Lost and found (and things too big for words)

by Jennifer on April 28, 2008

What can I say about the Grand Canyon that someone else hasn’t already said? Others before me have exhausted all the superlatives. But I can think ahead a hundred years, or a thousand (assuming that we don’t destroy the planet before either of those dates), and imagine everyone in the future feeling just as wordless. Who knows, maybe there will be a few new words to use by then, words that can describe that kind of beauty without seeming trite or redundant or like an echo of all the words that have been spoken or written before.

I found myself wondering how long it might take to grow used to seeing that view every day. Do park rangers or gift shop employees look out their car windows as they make their way to work, hoping for a glimpse of a spectacular view, or do they become accustomed to it? Is that possible?

I won’t bore you with a lot of photos, since mine are nothing compared to what real photographers might capture. Besides, I don’t want you to feel like you’re stuck in your neighbors’ family room, looking at tray after tray of slides from their vacation, while the whir of the slide projector puts you to sleep.

This is the first photo I took:

Several moments passed before I could even think of taking any pictures, it was just that overwhelming. All the photos I’ve ever seen of the Grand Canyon did not prepare me for the vastness of it.

I found this quote from John Muir, on how to describe the Grand Canyon:

The prudent keep silence. –from Steep Trails

Of course, Muir was quite articulate and poetic in his own descriptions of nature, including the Grand Canyon, but I still think I will follow that advice.

Boy and Girl were thoroughly in awe, and that was almost better than my own exhilaration. Boy said “Cool!” and “Awesome!” so many times that we couldn’t have kept count. Girl was proud of her own bravery, holding tight to Grandma J’s hand to keep her from being scared (Grandma J doesn’t like heights).

While I have a rather serious respect for heights, also, I couldn’t resist hiking down to a point that was more exposed (there was a trail leading to it).

Boy and Girl stayed up at the top with Grandma J and Papa, safe behind a stone wall.

Standing out on that rock wasn’t scary for me (I think my fear of heights is specific to things like ladders and rooftops), but it must have looked a bit frightening to my kids.

I zoomed in from where I was and took this photo:

When I found out Boy said that, I felt a little bit bad for scaring him. But I was glad that I showed him that his old mom wasn’t afraid to do something that looked intimidating, at least from where he stood.

Our last stop in the park was at Desert View, where we climbed to the top of the Watchtower:

I wasn’t in possession of the map, so I didn’t realize that this was the easternmost stop in the park. So when we drove away, I also didn’t realize that I wouldn’t have another chance for a last look at the Grand Canyon.

I could have cried at that. That’s just how I’m wired. I am not sure I can explain what that last long look would have done for me. All I could do as we drove on was to philosophize about which was better: to have that chance for a farewell look and a goodbye, or to be left unsatisfied, wanting even more to return. There’s a good chance that either one would have left me feeling the way I did. The way I do.

Like I had lost something.

I hope what I lost is the part of me that sometimes holds me back from making the effort to create an adventure like the one we had this last weekend. It’s not so hard, and this particular trip was almost as close as my back yard. I suppose it wasn’t even an adventure, since we never actually left a paved road , but I’m counting it, still. How could I have ignored a place like that all this time and put off seeing something so beautiful?

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

DP April 28, 2008 at 4:15 am

Jennifer –

My first “real” vacation was with a friend and her family to the Grand Canyon. I’ll never forget the awe I felt standing there on the rim of the canyon. I took several rolls of pictures, but nothing captured what I stood while I was standing there in person. It was amazing.

Glad you got to see it in person. Peace – D

Dave April 28, 2008 at 4:42 am

Muir’s words couldn’t be truer, eh? I’m glad you guys had fun. You’re braver than I am going out to that ledge! My ex and I went out there maybe 15-20 yrs back. We did a little hiking down on the trails, and I swore I would be back there real soon to keep on hiking. And here it is, 2008. So yeah, I understand your sadness as you drove away. These moments need to be savored!

cce April 28, 2008 at 4:57 am

I am always in need of a slow burning parting, a poignant look, a way to store a face or a scene as if the last lingering pause will somehow help me store the memory. But it sounds like you had already made your impressions, stored your awe, long before the final parting.

Now I want to go there with a sickness.

Brenda April 28, 2008 at 5:14 am

The last look. There’s nothing like it. And nothing emptier than not getting it when you are expecting it.

And also nothing better than a trip even more satisfying and awe-inpsiring than you expected.

It will always be in you now. (Like Sedona.) You’ll always long for another look. And someday you might get it. But if you don’t, there is a piece of it that is yours forever.

slouching mom April 28, 2008 at 6:25 am

Oh, oh, oh. Truly beautiful. I’m envious of your proximity to the Canyon. We’d love to take our boys there. In a few years, maybe.

Thanks for the photos, and for the Muir quote. I liked it.

Meg April 28, 2008 at 6:32 am

WOW…how beautiful is that? I WILL go see this personally one day!

Mrs. Chili April 28, 2008 at 6:52 am

That’s totally cool (and I love that you can caption your photos like that – I’ve not figured out how to do such cool things yet).

I’m inspired to take some pretty pictures of MY neighborhood. I’ve got to wait until the sun comes back out, though. Keep a lookout for some bay and mountain pictures soon…

Jenn @ Juggling Life April 28, 2008 at 7:34 am

I fully regret that Mr. Fix-it and I bypassed the Grand Canyon on vacay 20 years ago. It was the tail end of a 5,000 mile driving trip and once we left Albuquerque we just wanted to get home.

Soon—we’ll take the kids soon.

Daryl E April 28, 2008 at 8:15 am

I am glad you didnt die down there either .. heights scare the Holy Bob out of me .. when we were on the 22 fl our conf rm had a spectacular view of Times Sq and I refused to get close enough to look down .. glass walls just dont seem very strong to me .. and standing on waaaaaaaaay out there like you did .. scary stuff .. BUT the pix are exceptional .. you really caught the mood and the vastness .. someday I hope to see it in person ..

Jules~ April 28, 2008 at 8:26 am

Sorry I have been away. I am loving catching up with your pictures and such. You went to the Grand Canyon! That is something on my to do list. Your pictures are beautiful. I love how you framed the canyon and bushes in your first shot.

Madge April 28, 2008 at 10:19 am

there you were, endless expanse spread out before you. and you didn’t push him. you. didn’t. push. him.

melissa April 28, 2008 at 11:15 am

Wow. I love John Muir. I am further convinced that my family must go see this wonder soon.

Akelamalu April 28, 2008 at 12:07 pm

The Grand Canyon is definitely on my ‘to do’ list!

San April 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Jennifer, your photographs are stunning. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon twice, and both times I had similar feelings to you. It’s one of those places whose immense power even a professional photographer can’t capture. And I’m wondering about that feeling of loss. I hope your interpretation is right on.

To more adventures and more posts like this one…most enjoyable.

flutter April 28, 2008 at 12:44 pm

You sweet thing.

I was SO.BORED. after an hour at GC, is that horrible?

Lisa Milton April 28, 2008 at 3:53 pm

What an amazing trip…wow.

I know that empty feeling, when it’s over.

I think it will stay with you. Always there, a thought away.

Crazycath April 28, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Hi Jennifer, What a lovely post. I wish you HAD put more photos up. It is absolutely magnificent! And I hope boy and girl were very proud of their mom!

It is true though that we never seem to visit the sites that are on our doorstep. I lived literally on the Pennine Way for all my childhood, a stone’s throw from the borders (with Scotland), the Lake District, and Roman settlements everywhere, Hadrian’s Wall being half an hour away, and the largest man made forest in Europe an hour or so away (Kielder Forest). Although I have been to all these places, I never appreciated them until I left the area…

Sorry I’ve been away from your blog – unintentional. I just never seem to get around everyone now since I am out in the garden or out photographing! lol

Suzanne April 28, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I’m so glad you quoted John Muir, his ability to capture the awe of the outdoor experience is beyond compare.

That said, so is your ability to share your experience of seeing the Grand Canyon. I remember my own visit to the canyon’s edge, it really is breathtaking and a place I wished I could spend a day just staring at.

Sandy (Momisodes) April 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm

What an amazing trip. I can’t even imagine how breathtaking this was. Sadly, I’ve never been to the the GC, but reading this makes me want to go even more.

Carolyn April 28, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Sigh. Great great post, again!! We went to the Grand Canyon one year for my birthday and it was exactly as you described it. Hard to put into words.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure and for reminding me that extreme cases of beauty are in my own backyard too. Now I just need to go see them!

HRH April 28, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Wow. That is really great that you were able to do that. I would love to see it again. It has been over 30 years for me…

Grandy April 28, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Sounds like an awesome trip indeed.

Shireen April 29, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I was there oh about 20 odd years ago and the memory of it is still fresh. I was 11 and did make a promise to myself that if ever I get the chance of visiting the States again, GC will be my first stop. What an amazing post and wonderful trip!

JCK April 29, 2008 at 9:55 pm

It is almost impossible to describe, until you experience it. It sounds like it was a wonderful trip. I can’t wait until my kids are big enough.

Sandy May 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Beautiful photos — especially that first one!

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