The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Massive prehistoric-esque chunks of rock glitter in the sunlight, covered in amethyst and quartz and opal: fossils of fallen trees over two million years old. They call it the rainbow forest and it is nothing short of magic, the kind of thing that realigns your ideas of time. As you travel through the park they whisper your name and catch your eye, but beware, those who take any piece are not only breaking the law, but cursing themselves in the simple act.
Bad Luck, Hot Rocks perfectly collects and illustrates the strangeness of being human, our tendencies and our guilt, and then turns it into art. It was created by artists Ryan Thompson and Phil Orr, and published by The Ice Plant. The book is a compilation of handwritten “conscience letters” that accompanied rocks being returned to the forest by tourists who had taken them home. The letters lament the regret of having taken these magical relics from their resting place, as afterwards they’d suffered a series of misfortunes ranging from death to lost love to car trouble. Sometimes the rocks come back a few months later and sometimes it took decades.
The interesting thing is not only that these letters exist, but that there are so many of them. People have been mailing back these rocks and letters to the rangers of the park for nearly a century. The letters range from a simple apology to people begging the park to return the rocks to their original resting place in some sort of attempt to right the wrong they’ve brought upon themselves. Some are even funny and others knock so heavily at the misfortune of being human that it is heartbreaking. But, these rocks cannot be put back. They are instead added to what the they call “The Conscience Pile,” a pile of rocks along the service road cast out from the rest of the attraction.
These petrified rocks are either notoriously bad luck or the guilt that comes with taking one is some kind of bad luck energy vortex. Does a curse exist or does it exist because these people believed in the folklore? Either way, the rocks keep on disappearing and they keep on coming back. So, I am curious if it is at all possible to un-curse yourself? Can we right our wrongs to the point of right again? Must it come in the form of an action or does it all come within? Can we simply make things right by just letting go of the guilt we carry for the things we’ve done?