Grand Prismatic Spring

Photo Credit: Eric Garza, January 2021

This gorgeous display is the third largest hot spring in the world, located in Yellowstone National Park. It’s called Grand Prismatic Spring. The different colors that you see are made by different bacteria that manage to live in the 160* F water.

The phenomenal things that make this structure so beautiful and stunning are microscopic and completely indifferent to our existence. It’s only when they combine that we get this other-worldly extravaganza of nature.

I’ve visited Yellowstone well over a dozen times since I was six. This is a picture of my kids taken during our visit just last month (August 2021). It was a particularly cool morning, so there was more steam than in the picture above.

The beauty of the Grand Prismatic is awe-inspiring and breath-taking in person, but there is also a terrifying, emotional undercurrent for me when I stand on the boardwalk trying to take it all in.

It is so close – there are no handrails on the boardwalk. It is so deep – the blue water is crystal clear and when there isn’t much steam, you can see the details of the mud structure around the edge beneath the surface. It is so hot – people have died in Yellowstone from falling into hot springs.

Something about being so close to this sublime beauty subconsciously tugs at you to get closer than you should. It’s the same sensation I had at the top of the Grand Canyon and the top of the Empire State Building – as if some unseen tormentor was standing just over my shoulder willing me to jump – just to see what it would be like to fall into eternity.

When I think of Socrates’ argument that Beauty is a desire for that thing we lack in whose presence we feel a glimpse of immortality, I think of this place and its magnetic power – willing me to draw closer and closer, only to have it always stay just out of my reach.


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