“Sandstone Formation & Tree”

Sandstone Formation & Tree, Lisbon Valley, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

Lisbon Valley is a relatively nondescript region in southeast Utah near Canyonlands National Park. While its redrock sandstone formations don’t rival the majesty of those found in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, it has its own hidden marvels, its own unique personality. In the late 1990s, I spotted this rock formation while exploring one late-autumn evening. I was intrigued by several aspects of this scene: the contrasting, opposing oranges and blues; the split-personality of the formation, with half in bright sunset light and the other half in dark shadows; and the looming presence of the formation compared to the diminutive form of the lone juniper tree on the left. And above all, a contemplative stillness. Some might say there’s a David-and-Goliath theme here, a sense of immutable power being challenged by stalwart–if fragile–determination. However, I see something else here…a sense of sorrow, a reaching-out from weakness to strength as the tree casts its shadow on the base of the tower in supplication, as if seeking consolation. A sense of loneliness and isolation. I identify with that juniper tree. I feel deeply that sense of yearning to be a part of something but always finding myself standing on the outside, looking in. Try as it might, the closest that tree will ever come to connecting with that rock is by casting its shadow upon it once a day just before the cold night falls. Such is life in the desert; such is life in this world. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

103 thoughts on ““Sandstone Formation & Tree”

    1. Kindest thanks, Filipa! I was thinking of you when I posted this image, remembering that you’re from Lisbon. πŸ™‚ Lisbon Valley will always hold a special place in my heart. Thanks so much for your wonderful words and constant support. It means the world to me. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh no, I hope you’re feeling better, Filipa! It’s no fun being sick during the holidays (or any other time, for that matter). Here’s wishing you a very speedy recovery. I’m sending you some Colorado cheer, free of charge! Hope it helps! Get well soon, and have a good Christmas. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Joan. Isn’t it interesting the different perspectives we have regarding an image or a poem or a painting or any other piece of art? I love when people comment on my posts because it helps me see things in new ways. I tend to be locked into my “sorrow mode” all the time, so learning the interpretations of others can really be eye-opening. I appreciate your kindness as always, my friend. πŸ™‚

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    1. Hey, Mark. Yeah, those redrock desert sunsets are so intense, and the oranges and blues contrast so nicely as they’re opposing tones on the color wheel. Glad you enjoyed this one. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Many thanks, my friend. Yes, this place is pretty special to me. It’s been years since I visited and I miss it, but perhaps someday I can go there again and revisit all my “old friends”–the trees and rock formations and sage brush and cactus flowers and more. Thanks for your kind comment. I appreciate you. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you kindly, Xenia. What always fascinated me about this scene is how the little tree leans in toward the rock tower. It just grew that way, as though there’s some sort of anomalous gravity at work, drawing the tree to the rock. I really like the way you expressed it as a sort of protection emanating from the sandstone tower.. It’s one of my favorite images. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, David. Glad you liked this one. I’d been wanting to post it for some time as it’s one of my favorite images. Your enthusiastic support is always appreciated, good sir! πŸ™‚

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  1. If not for this lovely post, I’d have never thought about sandstone formations nor even juniper trees (except for being reminded of Brother Juniper!), but since I have done so, I must say that although both serve a certain purpose, David has more gifts than Goliath.

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    1. This is what I really enjoy about art: it makes us ponder things we may normally overlook. There are so many different possible interpretations here, and it fascinates me to discover how other folks see this image. I must say that sandstone towers and juniper trees are most definitely worth pondering. It’s pretty amazing what nature can tell us in its silent contemplation. I always appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments. Many thanks! πŸ™‚

      Incidentally, I googled Brother Juniper as I was unfamiliar with the name, and the first result was a restaurant in Memphis, but I had an inkling you probably were referring to a different Brother Juniper! πŸ˜€

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  2. The isolation can definitely be felt through this image, especially with the juniper tree. What a great shot, Mike! I love what you wrote about the tree’s connection with the rock through its shadow. I felt that.

    Thank you for sharing. πŸ’•

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    1. Thank you, Kirsten. Yes, I felt that isolation as soon as I spotted this tower and tree from the road. It’s really an unremarkable setting, to be honest, but man, did it speak to me. The little tree yearning to make contact with the rock tower but falling short seemed to be a metaphor for my own life. It’s pretty cool what you can find in the desert when your eyes and heart are open. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you kindly, ;Grace. Glad to know you enjoyed this one. My days behind the camera were among the happiest of my life and I miss them terribly, but I have the images to remind me of those moments when time literally stood still and life made sense for a brief moment. Thanks for your wonderful support, my friend! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Gary. When I’d go out shooting, I always had a vague (and sometimes not so vague) idea of what I was looking for, what I wanted to say. As a fellow photographer, I’m sure you know what I mean. For me, it was more of a feeling or a sense of emotion than a physical image I had in mind. It was a case of “I’ll know it when I see it,.” and when I’d finally see it, it would stop me in my tracks. There were many days I went out to shoot and returned empty-handed, but it was never a disappointment because I’d been able to immerse myself in the quiet stillness of nature for a few hours. Truly, finding those meaningful images was just a bonus, you know? And I never really knew exactly which scene would speak what I wanted to say, so it was usually a surprise when I’d finally stumble upon that moment of truth, and I’d say, “There it is…” What a magical feeling that was! Anyway, thanks for your kind words, and for sharing that keen understanding of what it means to make an image that speaks from your soul. πŸ™‚

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      1. I definitely know what you mean Mike. I do have a mental list of possible but not probable images always on my mind for certain weather or shadow or reflections. It’s more than likely I’ll know when I see it though. Those “Oh Ya” moments that I’m getting better at recognizing

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    1. Thanks, Jordyn. If I had to guess, I’d say that little tree is still there, still striving to make contact with that tower. I like to think it hasn’t quite given up just yet. The fact of its very existence holds profound meaning, and I’m really glad I was able to witness this scene and record it on film. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Saima. I’m truly blessed by your kind comments and steadfast support. I’m really glad to know you enjoyed this one. Here’s hoping that little tree is still there, still trying, and somehow understands it’s made a profound impact on a certain deaf photographer/writer. πŸ™‚

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  3. This is positively breath taking. This photograph is sublime and the contrasting colors are so sharp it has such a profound affect on the audience. What a most beautifully written piece Mike. Your work is pure, raw, missing nothing. It is interesting how vivid your words are. These truly touched my spirit:

    “I feel deeply that sense of yearning to be a part of something but always finding myself standing on the outside, looking in. Try as it might, the closest that tree will ever come to connecting with that rock is by casting its shadow upon it once a day just before the cold night falls.”

    So glad I met you and have the pleasure of reading your work. What a blessing to the community you are my friend. Big tight squeezes. In the south we don’t just hug we hang on for a warm squeeze. Blessings and love to you my friend. I don’t know if the holidays are happy or sad for you but I know they are often sad for people that grow up differently around a world that can be cruel and indifferent. Know this, when I say I love you I do. I am married so I am not flirting I am connecting to you through your beautiful words.

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    1. Thanks, Joni. I appreciate your kindness. Christmas will be spent alone as usual, but I’ve grown accustomed to holidays alone by now, so it’s just another day for me, I suppose. I hope your Christmas will be wonderful. I’m grateful for your presence here on WordPress, my friend. πŸ™‚

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      1. You are so welcomed. My husband and I don’t decorate and we went out to dinner a week ago and that was our gift to one another. Christmas Day we will go and see Avatar- the movie. We pray and read the Bible every day so in many ways it has become mainly a commercial holiday. May you have a peaceful day my friend. We had a Jewish family that would invite us to celebrate many of their beautiful holidays with them. The wife had the most beautiful five year old girl. She already knew English, Hebrew, and sign language every child had been taught sign language in kindergarten. I wish I could tell you I knew sign language but that would be untrue. Although meeting you makes me want to learn it now. Big hugs and lots of love. ❀️

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    2. Thanks, Joni. I don’t know sign language, either. I began my blog in July 2021 in an attempt to connect with other deaf, socially isolated people who didn’t know sign language as a means of feeling less alone. I have a series of essays documenting my deaf experience that no one read, so I eventually turned my blog into a poetry blog, then added my nature photography. I was definitely disappointed I couldn’t find any other deaf bloggers to interact with but the poetry community here has been pretty welcoming and supportive. It’s likely I’ll become completely deaf at some point (I can still hear some sounds, but human speech is pretty much impossible to understand) and it would probably be a good idea for me to learn ASL, but I don’t know any other deaf or hard–of-hearing people, so being fluent in ASL would be meaningless at this point. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your Christmas and I hope the new Avatar movie was good. πŸ™‚

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    1. Many thanks, Jeff. I’ve never been to Sedona but I’ve seen plenty of photos of that area and it looks like a gorgeous place. Thanks as always for your kind words, good sir! Enjoy your holiday weekend! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much. The desert in this area is truly magical, and so expressive despite being so barren. It speaks loudly and profoundly in its silence. I’m happy to know this image pleased you. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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  4. Happy New Year, dear MikeπŸ™‚ I was waiting for your posts πŸ™‚ I just saw the moon few min ago and thought of youπŸ˜€ your poetry is that much in our hearts and mind you knowπŸ’•πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you, dear Saima. It’s always good to hear from you, and I’m grateful for your kindness as always. We share the same moon! And it’s so inspiring, isn’t it? Have a wonderful 2023, my friend! πŸ™‚

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  5. Another beautiful capture, Mike. It reminded me of the Taj Mahal. Something about its shape and grandness. Loneliness can actually become a new religion with ample followers each preaching their tales of sorrow and desperation. But how many will find their peace with it? Sorry for being depressing. Happy new year and keep writing, my dear friend. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks a bunch, Terveen. Yes, this sandstone formation certainly possesses a sort of grandness, doesn’t it? As for loneliness, for some of us, it’s a constant–albeit unwanted–companion. I’m trying to come to terms with it, accept that it’s just they way it is in my life rather than continue to battle it. So many of my nature images and so much of my poetry deal with loneliness. It’s probably the central theme of all my creative endeavors (including back when I could hear well enough to play guitar). We do the best we can with what we have, I suppose. Focusing on what we have rather than what we lack is important, as is acceptance of the sorrows in our lives. There’s a keen, fragile beauty in sorrow and solitude, almost a sense that even though people may abandon us, the universe is still there, and it’s all around us, embracing us. I look to the moon and the trees and the mountains and the desert and the sea and I experience the comfort they offer in this regard. And I’m grateful for the kind folks I’ve met here on WordPress. This place feels a little like home, you know? πŸ™‚

      Have a wonderful 2023, my friend, and I shall continue writing and pressing on. πŸ™‚

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  6. As a short story writer, I am immediately drawn to the theme of isolation and yearning for connection in this photograph. The contrast between the towering sandstone formation and the small juniper tree adds to the sense of loneliness and longing, and the use of light and shadow only enhances this feeling. The comparison to the David and Goliath story is also interesting, as it adds another layer of meaning to the photograph. Overall, this is a beautifully captured scene that evokes powerful emotions and tells a story within itself. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Many thanks, Sebastian, for such a kind and thoughtful comment. I’ve always been amazed at what a fascinating story-teller nature can be. All we need to do is stop and look and listen with our hearts and souls. The wild places are brimming with nature’s narrative, and it’s an ongoing epic saga. I’m truly happy to know you enjoyed this image. Thanks so much for stopping by! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The photograph is beautiful, Mike, and your words describing it and what it means to you is exquisite as always. I’m a groupie, I think. Tomorrow I’m starting a new feature on my blog – a “weekend blog share,” and I’m sharing this post as well as your Odysseus poem. I hope you don’t mind that I’m going to rave a little. I hope you’re doing well. Happy New Year, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Diana. This really made my day. It’s most definitely an honor to be featured on your blog. I’m excited to check it out. I’ve been dealing with those January blues of late and your comment really made me feel better. Thank you for that, my friend. I appreciate your kindness so much. I hope 2023 is treating you well thus far. πŸ™‚

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    2. Thanks again, Diana. I loved your Weekend Blog Share post! πŸ™‚ This is such a nice thing for you to do, and I appreciate it so much. And yes, I still want to put together a book at some point. Despite the ups and downs that come with major depression, I still have that dream and I hope to accomplish it. Thank you for adding an unexpected dose of excitement o my weekend, my friend! I truly appreciate. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My absolute pleasure, Mike. Your work is stunning and I’m always swept away. It’s reading work like yours that inspires me to work at this writing stuff. Thanks for sharing the post. That was kind of you, but unnecessary. It’s all about you today. πŸ™‚ And I do hope that book happens one day. Hang in there, my friend. The sun is returning.

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  8. Pingback: Weekend Blog Share: Silent Pariah | Myths of the Mirror

    1. Many thanks for your kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. The desert is a magical place and I was fortunate to be able to spend time hiking and photographing this barren, beautiful landscape. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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  9. What an amazing description of the scene, Mike. It made me feel like I was there, even though I have never been to this part of the world. I found you via Diana’s blog post and I’m so glad I did.

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    1. Thanks, Darlene. I grew up about 45 minutes from where this image was made. The desert of the Colorado Plateau is beautiful in its unforgiving harshness, and life persists against all odds. That little juniper tree returns to my mind now and then, and I wonder if it’s still alive, still striving to make contact with that sandstone formation. I hope it is. Thanks for your kind words. It was so nice of Diana to feature my blog this week. What a pleasant surprise! Anyway, I’m happy you enjoyed this post. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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      1. Great to meet you too. I have never been to Colorado (except for 4 enjoyable hours at the Denver airport where I had a great meal and bought a Barbara Kingsolver book which made me a lifelong fan of hers). From the pictures I have seen, I love the landscape.

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    1. Thanks so much. I agree–there is a haunting aspect to this image, a yearning… It’s always been one of my favorite photos. Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog. I truly appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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  10. Hi, Mike. I came over from D. Wallace Peach’s blog, where she sang your praises. And I can see why. That photo is stunning, but your interpretation of it is exquisite. The contrasts of colors and perspectives are just amazing. And that lone juniper tree – struggling to reach the strength of the rock formation. Wow! It says so much. It’s great to meet you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks a bunch, Jan. Nice to meet you, too! I’m honored that Diana was kind enough to feature my work. So many wonderful people have stopped by since then, and I truly appreciate all the kind words. I’m happy to know you liked this image. I’m quite fond of it myself. πŸ™‚ Thanks for visiting and commenting! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Mike,
    I found your blog from Diana’s blog post and I can understand why she shared it. Your photo is gorgeous and your description of the representation of every little detail is amazing. I’ve never been to Utah, but it is one state on the list for my husband and I to visit in the U.S. I’ve also identified with that juniper tree in some moments of my life. Thank you for this lovely post, and it’s nice to meet you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lauren, for your kind words. Diana’s such a wonderful person and so encouraging and supportive. I’m delighted to know you liked this post. Utah has some astounding natural beauty. I grew up about 45 minutes from this sandstone tower and juniper tree. I like to think the tree is still there, still striving for contact with the rock formation. There’s always hope, I suppose. πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for visiting. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Diana is such a kind person, always supportive and encouraging, and I’m so honored that she featured my blog. I truly appreciate your wonderful comment and I thank you for stopping by to visit. πŸ™‚

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    1. Many thanks! What a nice thing to say! Diana has a way of connecting folks in this community, and I’m so happy she chose to feature my work. So many wonderful people have visited because of her. Fun times, indeed. πŸ™‚ I’m grateful for your support and for stopping by. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Bruce. I’ve often wondered if this tree still lives. It’s been more than 25 years since I made this image and I haven’t been back to this location. I have a real soft spot for underdogs, and this tree has stuck with me over the years. It’s so interesting how different people see different things in the same image. I like your take on this, with the tree and the tower banding together to pass the time and lend each other strength and companionship. The desert is a lonely place, but magical in so many ways, and what survives there has earned the right to live. This is one of my favorite nature images. I’d like to return one day and see how much has changed. I appreciate your kind and thoughtful words. Thanks for visiting and commenting. πŸ™‚

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