The Canyon by Snowlight

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park on the first day of the new year is a grand reminder that the canyon stands testament to the slow and unstoppable passage of time, to which each and all of us are bound. It also reminds us that change is inevitable, whether measured in days or decades, eras or eons of time. Even every few minutes, the shifting angle of the sun changes the appearance of the canyon during a winter stroll along the Trail of Time at the south rim.

But for all its grandeur, the canyon is not a fixed landmark but a work still in progress, its immense buttresses slowly giving way to the agents of time that act on its slopes and sediments, its riverbeds and bedrocks. We, too, must yield to the effects of time. As the new year stretches out before us, what can we learn from the canyon’s noble and patient surrender?


Morning light dances over the landscape at Maricopa Point, with the Grand Canyon’s walls lightly dusted in snow.

Shadows of clouds dance alongside shadows of canyon walls below Maricopa Point.


Close-up of a mule deer standing in the snow and looking straight into the camera during a cold Grand Canyon winter.

A mule deer, its distinctive ears alert, turns toward the sound of a camera shutter and the parka-clad human behind it.


A mule deer foraging for food in a snow-covered forest at the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim.

It and a friend were foraging for food near the canyon’s rim.


Sunlight breaks into the Grand Canyon near Yavapai Point as fresh snow clings to sandstone cliffs.

Farther along, sunlight breaks into the canyon near Yavapai Point.


A man and woman gaze at the rust-colored walls of the Grand Canyon with a blanket of snow beneath their feet.

The once-empty trail has begun to awaken with visitors. Looking out from Yavapai Point, we share their enthrall. 


Tiny people stand atop the edge of the Grand Canyon's South Rim, its sandstone cliffs lightly dusted in snow.

How is it that feeling tiny amidst the canyon’s expanse lifts our minds and spirits to soar?


View of the Lookout Studio, designed by Mary Colter, with its walls and rooflines molded into the Grand Canyon’s sandstone cliffs.

Mimicking the surrounding cliffs, Mary Colter designed the Lookout Studio (1914) to blend into the canyon’s sandstone rim.


Close-up of the rings in a gnarly tree at the Grand Canyon with a lightly covered snowy rim in the distance.

Even the trees sing silent hymns to the march of time. The notes of a grand symphony are recorded in their rings.


Beautiful, star-shaped sunburst beaming onto fresh snow at the canyon's edge with its multi-layered rims seen in the distance.

The serenity of fresh snow, yet undisturbed by the feathered or footed.


A family standing on a snow-covered Grand Canyon viewpoint in morning light, looking into the depths of nearby canyon walls.

Passing by others lost in thought, there is a shared reverence for solitude.


West facing view of the Grand Canyon and Yavapai Geology Museum, perched atop Yavapai Point, in the morning light with snow.

The Yavapai Geology Museum (1928) nearly escapes notice.


Looking along the canyon’s edge towards tourists standing on Yavapai Point, overlooking the South Rim during morning light.

The canyon exists on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. Whatever size it is imagined to be, in reality, it is bigger still.


A small amphitheater sits empty and covered in snow at the South Rim’s edge with the North Rim looming large eight miles away.

A small amphitheater sits empty this morning. Behind it, the North Rim looms large some eight miles distant.


Snow covers the ground at Mather Point while tourists take in the Grand Canyon's expansive views.

A crowd has begun to form at Mather Point, and a group of children excitedly catch their first glimpse of the canyon. Vishnu Temple pierces the skyline in the far distance.


The Hope House, designed by Mary Colter (1905), at Grand Canyon National Park with the foreground covered in snow.

Around the corner, the Hopi House (1905) stands picture-perfect. Mary Colter modeled it after the 1,000-year-old pueblo dwellings in the Hopi village of Oraibi.


The year 2022, carved into the snow-covered ground, overlooking the Grand Canyon's South Rim in winter.

A visitor’s intention for 2022 sketched in snow, soon to melt into a timeless landscape. For the canyon, it is one more year among many, many others.


“Long may the visitor loiter upon the verge, powerless to shake loose from the charm, tirelessly intent upon the silent transformations until the sun is low in the west. Then darkness falls, and should there be a moon, the scene in part revives in silver light, a thousand spectral forms projected from inscrutable gloom; dreams of mountains, as in their sleep they brood on things eternal.”

Charles A. Higgins, The Titan of Chasms, 1902