I expected to feel some mild version of that Chevy Chase scene in Vacation. I mean not entirely pre-jaded, but prepared to smile, nod and check her off my travel list.
The Grand Canyon, who hasn’t gone, who hasn’t dragged her family to the edge while holding their child’s hand so she doesn’t plunge to her death. Who hasn’t stood against a guardrail and asked some wandering tourist to take a picture.
But then I saw the Grand Canyon and something shifted. Her beauty still sits with me to this day.
The layered cake rock that reveals her ages and stages, resilience and formation we’re fortunate to witness. Her colors. Deep rich and complex, the sun’s shadows washing her out then gradually sliding across to light her up. Those colors, our guide explained, paint an era, and how porous the rock or clay is.
But more than anything it was her vortex, her cratered mammoth mouth that stretched for miles. Millions of years once covered by ocean that brewed the earliest amoebas of man. I was ashamed that I expected to feel anything but awestruck.
I can blame being blaise on Chevy Chase, but it was mostly my fault. I say mostly because nothing prepares you for her monstrous beauty, and the feeling of being involuntarily taken over by nature.
The Grand Canyon is beyond what I imagined from postcards and Hollywood. She ate me whole, laughing as she heard the echoes of my teen daughter, husband and I playing with her acoustics.
I felt sick standing too close to her edges without a rail. It’s how I feel with every hotel balcony my daughter leans on, except with more intensity. I didn’t experience that terrifying counter-intuitive primal impulse to fall as some people swear cliffs do to them. I have felt it, but not there.
I felt enveloped and consumed by her beauty and strength. Taken in by her irreproducible natural canvas and ancient history, by her fortitude and power to put me in my tiny arrogant place. Not even the Amalfi Coast which in my travels I found the most beautiful, moved me to such humility, awe and silence.