In looking at the attraction to these landmarks there are some obvious aspects such as an easily identifiable natural feature that you can communicate, such as “two miles south of Chimney Rock.” Then there is the piece about the imagery of free standing rock pillars.
The obvious association with rock spires is the phallus shape which conjures up things about masculinity and power. But I also think there is the hopeful recognition in the resemblance to monumental scale humans, perhaps the original inspiration for commemorative statuary. In an animistic bend we can enliven these giant formations with a living presence – the Rock People.
When I visit the area around Ghost Ranch I am cognizant of the mechanics of geology through my years of study, with the “explaining” of how the sediment was laid down, layer after layer, with each stratum telling its own tale. Then the layers being compressed underground for eons and its reemergence as it slowly gets worn down into sediment again by the wind and moisture, freezing and thawing.
This explaining diminishes the magic if you let it. Science can trivialize the wonder of nature with the notion that things happen “normally.”
Science used properly can amplify your appreciation of what you see. “This used to be an ocean beach dune and is now in the side of a cliff 2000 miles away from the sea!”
Such information baffles me back into the magic of our Earth.
Oh- and look over there at that hoo-doo- I see a face!