I live in Flagstaff, AZ now so I had to make my way to the Grand Canyon at some point, being that it is only an hour away. I had heard people talking about it in the past and they always seemed to say the same thing, “It’s indescribable. It’s beyond words.” I half-heartedly took these comments into consideration, as words can’t really convey the beauty and magnitude of a place but here I am writing about my experience there, trying to put the indescribable into words. And I must say, hopping on the wagon of cliched remarks, it is absolutely indescribable.
I have seen canyons before that were magnificent and daunting. I love canyons because they reveal layers of our world history that would otherwise be lost forever. They uncover not just the history of eras past, but the color and detail of a time, stacked, interwoven, and beautifully composited for us to see and marvel. They display the power of water and time and there is a certain energy that a river at the bottom of a canyon gives off to those observing, like some flowing force far beyond the scale of our tiny lives. The colors, textures, and scale of rock echoes to the past and to the nature of change. They display history and time in a way to us that is both daunting and entrancing.
The first view of the Grand Canyon strikes one with an immediate sense of awe and disbelief. The layers of cliffs, the nuances of color and texture, and the sheer scale of its depth bewilder the mind and soul. It’s on another scale entirely from anything I have experienced. A single cliff face would be impressive enough, but it leads into another and another and another. It is a chasm within a chasm within a chasm. Far beyond the comprehension of our brain, we are simply left with a compositional spectacle that is as mesmerizing as it is mysterious. The river cannot be seen from many spots along the canyon rim, so it really has the illusion of being an endless abyss, delving down into the depths of oblivion.
My dad, who was visiting at the time, and I decided to hike down the canyon a way for a more up-close, intimate encounter with this beast of a thing. It was a cool afternoon, as a thunderstorm was approaching from the southside of the canyon. The shade was welcome on our journey down into the rocky void. As the clouds rose overhead, a light rain began to fall over the canyon. The cold stinging of the rain gave the air an electric feeling. The wind was heavy at times and added to the thrill and danger of the hike, swirling the trees and shrubs in a frantic dance and forcing one to be vigilant and on their toes. The low roaring of thunder would echo throughout the canyon. All of these elements combined to create a stimulating, atmospheric experience that was invigorating and intoxicating!
As the rain subsided a mist fell over the canyon, only vaguely illuminating the top layers of cliff faces laid out before us. The mist gave the canyon an ethereal feel, like the layers of rocky outcrops were suspended in air. They looked like rocky islands floating in space, beyond the reach of mere humans, each one a world of wonder and mystery.
The play of lighting, color, layers, texture, and scale are a thrill for anyone finding themselves wandering down into the depths of this unfathomable phenomenon. The canyon will break you down to your most basic elements. It will enthrall you with a sense of wonder at the magnitude of size, of time, and of force. We are but fleeting, humble visitors to its grandeur, allure, and mystery. Being in the depths of its clutches and feeling myself amidst a landscape far beyond ourselves in space and time is both humbling and connecting.
I find nature on this scale to be rejuvenating and paradigm shifting. It can certainly help with stress and allows me to get out of my own head for a time and engage with something far beyond myself. To feel both large and small at the same time and to feel connected to everything around is why I seek out places like this. It is a welcome perspective of the vastness of our world, as well as the vastness of our imagination. There are many lessons in nature for those who choose to wander and inflaming my sense of wonder really helps me escape to a heavenly place. I think we all could use a heavenly place to escape to in today’s world. To be present and whole in a moment surrounded by sensation, beauty, and wonder, that’s my heaven. ❤