It’s Gratituesday! Today I am thankful for National Parks, State Parks, Preserves, Wildlife Refuges, and all those other places set aside and protected and cared for.
There are a few road signs I’ve noticed over the years that point the way to a nearby point of interest, or state park, or other like-minded place. You know the ones I’m talking about. Odd named places that you have no idea about. Or places you’ve heard of, or maybe even seen on TV or looked at photos of, but have never visited. There are many like that around here. Some close, within an hours drive, others maybe three or four hours away.
I’ve lived in Arizona for fifteen years and haven’t visited the Grand Canyon yet. I know there are people from around the world who go to great expense and effort to see something I live so close to. All I need to do is get in the car and I’d be there by lunchtime. I’ve seen it, when I was thirteen years old. Blew me away, with its incomparable size, beauty, color, mystery and timelessness. Perhaps I’m afraid that original experience will somehow be tainted, or changed by another visit. Maybe I’m just lazy, or busy, or afraid of heights now. Maybe a little of all of those reasons or more.
I recently took the left hand turn into a small state park I’d seen the sign for. Sounded intriguing. Finally followed through and visited. It’s called Tonto Natural Bridge. It’s “the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point.”
I took over one hundred photos. Most of them didn’t do the place justice, mostly because it’s much more than a two-dimensional experience. MSH and I took the time to really explore, notice details, stop and think about what we were really seeing.
At one point we found a flat rock midstream and sat down, ate an orange, rested, had some water. Then we let ourselves lie back and look up and felt transported. I know that sounds silly. But the way the clouds swirled in a kind of mimicry of the opening above us felt orchestrated and serendipitous. A bird flying through the camera shot seemed unlikely, but it happened and felt like more than great timing or luck.
It felt like a sacred place, as such hidden gems sometimes do. I felt blessed, rested, lifted, rejuvenated, lightened by having been there.
I think now I’m more likely to take a detour next time I see a sign for one of these preserved places. Hurrying less brings its own reward, but sometimes, it can lead to something truly rewarding. Slowing down and turning off the main road can offer a reason for gratitude.
If you’d like you can click on a photo to see a closer view.