(Written at Grand Canyon National Park, AZ)
I’ve been told by reputable sources that one cannot put the experience of seeing the Grand Canyon into words – and I completely believe them. I am, however, very stubborn, so I’m going to try anyway.
I won’t bore you with the details of the drive – while beautiful, it pales in comparison to the canyon itself. While parking, I could see the upper rim of the other side of it, and could feel my mind struggling with the sheer vastness of space. Big is too small a word, as is huge, vast, deadly, singularly beautiful. It is all of these things, but rejects those descriptions out of hand as epically inadequate.
It took a while just staring down at one of the many guardrailed “scenic point” (this is laughable – there are no non-scenic points) to begin to see it in three dimensions. At first, your mind tries to view it in only two – a beautiful canvas somehow dropped into the background, safe and flat. But not real. Then, perhaps you notice the giant hawks above you and watch as one swoops down and begins circling over the landscape, lower and lower, until from sheer distance it becomes a speck of sand – and then nothing. That’s when the first jolts of adrenaline shoot up the backs of your legs and your brain – at last grasping the scale of it – tries to propel you backwards. Away from the edge. Toward relative safety.
What is fascinating to me is the purity of the experience (now, mind, we didn’t do a multi-day hike into it or even fully around the rim – I’m sure that is breathtaking and it’s on my lifelong to-do list now). So many sights are sanitized heavily, made less lovely by infrastructure to prevent injuries and lower insurance rates, made “safe.” This place is not “safe.” There are a few points where rails exist, but places without any rails, even at the very top of the rim, are ubiquitous – thank goodness. As I write this, I am sitting on a rock outcropping less than a foot away from the edge (and certain death, were I to slip or fall). The fluttering in my stomach never ceases to remind me of that fact. A few moments ago, I carefully slid forward, inch by inch, until my legs were dangling at the knees above a 4000+ foot drop that defies imagination. Scared me to death, but I loved it, looking down and down and down beneath my feet. I felt so alive. The adrenaline surged through my entire body and there was silence, but for the alarm klaxon ringing in my ears. I allowed myself but a few moments – hyper-aware and breathing fast – before I, carefully, slid back to my previous perch.
That sounds, and felt, perhaps far more epic than it actually was. But, I don’t really care what it looked like to anyone who may have passed by. It FELT epic. It FELT like I’d stared death in the face for a moment before bowing respectfully and beating a hasty retreat. And it sure beat a Monday afternoon in the office, even though there’s not much obvious danger in a call center. Maybe the reason it beat the office was because of the danger – or because of the thin, crisp air, amazing sights, and because I’m several states away. All I know is that I can’t stop smiling.
Next stop: Vegas.
Also, Rhys was bitten by a squirrel and I totally frontier medicine’d him, but that’s his story to tell.
PPS: Brad dangled with me – Nikki dangled later on too. Fist bump!