Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Grand Canyon yada, yada, yada …

As we got closer to the Grand Canyon, a perfect storm was brewing. The weather was changing, neither of us was sleeping very well, and we had been on this trip for almost 30 days. 30 days of almost perfect weather and out of this world experiences. So if I was not initially jumping out of my skin with excitement about the Grand Canyon — that was my excuse. The other part of the perfect storm was that I just didn’t feel like writing.

Blogging felt like work and I wasn’t very happy with my last posts. It all felt like blah blah blah and not interesting tidbits from an amazing trip. Marc kept reminding me I was behind, which as you can imagine, was really helpful. I suggested maybe he give it a try, but all I got was a shrug. So we had our first blip. Not every moment of this journey is going to be perfect.

Of course, it would not be a perfect journey if every day was perfect, but when it’s happening, it feels like disaster has just struck.

We both also came to the conclusion about this time that it is much better to sleep in our car/motel, than to sleep in cheap (which equals crappy) accommodation. Which led to questions about how we will fare in India. Lots of questions that are impossible to answer until they become realities. Too bad we didn’t have room in our travel bags for our crystal ball!

So if you can stand to read through this, here is how it went down — there is a happy ending!

When we arrived at the Grand Canyon, it was completely overcast, freezing, and uninviting. I knew there was an amazing view out there, but I couldn’t see it. We had warm clothes with us, but the unrelenting wind and rain/snow was a big deterrent. Marc’s plans for our three days here were as grand as the Grand Canyon, and it was clear from the get go that we would not be able to accomplish even a small part of it. As we walked along the rim trail our first day, I felt like I was going to be blown over the edge! We did walk for a few hours and I did take pictures, but really, they were not worth posting.

We spent an amazingly cozy first night in our car/motel, after spending the evening sitting in the heated (but otherwise unremarkable) cafeteria at the Park Village with many of the other campers. This has become a theme in all of the Parks we have visited. They allow you to hang out as long as you want — and they have free wifi. Considering how horrible it was outside, this was really a godsend. Bedraggled people all around in multiple layers of clothing, huddled around computers of all sizes and shapes, skype calls in dozens of languages permeating the room, and cords plugged into every available outlet. Sounds like a bad movie, but it was somehow comforting, to be inside and warm and to have Internet. It is the small things that keep you going in trying times.

In the morning we both concluded that getting the hell out of Dodge, was the best plan. Getting out of our sleeping bags was another thing entirely! It was 6:30 am and f----ing freezing! There was no sign of snow, but it was cold enough for it. We counted to 10 and got out of our bags, and into warm clothes as quickly as possible and headed for the East Exit of the Park. There were more things to see along that road and we hoped that as the sun came up, it might give us a break and make an appearance through the thick gray clouds.

And it did!

By the time we got to the East entrance of the park, the clouds had all but disappeared. It was as if the spirit of the Grand Canyon wasn’t going to let us leave without experiencing some of her majesty — at least for a brief moment.

This all happened as we were beginning our visit to the Watchtower, an amazing structure, designed by Mary Colter, the same architect who designed La Posada in Winslow, and several other amazing buildings at the Grand Canyon.

This building, and my complete admiration for this amazing woman, architect, artist, visionary, was the highlight of my visit to the Grand Canyon. It made all of what came before, disappear.

I really don’t know where to start in describing what I felt when I walked through that door. Perhaps it was the culmination of all of the visits to Peubloan ruins in the area and the poverty we experienced in Canyon De Chelly. Or my reflection on the ranger talks about the displacement of the Hopi and Havasupai in this Park. Maybe it was the strong feeling that I described in an earlier post of feeling like I am trespassing on someone's property. A deep feeling of despair for the scars of progress, that really never heal. Maybe all of these things. Mary Colter in her work here in the Park, attempts to make this right. She spent years researching the Peubloan ruins, the building methods, the pictographs and petroglyphs of the ancient peoples who’s spirits are in this Canyon. She cultivated relationships and consulted with the elders who were still living on ancestral lands and collaborated with Hopi artists to make her concepts realities.

I will never be able to capture what I saw in words or photos, no matter how many of both I use to try to describe it. You have to be there, to breathe in the spirit and feel the depth of the experience. As you walk up the winding staircase to the top of the tower, Mary has cut out windows in the walls, which frame views going 360 degrees around the tower. If we had been there the day before we would have seen only clouds, but that day, at that time, the sky was perfectly blue and we saw for the first time the grandness of the Grand Canyon.

The Hopi People believe that they were born through a hole in the sky and were destined to work hard and wander the earth in search of their homeland. They believe that their Jerusalem is the Grand Canyon. Even though they now occupy only a small fraction of land in the Canyon, and they have been forced to abandon most of their land and their way of life, they still remain here, tied to this land. Mary Colter, helped me experience their rich history while wandering through the Watchtower, and Hopi house, which she also designed. Both buildings celebrate the cultures of the people who built their homes here, cultivated crops here, and prayed to their creator.

As we exited the Park from the East, I felt totally inspired. The blip was just that — a blip and it was over.

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