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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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October 13, 2006

Walking where 'the stones breathe'


That would be the Colorado National Monument, an amazing plateau-and-canyon area of 32 square miles that rises up seemingly from nowhere some 20 miles west of Grand Junction. We were there a week ago, driving the 23 miles of snaking roads build in the 1930s by laborers in a Depression work program and hiking the newer paths to one spectacular point after another—any one of which would have been amazement enough for one day.

We also spent 12 minutes incide the visitors’ center to see an excellent, animated film that tells the stories of the thousand million years of geological activity that have passed since the mass of black rock that forms the base of this area. Astonishing, in its own, academic way.

And then I read in a brochure about John Otto, the man who first encountered this area on horseback a century ago. “I found these canyons, and they felt like the heart of the world to me,” he wrote. And then he urged the people of the then-new town of Grand Junction to join him in a campaign for national park status—and protection—for the place, where, he said, “the stones breathe.” In 1911 the area was established as Colorado National Monument, and Otto was named caretaker, a job which paid him $1 a month.

This time away from my desk and computer came soon after we finished the October issue, with its cover story on “Looking for God in the creation of the universe.” Included, of course, was the discussion dating the age of the Earth—6,000 years or 4.6 billion? Article author Mark Hollabaugh wrote, “I rather like the idea of a God who allows the universe to some into being, create itself and everything in it—and evolve.”

I thought of those words and of Otto’s, too, as I stood in wonder and awe and appreciation here where I, too, heard the stones breathe their alleluias.

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