Water and Stone: A Photo Essay


Most of us easily see the beauty in a gauzy tropical waterfall surrounded by jungle. But what about the subtle sights closer to home—dewdrops on a green leaf, or the shifting patterns of shimmering light on dark water?

The Grand Canyon’s stone splendor is breathtaking. But have you learned to appreciate the sturdy ruggedness of mere rock? The delicate shadings of tone in windblown sand?

When you can see beauty in the ordinary, learn lessons from the commonplace, life is far richer.

Consider the parables of the Savior. He created this world with all of its wonders. Yet his teachings are full of everyday things: lilies and sparrows, bread and candles …

Water and Stone

Water: Soft and fleeting as dew. Powerful as a river at flood, grinding boulders like gnashing teeth. Peaceful as a duck-strewn pond at dawn. Fierce as a wind-tormented ocean. Life-giving water, itself alive with protozoa and porpoises, tiny amoebas and great whales.

Stone: Ordinary and gray as weathered limestone. Glowingly colorful as redrock desert at sunset. Common and dull as the gravel of a country road. Bright and rare as a diamond. Stone sturdy and firm—the very foundation of sea and land.

We drink water, swim in it, grow crops with it.

We walk on stone, build with it, coax metals from it.

Water and stone surround us—so common, so taken for granted that we cease even to see them. Yet in such common things both prophets and poets, philosophers and photographers find inspiration. In such ordinary things the artist sees great beauty and the spirit sees great truths.

Where steady firmness is required, sand will not do. Shifting, yielding, it symbolizes unsteadiness. Recall the Savior’s parable of the house built on sand:

“Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:26–27).

For a firm foundation, stone is required.

“Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

And yet, looked at another way, stone is barren and lifeless. Being hard, it resists shaping and moulding.

“But they refused to hearken …

“Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone” (Zech. 7:11–12).

And so I would choose the best qualities of both sand and stone. I would have my integrity be as immovable as stone, my testimony founded upon the rock of revelation and truth.

But my heart? May it be soft as sand, even toward my enemies. May it yield easily to the promptings of the Spirit. And may it gladly drink in the living water. Humbled from rock into fertile soil, may it become a fruitful garden.

The world owes so much of its beauty to water: ocean and brooklet, cloud and rainbow, dew-fresh flower and snow-capped peak. The delicious scent of rain-washed earth and the glistening freshness of rain-washed city streets.

So many truths find symbolic expression in water.

Water—essential for life. Water that cleanses and quenches. That makes deserts blossom as roses.

Living water—essential for eternal life. Cleansing the inner vessel, quenching the thirst for righteousness. Causing the soul to bloom and be fruitful.

To the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus said:

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13–14).

As a child I delighted in breaking open rocks, looking for the wonders of color and sparkle and pattern that often hide under the most common-appearing surface.

As a man I delight in the wonders of wisdom, the sparkles of humor, the subtle patterns of individuality that lie beneath the surface of the “common” people around me. The beauty in mankind is revealed to the loving eye, striving to see as the Lord sees.

“For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Dew—subtle, and delicate, and pure. It comes quietly from heaven, refreshing and soothing. It does not linger long and cannot be stored, but must be replaced constantly from above, like manna. Its beauty is appreciated by those who appreciate gentleness, who cherish purity.

“… Gentleness … meekness … love unfeigned … charity … virtue … and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:41, 45).

Water and stone take countless forms—diamonds and ice, mountain and sea. The truths that may be learned from them are just as numerous. The beauties to be seen are as varied as the individual eyes and hearts that perceive them. And the key to perception is this: Those who draw close to the Creator see more of the truth and beauty in all He made.

[photos] Photos by Anselm Spring