Continuing my recent Yellowstone visit after leaving the geyser basin, I headed for for the Canyon area. In the past I’ve tended to focus on the magnificent falls there. This year, extra deep snow made access to the best locations difficult (not to mention forbidden, though that’s of lesser concern). I spent my time instead looking at the steeply sloping walls of the V-shaped canyon carved by the river.


The image above gives an idea of the view across from my lookout. But the scene really came alive for me after I narrowed the field of view to just a patch of the wall. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I slipped into a mode where I was fascinated by the scene that could be viewed as both an allover abstract texture and a wealth of realistic detail of rocks, trees, avalanche tracks, etc.





That may be too many examples, but they have variety in the proportions of different tones. The general composition of the scene, with its line of trees at the rim, reminded me of a Larry Poons drip painting entitled Old Dominion:

However, I find the drip texture in the lower half of the painting rather predictable and boring, whereas the canyonside pattern never loses its interesting mix of structure and randomness. The texture of Poons’ recent work (e.g. the 2007 painting Duetto shown below) makes a better match.

But just now, as I write, what I am really reminded of are the patterns generated by cellular automata, mathematical algorithms that can create both repetitive and unpredictable patterns, depending on the rules chosen to govern them.

These patterns evolve according to their rules in a downwards direction. No doubt analogies could be found to the evolution of the canyon wall, driven by the algorithms of erosion. To do so might, for some, detract from the natural beauty of the place. To me, it can only add to its mysteriously compelling power. It illuminates, in yet another way, how past time is present in what we see today.