The sudden flood that swept more than a dozen people to their deaths in and around Zion National Park in Utah on Sept. 15 was one of nature’s genuinely stunning forces. The arid plains and canyons of the southwest are normally bone-dry places where hands chap and lips crack and every beast and plant is fitted by genetics to hoard each drop of moisture.
Few people understand how quickly a line of thunderclouds on the far horizon can turn from raindrops in the dust to ankle-deep gully washers, nor how violently these little streams converge into a single wall of water.
The late Edward Abbey was one who did understand. Hard-bitten bard of the American desert, Abbey rendered a memorable description in his 1968 masterpiece, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness:
- Volodymyr Zelensky and the Spirit of Ukraine: TIME's 2022 Person of the Year
- Mickey Guyton Is TIME's 2022 Breakthrough Artist of the Year
- The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2022
- Column: What Elon Musk Gets Wrong About Free Speech
- The Forgotten Story of One of the First U.S. Soldiers Killed Overseas After Pearl Harbor
- Why You're More Likely to Get Sick in the Winter, According to New Research
- Column: What the Protests Tell Us About China's Future
- 18 Last-Minute Gifts for Everyone on Your List