Sunday, March 17, 2013

Grand Canyon and Painted Desert

Okay, folks, the reason why I came to Flagstaff is to see the Grand Canyon.  That much should be obvious.  Two years ago I thought that I’d see it on the way back from my bike trip across the country, but, as many of you know, that trip had to be cut short by five days.  Those five days proved fateful because I was then unable to penetrate Arizona and thus unable to see the canyon on my return trip.  Plus, the reason why the trip had to be shortened was that my friend who had been driving the support vehicle for me had been hospitalized with heat stroke and dehydration, so it would have been rather cruel to coerce him to the canyon with me.  Now that I’ve seen the canyon, though, I can’t put words to it.

During my trip the Grand Canyon I was able to take a helicopter ride over and in the canyon as well as drive through the Painted Desert to then walk down in Lower Antelope Canyon at the head of the Grand Canyon.  The Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and the Painted Desert are all beyond description.  Seriously.  For that very reason, if you are a writer or an artist of any kind and you are not moved in some way by any of these Arizona landmarks, then you are a strange one, indeed.  Next to these landmarks you cannot help but feel insignificant, possessing inferior talent to that of Nature.  But I think that the form of despair one feels knowing that we can never match the creativity and talent of Nature allows one to feel more free.  The best possible works of art have already been painted or sculptured.  We can therefore let go of the desire to do the best, which then relieves our mind and pen of insurmountable pressure; the weaker the gravity, the higher we can jump.

Of course, we usually think of the Grand Canyon and such as artistically inspiring.  The sights I’ve seen have been inspiring in that way, and for that I am thankful. 

The Grand Canyon was also inspiring in the sense of “finding myself.”  I hate that phrase.  I hate blogging.  But someone keeps telling me to do it.  Up to the moment that I first saw the canyon I had fought against thinking of this trip as a “vision quest” or whatever.  I have always believed that God is the answer to everything so that if anyone ever feels lost or empty they need not move an inch.  Still, when I saw the grandness of the Grand Canyon I realized that I have been lost.  For quite a while have I been lost.  I suddenly realized this because seeing the Grand Canyon, even the helicopter ride, was extremely disappointing.  At that time it was obviously an amazing sight but it didn’t seem at all special to me.  I realized that I needed to return home, to return to God; and to stop running away from who I want to be, who I am, just like Ed urged me to. 

The next day, driving through the Painted Desert and walking through Antelope Canyon, was a far more delightful day.  Maybe I just prefer the brilliance of these landmarks over the Grand Canyon, but I am quite certain that the reflection and prayer and new resolve of the previous day had a lot do with the better experience.  It certainly helps, too, that I’ve been reading Kierkegaard’s masterpiece Either/Or.  Now what most matters is whether or not I can stay true to my new determination and plough through with my writing regardless of how difficult it may seem to publish the way that I want to.

If anyone is thinking of visiting the Arizona sights I highly recommend staying in Flagstaff as I did.  I’m sure there are other good options, but Flagstaff seems to be central to just about everything.  Flagstaff is also home to the Discover Canyon Store, whose staff is incredibly nice, helpful, and enjoyable.  They organized my trip to the Grand Canyon, gave me and eleven others a ride to South Rim sites, and provided one of the most personable guides I’ve ever met, Dave. 

Final note: In Page, Arizona, near Antelope Canyon, I ate at a place called Zapatas.  My waiter was a young man.  He was so great to talk to and helpful that I have to mention the restaurant.

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