What’s in a rock … or a pile of rocks … or a mountain of rock?

Racing through the canyon on a train from Temoris to Creel, standing in the vestibule with the wind in my face, a blur of grey and brown is all that can be seen. The tracks are cut deeply into the mountain; steep walls cradle the rails keeping sunshine out, creating a dizzying view. This canyon system in the heart of the Mexican state of Chihuahua is five times larger than our Grand Canyon; the two deepest and narrowest canyons were left uncharted until 1986. This is the Copper Canyon, widely recognized as the wildest and most rugged area in North America. So inhospitable it took our top engineers 100 years to complete the railway from Kansas City to Los Mochis on the southern edge of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific trade routes.

Jagged and crushed under years of pressure and weather and stress, the canyonlands offer a harsh existence to the indigenous cave-dwelling Tarahumara Indians who call this their back yard. After more than a decade of drought, the vegetation has turned blonde and crunchy; not like lush green plant life pictured in the tour books. Huge boulders lay bone-dry in parched riverbeds. Streaks of polished granite show where grand waterfalls should crash and spray its life-giving water. Dust and despair coat the leaves turning them a ghostly grey, giving us the eerie feeling of driving through a negative.

What’s in a pile of rocks? Look closely and you see grey, brown, copper, blue black, and adobe. Look closely at this landscape and you see wilting leaves on dying trees, brown needles on evergreens, sharp stones and gravel on steep inclines. Scrubby shrubs and fallen timber litter the landscape. Top soil blowing away year after rainless year.

But wait! Just around the bend opens up a vista, a panoramic view of this amazing canyon. Blue sky with pillow white clouds backdrops the horizon outlined by shimmering rims and plateaus, one beyond another, beyond another. Such incredible depth and light and shadow. Majesty … breathtaking …stunning … awe inspiring … magnificent. Divisadero!

What makes a pile of grayish brown rock and dust covered leaves so dazzling in the morning sun? I think I know! Perspective …distance … contrast. And most of all …. light!

Light cast on jagged peaks standing timeless against the sky. Sun dancing on copper streaks cascading down canyon walls. A misty blue haze veils the furthest rims. Light and shadow and dimension and perspective. And most of all light … the sun bringing beauty and majesty to ordinary gray and brown rock.

So I must ask. What is it that brings majesty to an ordinary life? A life that may, up close, look tedious and drab and out of focus. A life perhaps in the desert of its landscape. A life covered in the dust and debris of the daily grind. A life devoid of flowers and springtime and crashing waterfalls. What brings majesty to such a life?

Could it be … perspective and distance and most of all … light? God uses his life-giving sun to make beautiful the rugged, crushed, jagged thing He has created. Just like the Canyon, God created my life and then formed it with His very hands to be the thing of glory He intends it to be.

Father God, thank you for years, built of days, made of minutes. Thank you for the little things that may not be too pretty right now, but will unfold with the seasons to be the thing of beauty You have formed with Your very hands.

Father, allow me to step back and see with Your eyes, Your panoramic, majestic, illuminated view. Help me to see what’s important to You. Help me to see your children in the most flattering light. Show me Your timeless vista today and everyday.

Show me that even in the most hostile landscape, the most hostile heart, You are present and your strong and patient hand is forming a thing of beauty and majesty.

Urique Canyon in the Copper Canyon region, Chihuahua, Mexico


  1. William Smith says:

    I like your post and wish my English was above average. My short stories are research backed which someday will be part of history. Rocks can do more than add to the beautiful landscape, they can be stepping stones for the early explorers in the New World as the attached can show.

    1. miahinkle says:

      The information you sent on the KRS is fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing.

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