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).

Grand Canyon2

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…)
Grand Canyon3

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.

Grand Canyon5

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.

 Grand Canyon6

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.

Grand Canyon4

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.”

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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.

 Grand Canyon17

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.


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