A big attraction of Joshua Tree National Park is its numerous piles of gigantic granite boulders. Who put all these boulders here, and why did they go through all that trouble?

When I was young I was sometimes accused of hiding behind a facade and not revealing my actual, inner self. And it’s true, I really was hiding behind a facade.

Well actually the boulders formed hundreds of millions of years ago when this area was part of the ocean floor. I’ll help you take a nap right now, by telling you the story . . .

I was hiding the ugly pain of an abused childhood. I was hiding suspicions of personal incompetence and the self-doubt of unproven youth. I was hiding my naivete regarding this strange new world that everyone expected me to conquer. And I was hiding my feelings for young ladies who might embarrass me with rejection, should they turn me down.

In fact, I was hiding these and many more things.

250 million years ago the North American tectonic plate slid over the heavier Pacific plate like two quarreling spouses having a dish fight. This forced seawater between the plates, which began boiling like an angry teakettle, due to heat from the friction of the sliding plates.

I built a palisade of rock impossible to penetrate. No one could discover the exotic terrain hiding behind my granite facade. And its imposing escarpment left few even willing to try.

The heat formed magma, and the steam created enormous chambers for the magma to fill.

But assaults from time and the weathering of life have changed all of that. Temblors from the chthonic depths of Earth have fractured my facade’s structural integrity. Eolian winds have hollowed out windows and notches. And downpours from the heavens have eroded gaping barrancas, washing alluvial minerals to the pediplains below.

The magma then cooled into granite. This granite then fractured from tectonic pressure, forming individual boulders.

Here, there, and in many places, my facade has crumbled more and more with the onslaughts of each passing season. Now the curious, the brave, and the careful have many opportunities to explore. Windows have appeared within rock walls, enticing the adventurous to discover more. And slots and passes have cracked apart, affording trails to the kingdom within.

It mostly stands tall and imposing, but my facade no longer serves as a completely solid wall. Rather, it is a screen. It filters out the lazy, while allowing entry to those willing to make a reasonable effort to get inside.

The granite boulders were pushed upward by the Pacific plate below. As they rose and broke the surface of the earth, rainwater percolated down and dissolved the softer granite into soil.

Behind my facade hide delicate vulnerabilities that require protection. But I’m willing to share these vulnerabilities with those who’ve taken the time to discover the decomposed granite, the joints, the splits, and the rounded corners of my stone wall. They already know I’m vulnerable, so there’s no sense in hiding anymore.

As I age I find I have less to lose and more to reveal. And so the facade continues to erode.

The soil then eroded away, revealing the mounds of large boulders that now cover the landscape.

But some of this facade must always remain. And not just my facade, but the barriers of everyone. Facades can be as beautiful as the humanity they conceal. And they serve as a superable challenge for those truly interested in exploring, while deterring the casual passerby who might only spoil or abuse.

There’s nothing wrong with a facade. Let your facade stand fast and majestic. But allow the forces of time to open you up some. At least enough to offer passage to those who will respect what they find.

Who knows, you might enjoy their company.

A bunch of homo sapiens sapiens, who only just recently evolved 30,000 years ago, came along and decided these boulders looked pretty cool. And so they honored what they found by declaring the area to be a National Park.


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