Posts Tagged With: Grand Canyon

Pay Attention to the Signs: or My Grand Grand Adventure

Grand doesn't begin to describe it.

Grand doesn’t begin to describe it.

It’s Gratituesday! I found out that you CAN go home again, after a fashion, and I’m thankful for that.

At thirteen years old I experienced the grandeur that is Grand Canyon. At the time I had two less siblings than I do now. So Mom and Dad only had five of us to keep track of. It’s a good thing back then that my Momfear genes hadn’t kicked in gear yet or I’d have been a total wreck.

We visited the North Rim, the less traveled and higher side. Ponderosa Pines line the roads all the way in to the edge. I love, love, loved my experiences there. Sunrise and sunset at the canyon invites heavenly choirs and every other supernal hyperbole one can imagine.

And then I never went back.

Why? Fear of heights kicked in for one thing. And living on the other side of the country presented obstacles for a while. But for the past eighteen years, living a mere three or four-hour drive away, I had no good excuse. Except I didn’t think I could survive having my children standing on a precipice with a mile drop off. Nope. I’m pretty sure I’d have died of a heart attack or anxiety attack or both.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

During Dad and Mom’s visit here in November they decided they wanted to take me to the Grand Canyon. “Of course!” I said. “What am I thinking? I must be nuts!” I thought to myself. I can’t say no to my parents. (Oddly, it wasn’t a problem when I was a kid.)

I found it a bit ironic that the first time I visited the Grand Canyon and the only other time I visited a few decades later involved my parents taking me there. I am a grownup, after all.

I didn’t feel so very grownup next to the edge of that massive, gaping fissure in the earth. Even with fences and railings my legs turned to jelly and my stomach did this rollercoaster thingy. That’s a perfectly legitimate guttural response to danger.

Do you see this sign?

Important sign.

Important sign.

Here, look closer!

Important sign.

Very Important sign.

Yes. This sign. It’s in multiple languages! For good reason! This is an important sign. (Oddly it’s only about twelve inches wide and sits low to the ground. You’d think it’d be the size of a billboard with flashing lights at eye level. Government operating at it’s best there, folks.)

And yet millions of visitors go hang out on the edge every single year. Why? Because this place defies AMAZING! And logic seems to vacate brains in the face of such wonders.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

A couple of people there had brought their dogs on a leash, and the dogs, bless their little palpitating hearts, did not want to go anywhere near the edge of the canyon. Smart animals!

One of my coping mechanisms of dealing with the terror I felt involved noticing the people around me. I can’t tell you how many different languages I heard spoken. And this wasn’t even during tourist season. We’re talking a Monday in November! And still the place teamed with humans from all over the planet. This made me feel really silly for not taking advantage of this stunning world wonder in my backyard. People fly from Tibet and Russia and Argentina and literally everywhere across the globe to my little desert state to visit this hole in the ground.

Layers and colors galore.

Layers and colors galore.

It’s a bit more than a hole. It’s epic. It’s Grand. It’s stunning.

The Grand Canyon defies description. I know people have tried. I’ve read some of the attempts. The place boggles my brain. How did something like this come to be? Was it really some gradual etching away by a tiny river? I have a hard time believing that. Seems like some massive flood of an interior sea had to have carved out such intensity. Or perhaps a cataclysmic earthquake pulling and pushing from the very center of the earth birthed such a wonder and then, rain and wind and erosion worked its slow magic on the fissure.

Crayola has nothing on the color spectrum that Grand Canyon provides. Every hue of red, orange, tan, green, gray, brown, gold, black, white and yes, even blue and purple began its life there. I could spend a week or more in that place and not get saturated with all it offers in color, sight, sound and smell.

Look close and you can see the virga.

Look close and you can see the virga.

While we were there a thin veil of clouds hovered at eye level between the south side, where we were, and the north side. The cloud released raindrops that evaporated before falling very far. Meteorologists call that virga, I call it art. An hour later the temperatures had dropped enough that the virga turned to tiny pellets of snow dusting the heads of visitors while the sun shone bright through the thin clouds. It felt like a moment of magic.

That's MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

That’s MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

Then, breaking the spell, MSH wandered out past the danger sign on to a ledge with a few other foolish souls. I told him I’d kill him if he fell. He had previously been saying how jealous he was of the birds who could fly out over the edge, swooping around, riding the columns of air. So I was more than your average nervous at this point. I couldn’t breathe while he stood out there, no fence to stop him or others from oopsing off the edge.

Getting me a bit sidetracked, Dad took up a conversation with a small group who spoke something Spanish sounding. Nope, he doesn’t speak Spanish, but they managed to communicate nonetheless. One of them pointed to herself and said, “Machu Pichu.” We understood that to mean she’s from Peru! Dad also overheard someone talking in a Russian dialect and yes, he does know a little Russian, so he chatted briefly with them. Boy were they surprised that an American could do that!

Finally after what felt like hours, MSH wandered back from the edge of death-by-falling-four-thousand-feet and I could start breathing again. He joked that it wasn’t the fall that kills you, but the landing that does you in. Not funny in the least.

Elk are big animals.

Elk are big animals.

We almost literally ran into a herd of elk. I, of course, jumped out of the car and ran across the road to take a closer picture. Those critters stand really, really tall, and foolish me stood only ten feet away. I’m sure they had a conversation among themselves that involved the words, stupid, human, squash and extinct. But I don’t speak Elk so I didn’t worry too much. I did get some great photos of these magnificent creatures.

In my younger years a part of me wanted to hike the canyon to give me a different perspective. I had set what seemed like a reasonable goal date, which has sadly come and gone. Part of me knew I was crazy and being unrealistic. Part of me still wants the experience. Visiting there renewed that desire.

I plan on going back again soon and staying longer, exploring more. Wouldn’t a Colorado River trip give The Canyon a whole different feel? Sounds fun to me. No potential falls involved.

Thank you Dad and Mom for helping me experience the Grand Canyon, both times. I loved sharing something so spectacular with two of my favorite people!

 

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“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.” ~ John Wesley Powell

 

 

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Categories: Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Before I Kick the Bucket

Bucket List, Schmucket List.

I’m probably one of three people on the planet who doesn’t have a bucket list.

So shoot me.

I’ve tried to make a list. I’ve started one. There’s one thing on it. I look at it and smirk. The smirk morphs into a self-deprecating laugh, which then mutates into a sinister shoulder devil.

The shoulder devil proceeds to tell me what a loser I am. The little dude whispers that I am what my life hands me. He murmurs things about obligations, commitments, real life and being self-less. I know, not your usual shoulder devil by any stretch. This one comes from the ranks of the Discouragement Platoon. He uses whatever he can get his hot little hands on.

He’s been quite effective so far in keeping me from even considering possibilities. Everything I can think of sounds unrealistic, undoable, pie-in-the-sky silly to me.

I don’t even start the list, I think of it in terms of questions and this shoulder devil smacks them down.

  • Write a novel? Right…that’s funny. When would you have time for that and who would read it anyway?
  • Hike the Grand Canyon? Are you kidding me? You’re seriously considering hauling this body down and back out of the biggest hole on the planet? Don’t you get out of breath going up a couple of flights of stairs?
  • Explore Alaska? Sure, right after you scrape together the rent money and sweep up what’s left over.
  • Build a cabin in the mountains? Silly girl, perks like that are for the beautiful, smart, adventurous people.
  • Eat at a five-star restaurant? Um, aren’t you the meatloaf and pot roast queen?
  • See the Statue of Liberty in person? Remember you don’t like crowds, big cities, the east coast?
  • Go on a week-long mountain bike trip? That’s really funny, have you seen what you look like on a bike? 

Sand bucket on the beach of Punta del Este, Ur...

Okay. So maybe I shouldn’t aim so high. Maybe my bucket list could take on a more realistic, more achievable, more down-to-earth feel.

For instance?

Like, oh, I don’t know.

A bucket list by definition is usually big important stuff, right?

So I’m stumped.

I could try looking at it a different way. What if I had less than a year to live? Then what would be on my list. My shoulder devil growls a low deep gurgle of aggravation and simmers himself into a poof of steam, disappearing for a while.

Phew.

  • See my other two daughters get married. Enjoy that look of bliss on their faces. Throw a big party for each of them.
  • See my granddaughter whose arrival is due in 3 months.
  • Tell my kids that I love them more than life itself.
  • Spend time with the other two Grands. Lights in my life!
  • Make sure MSH knows I cherish him. Thank him for the wild ride we’ve been on together. It would have been horrific without him.
  • Hug my Mom and Dad and try to infuse eternal gratitude into the hug.
  • Hang out with my siblings, chatting, laughing, reliving the good old days.
  • Apologize. Mend fences.
  • Write down everything I can get out of my head and on to paper about who I was, who I am, what I learned.
  • Laugh a bunch.

That would do it. It’s what’s really the big stuff. The big stuff that matters in the long run, in the short run, and while running out of breath.

Maybe I should get started.

That other stuff, may or may not happen. Whatever.

But the big, important stuff, I need to get ‘er done.

Categories: Death, Family, Humor, Relationships, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

That Way, This Way, My Way, Some Way

English: camino de santiago

camino de santiago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s more than a movie recommendation for you; “The Way” starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen.

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled on it last week.  Apparently it never got the usual blingy press and advertising.  That’s probably for the best.  Created with care, reverence, and respect, its clarity and thoughtful, natural pacing create a feel for what it must be to experience such a thing. Not a single part of it felt gratuitous or forced. It’s not a movie for the masses.

Here’s a summary quote about it from Netflix:

“When his son dies while hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in the Pyrenees, a grieving father decides to complete the 500-mile trek to Spain.”

The Camino de Santiago is basically “the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the  apostle Saint James are buried. “

Fascinated by this depiction of a modern-day pilgrimage, I let myself absorb the beauty of this film.  The scenery was pretty,  the trail looked user-friendly, the characters real. The story line was poignant and sincere. Something about this movie clicked in me and got me thinking.

So what is a pilgrimage and why do people do it? Dictionary.com defines it as

 “any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or to pay homage”

Certainly a pilgrimage isn’t something every person needs or wants.  But then, I wondered if life itself isn’t its own kind of pilgrimage for some, for many.

Hiker

(Photo credit: VagabondTravels)

I know some who are on a long journey as a single parent, others who are traveling a difficult path through the daily trial of depression. Still others know their long road is shorter than they’d like and will end early at death’s shore.  Providing long-term care for an ill family member must count as a journey worthy of honor or blessing.

I wonder if joining the military isn’t a kind of pilgrimage, certainly it’s self-sacrificing, serves a higher purpose and surely leads to deep introspection.

Service of a religious or charitable nature can take on the qualities of pilgrimage.

I’ve also wondered, since watching this movie, about my life.  Do I need a pilgrimage? Have I been through any kind of refiner’s fire? Sometimes I think the answer is yes, to both questions.

Then the question becomes; do I want to take on a pilgrimage by choice instead of by default?

There is an ocean and a continent or two between myself and any beginning point on that trail across Spain.  I would need a very substantial reason to walk such a path, to invest that much time and that many resources into such a quest.  I’m not catholic, so a traditional religious reason doesn’t exist for taking this on. I’m sure, at this point in my life, I haven’t got the reason, the time or the resources, or the physical ability to take on something as big as the Camino de Santiago.

Grand Canyon, from South Rim near Visitor Center

Grand Canyon, from South Rim near Visitor Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I set a goal some years back to hike the Grand Canyon. It seemed a reasonable quest, with a realistic time to prepare, to plan, to follow through.  The goal date came and went long ago and I had done nothing to move myself toward it.  Did I not really want to do it?  Was it worthy of my time and attention?  Or did life simply have other paths for me to take?

I feel compelled to find a reason, a justification perhaps, to take on such a quest as the Camino de Santiago. And yet, I find excuses at the ready, and know it’s something that will never happen for me.  To think otherwise is to be a dreamer of the silliest sort.

Maybe all I need to do is treat my life more like the pilgrimage that it is. What’s my quest?  What am I hoping to pay homage to? Where am I going? What am I hoping to achieve on this journey I’m on.  What are the milestones and how will I honor them? All good questions I ought to know the answers to.

Have you been on a pilgrimage? Any experience with something like this? Any desire to do such a thing?

Categories: Outdoors, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Have Never

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never been to Disneyland, or Disneyworld.  I have been inside the Disney store at the mall.

I have never visited the Grand Canyon in the fifteen years we’ve lived in Arizona.  I saw it when I was thirteen and not yet afraid of heights.  I wrote poetry about it, even.

I have never jumped out of an airplane and never intend to.

I have never ridden in a hot air balloon.  Not so sure I want to do that. Although it looks peaceful, the height thing might get to me.

I have never traveled outside of the United States.  Unless you count British Columbia on a day trip.  I guess you could, it’s Canada, after all, right?  You’d think I’d have made it to Mexico by now, but haven’t had much reason, money or desire to do that.

I have never been overseas either.  That’d be cool.  I’ll have to start a bucket list, maybe.

I have never met anyone really famous.  That’s okay by me. They’re just like every other person except a bunch of people know who they are, right? Yeah, sour grapes here.

I have never been to a big rock concert.  This holds some interest in the back of my mind, but not enough to really do anything about it.

I have never successfully ridden a skateboard.  Tried once, landed on my backside.  Snowboarding, I suspect would end up the same way but with more dire consequences.

I have never spent more than three seconds upright behind a boat trying to water ski.

I have never had a conversation in a foreign language.  I’d like to change that.

I have never gone cliff diving, or cliff jumping.  There’s that afraid of heights thing again.

On the other hand…

I have spent a night in the wilderness alone.

I have gone rock climbing at five months pregnant.

I have experienced the joy of skiing many times.

I have watched a grandchild being born.

I have known the love of a kind husband.

I have reveled in the beauty that is Alaska.

I have been part of friendships that lifted me and helped make me whole.

I have enjoyed the blessing of extended family reaching out in many directions.

I have had the once in a lifetime amazement of being on a cruise ship on the ocean.

I have kayaked in the ocean.

I have been involved in something bigger than myself.

I have firsthand seen the wonders of Yellowstone Park multiple times.

I have lived in many different places in the United States and found all sorts of wonderful.

I have driven a snowmobile, and a motorcycle.

I have ridden my bicycle long distances, even conquered a pretty big hill a few times.

I have given birth and held those miracles in my arms and watched them become adults.

I have felt the exhilaration of a second wind that comes when running past exhaustion.

I have felt satisfaction, holiness, peace, joy, serenity, contentment.

I have been changed by some experiences that are unspeakable, unshareable.

I have tried to be true to myself, honest with others, kind, helpful, real.

I think the “haves“ outweigh the “have nevers”.

Categories: Gratitude, Joy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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