On the Grand Canyon
We arrived at the Grand Canyon on an unexpectedly dreary day. Dressed for a sunny 99 we found ourselves in a rainy 62. Determined to see as much as we could before the drizzle turned into a pour we scurried down to the first lookout. Even in the rain with the fog preventing us from seeing across the canyon I couldn’t help but feel tingly in the knees looking out across the view.
I stood amongst the tourists greedily grabbing their pictures and wondered how I was different than them. I stood with my cameras just as they stood with theirs and we looked out at the same view and I wondered if they were as humbled as I was, if they felt the same urge to bend at the knee and confess all sins to the canyon. How was the click of their iphone any different than the snap of my shutter? Were we all just desperate to capture some of the beauty and take with us, something to show the world “I made it, I was here.”
But looking at the canyon was not enough, just as looking at anything is rarely enough and the urge to dive in head first was strong. I wanted to spring to the nearest pathway and beg my feet to carry me down, to stumble on the rocks and touch the brush with my fingertips and really experience the land. To consume the land and be consumed by the land as my body worked with and against it to get me to the bottom.
On the west
Something about the west just catches me in the spot right between my heart and my stomach, that spot that occasionally swells up when you’re falling in love or when you get a bit of especially good news, and that’s a hard spot to touch in a person. You can’t forcefully trigger it and half the time you don’t even feel it exists until it suddenly starts swelling up like a balloon again and you find yourself remembering it’s there, caught up in the swell of things and feeling elated.
It’s that feeling that pushed me out of the Midwest, away from everyone I love. It’s that feeling that I’m chasing around out here like a fool in the desert. And every time I think that the longing for the people I left behind will get so strong I can’t take it anymore, we round a corner to the most beautiful stretch of road, or the strong western light strikes the mountains just right, or the giant sky of the west opens up and reminds me that there’s something bigger out there, or the fading sunset silhouettes the saguaros in a way that can’t be portrayed on tv or in a picture but can only be seen and felt in real time, and then the swelling happens, that gut/heart falling in love swoon that pulls you further down the road, that pushes you to the next adventure.
I don’t have it figured out, this compulsion. I don’t know where it comes from or what it means. But there’s something special out here in the west, something that they don’t make anymore. It’s not a feeling you can get from a person but something that exists in the land, and you can only get by living presently in a place that excites the most childish but also wisest part of your body.