Thursday, February 11, 2016
The Grand Canyon - Moments
The vast spaces of the Grand Canyon surrounded us each day as we paddled and made camp. Still, I found time to wander into a few of the quiet corners, moving slowly, eyes to the details. The sense of the immense and wild space of towering canyon walls, slopes, ledges, peaks and mesas all around pervaded these wanderings. Yet I found myself drawn to the details, to small objects, minuscule mysteries, clues, stories in sand, leaf, fossil, creature or tracks of creature, artifact, blossom and stone — especially stone. These details helped make the wider space seem more alive and also more ephemeral. These signs of change, both rapid and geological, narrowed the focus down to these single moments. Moments seen. The shadows of the moments held carefully within the camera. As I moved slowly. Peered intently. Formed questions. Imagined answers.
Each of these moments could perhaps be seen to reflect outward again, to the immeasurable moments that have collected across time and place to create this canyon. Mountains ground to sand. Sand blown into dunes. Oceans born and drained. Small lives lived and the skeletons of those lives sunken and compressed into stone. Of heat and fire, lava and storm. Of mud and water and wind and grit and the grinding away of the deep spine of the earth. All the multitudes of moments gathered into a single moment of observation. Gathered. Then gone. Because the canyon, the world, everything continues to change.
Perhaps change caused by the hasty hand of humanity is as inexorable as the forward grind of geology. The Grand Canyon has been changed. In the 4000 years since humans first arrived. In the 150 years since it was re-explored by the progeny of an industrial revolution. In the 50 years since the river above was dammed. Changed in tiny ways and extravagant ways by every human who has exploited the resources, floated the river, descended the slopes and cliffs, flown over in an airplane or peered over the edge from the rim. And this change will continue.
As I wandered into side canyons, across the beaches and along the river, it was pleasing to see few signs of the industrial society that spreads across the planet and crowds the edges of this refuge; an industrial society that, admittedly, had allowed me—by way of car and road, boat and paddle, information and infrastructure, finances and leisure time—to come to this place. I had a sense that, despite the long string of travelers and explorers and exploiters, the Grand Canyon continues to hold something important. Something more than air and light and water and stone.
Perhaps this: that beneath my feet, churning below the veneer of civilization, there is still a wilder world. And that this wilder world is vitally important. I may visit the small corners where the wildness shows through. I may stand and peer toward these places. Or I may only imagine these places exist. But it remains important for me to know that they do exist. And that were I to lose them, I would have lost something that makes me human. Something that, with gentle attention, I may be able to capture. And hold. If only for a moment.