Are You Cursed If You Steal Rocks From the Petrified Forest?

A Photographer Ponders Beauty, Truth, and the Guilt of Visitors Who Pilfer Souvenirs From the Arizona National Park

In 2011, I was traveling in Arizona photographing meteorites and the misidentified meteorites known as “meteor-wrongs.” My work with the meteor-wrongs went quicker than expected and my wife and I saw the Petrified Forest National Park wasn’t far away, so we took a day trip out that way. And that’s where I stumbled onto a display of these letters, written by people who’d taken petrified rocks from the park but then wanted to send them back.

I was blown away by the letters. They were at turns heartbreaking and hilarious. People …