Images By: Amelia Maslen
Written By: Ryan Nemeth
I remember it was bitterly cold that morning. Almost instantly, my fingers and face began to tingle as I b-lined from the parking lot towards the edge. After all, it was my wife’s first time and I was overflowing with anticipation for her first glimpse. Frankly, I am not sure who would come out here in the dead of winter, but there we were. I am frequently reminded that I am a terrible trip planner, but as I recall, maybe that was the intent this time? I was hoping that this would be something akin to a day at Disneyland when all the kids are in school. Yeah, about that? Oh, and back to the planning thing, it was just about 3 minutes in before my hands started to go numb. Some very smart person, not sure who, forgot to pack gloves and warm clothes. However, I was with my favorite person, I had my camera in tow and that is all that really mattered.
As we sat and waited, a small group of people began to gather along the point. It wasn’t before long that I could see a tour bus pull up and shortly after we were swimming in people. What can I say, there is nothing like taking your loved one to a sacred and mystical place in the world and somehow realizing that you have landed very squarely in a shitty tourist trap. The parking lots, public restrooms, fences and sidewalks should have been a clear indication of what was in store for us. Yet, in all of the excitement, it was all so easily overlooked. By the way, I am told there is a name for this sense of confusion and it is called destinasia. This phenomenon occurs when you loose track of where you are, where you are going, or what you are doing. Check, check and check. It sounds kind of like amnesia right? Yet, whatever it was, this satisfactorily explains the decision-making or lack thereof that morning. Anyways, the sun had yet to punch through the horizon and I was fighting to hold my coveted spot on the fence line at the edge of the Canyon.
Isn’t it ironic that humans can visit public spaces that are global attractions funded with public money, yet we simply just want the place to our self? Self–righteously, my wife and I had crossed the Southwest desert in record time and endured the 8-hour trip with sustenance from bad coffee, beef jerky and corn nuts. We had really held out for this moment and all I wanted in exchange was a blissful, unobstructed sunrise view of Grand Canyon National Park. Wasn’t it any consolation that we passed through 2nd Mesa on the Hopi reservation and pondered the meaning of life and our meager existence? In fact, Hopi prophecies signaled that the end of the fourth world was near. Hopi beliefs tell us that the prior epochs and global destructions were not the result of random earth changes or astrophysical phenomena, but of humankind’s disregard for Mother Earth and the spiritual dictates of the Creator. In other words, cataclysmic events in the natural world have been causally connected to collective transgressions and compounding negative human actions on earth. This all made sense as I stood at the edge of the canyon, brooding over the crowd that had gathered around us, hoping that everyone would just go home so I could have the place to myself. Somehow, maybe I was contributing to this mess after all? Insert spiritual epiphany here.
I think it was right about then that the Grand Canyon walls started to morph into beautiful hues and tones of lapis and purple. The inside of the Canyon was slowly coming to life. Layers and layers of topographical and geographic forms began to appear where the Canyon rim met the sky and suddenly I was peering into what seemed to be an endless sea of colored stone. I could see sheets of rock for miles; each receded from light to dark as it fell away into the next layer and then eventually into nothingness. The view was unrivaled. In my mind, both the depth and scale of the Canyon remain ineffable. Yet, what still persists from this amazing experience is the feeling of being small and inconsequential relative to the rest of the world. So there I was, lost in deep space and time, suddenly enveloped by the Canyon and thrust into consciousness of a much larger reality.
When I came to, I remember pondering both how and why it is that humanity has been so successful in disenfranchising itself from nature? So many questions to answer; were we running from the uncontrollable and unpredictable, chasing immortality, self-absorbed in our ego, or simply just trapped in unsustainable and outdated industrial modes of living? There had to be a rationale answer. Either way, my fabricated urban life felt perverted and fraudulent in contrast to the experience I just ingested and just as fast as the truth rushed in, it rushed out.
A piercing gravely female voice rang out, “Would it be possible to stand where you are, I would like to get a picture with my family?” Sure thing I replied, I earnestly stepped away from the fence hoping desperately that this family would see what I saw and have a similar experience. As I retreated, I remember trying to fire one last shot with my camera, this moment was worth savoring, but my fingers were so freaking cold and numb that I simply could not push the trigger. Something about these moments that just makes them impossibly hard to capture and recount, this one remains no different. But, suddenly there it was, clairvoyance! Maybe if enough of us stood at the edge of the Canyon to seek peace with the world we could turn the tide on the cultural and pathological ills negatively impacting earth? Whatever the reality, it felt good to walk away from the edge of the Canyon with a newfound conviction that human will and ingenuity are powerful agents of change and reason for hope even when we feel lost.