Walking Spiral Jetty


Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty has an almost mythic status. Perhaps less so, now that is has been routinely visible for some years. According to Wikipedia

“At the time of its construction, the water level of the lake was unusually low because of a drought. Within a few years, the water level returned to normal and submerged the jetty for the next three decades. Due to a drought, the jetty re-emerged in 2004 and was completely exposed for almost a year. The lake level rose again during the spring of 2005 due to a near record-setting snowpack in the mountains and partially submerged the Jetty again. Lake levels receeded and, as of spring 2010, the Jetty is again walkable and visible.”

Spiral Jetty was completely exposed when I visited, and I walked around and along it easily. Nevertheless, it was “hard” to see. Like driving through Yosemite earlier in the week and feeling as if all I could see through the windshield were the views of Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adams, El Capitain, The Four Seasons in Yosemite National Park. via http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/four_seasons_in_yosemite/summer.html

I walked up close to Spiral Jetty. I walked out to the edge of the water, now far from the jetty. I climbed the hill overlooking. Sat still. Walked some more. In the end, I was not disappointed. It wasn’t the pictures of Spiral Jetty I was seeing. It wasn’t like the Mona Lisa, behind its bullet-proof glass, where the crowds were more “interesting” than the artwork. It was somehow, still, the thing itself.