yawning Void © Ian Scott ParkerA slight selection of viewpoint, to exclude the more obvious signs of modern life, and in the silence between the breezes, one might be standing in the ancient landscape. Even here the retreating feature effect is maintained until the final few seconds. The track ends in a turning circle, and walking beyond that the view suddenly begins to open up, culminating in a Thelma & Louise moment over a yawning void to the river far below. Like that fearless pair Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, one is tempted to estimate the trajectory necessary to reach the water at the base of the cliff. However, sensible souls will quickly recall that falling humans plummet vertically, rather than describing the elegant parabolas lovingly calculated by ordnance engineers.

The landscape looks raw, timeless, and immune to civilization. This is far from the case: it is a delicate, fragile ecosystem that is damaged every time a faucet is opened, and every time a brick is laid for a new home, mall, or factory. In 1969 Butch sang Hal David's 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' during the bicycling scene, which was filmed further upriver at the ghost town of Grafton. At that time the towns hereabouts were just small townships, almost villages. The raindrops, or more accurately the snowpacks on the Colorado Plateaus, have been less reliable in recent years. Vandals have since burned down the house where the character Etta Place lived in a movie based on the lives of real people from Utah's past. The availability of water can be measured with some accuracy, but deciding who are the vandals as the pace of development increases, is a much more imprecise science.

On the bluff above the river there is a rock sprouting an aluminum mushroom. The surveyors from the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, planted this record of their passage in 1997, during the execution of a cadastral survey. Cadastral means 'a public record, survey, or map of the value, extent, and ownership of land as a basis of taxation. Let us hope that 'value' means something different from 'price' in this context, and that the power to raise tax monies does not commoditize the land at the expense of any sense of stewardship. The aluminum mushroom is sternly marked, "UNLAWFUL TO DISTURB": one wonders if the same federal protection will be extended to the land in which it is embedded.

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)