On Pilgrimage Through the Grand Canyon 2015
On Pilgrimage through the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is massive: 277 miles long, nearly 18 miles wide and over a mile deep on average. The uplifting of the Colorado Plateau set a downhill course for the Colorado River to begin eroding parts of the land for a really long time (6-17 million years by different estimates).
The Grand Canyon has held a place in my imagination for nearly forty years symbolizing, as it has, that great void, that profoundly empty place on the inside that can never be filled. (Yes, I am an Irish-Existentialist…)
Loss & disillusionment have been the Colorado River hollowing out my inner regions, exposing the majestic arches & temples, and revealing stratified layers and layers of those who have gone before me.
When I first viewed the Grand Canyon, Monday, August 3, 2015, I wanted to fall down in worship and cry. It’s beauty, majesty, glory, and grandeur was altogether too much for me. I didn’t know what to do with all my protests about the emptiness of the Canyon. It was certainly empty, yet beautiful and terrible. I guess I am still plumbing the meaning of this paradox – full of splendor yet still a mile deep abyss.
Hiking down the Kai-Bab trail – 4.5 miles to the Bridge – and 4.5 miles back (!), I saw it. Erosion. Several landslides along the cliffs of glory caught my eye. “Oh no!” I was flooded with sadness – “All this will crumble over time!” I grieved the passing grandeur of the canyon. This glorious work of God’s art one day will succumb to river, rains, winds, earthquake, snow, & ice and will turn to dust. Erosion, like rust, never sleeps.
The sky at the Grand Canyon was filled with a gazillion stars! And the Milky Way seemed like a Grand Canyon in the heavens. It too was grand and majestic! So full yet so empty at the same time.
[Imagine the night sky here]
What perishes? What lasts? What is passing? What endures? “Help me, O God know and honor what is durable? I cling to so many nickels and nubs that never satisfy. Teach me to know that which endures.”
Can erosion be a blessing? Can one befriend that which grinds down every living thing? Is beauty defeated by erosion? I realize I expect that nothing I value will diminish ever. I require people and things and places never change, never go to pieces. I demand moreover that I will be invulnerable to pain and impervious to fear.
It seems to me that the grace of this visit to that which is held Grand in this world is a new recognition, still fresh, still tenuous, that the erosion of that which is superficial and transitory in the human spirit is one of the truest blessings I have received. What I cling to out of fear will pass away. What is true and beautiful has yet to be unearthed. Erosion instigated by Grace will leave behind that which is beautiful.