Three mornings ago I got up before the sun, ignoring the thin layer of ice on my tent walls. I was on my way to the Grand Canyon. As I boarded the shuttle from Williams to the Canyon my throat constricted and I did my best to ignore the tears that threatened. I called Maureen, my best friend, just to let her know I was on the way.
The shuttle dropped me off at the Masvik Lodge, where I grabbed a quick breakfast, was able to store the most heavy part of my gear with the bell boy and got information from the transportation services lady. Then I started to walk, The Rim, they told me, the rim was just around the corner. And so it was. 5 minutes later I saw the first glimpse of the Canyon. A deep breath, and I stood still for a minute. Stunned. What now? Right or left?
I chose left, and walked up a steep path for a bit. Then I found a spot to sit. This time tears really did well up as I just watched. The stone underneath me cold, but I ignored that. I was here – my first goal on this crazy journey to recover myself and my humanity. I was here. I had made the Grand Canyon.
It struck me, struck me hard. It had been almost exactly one year since I got the idea for this walk. One year ago I was laying on the couch in that dirty apartment, clinging on to my cats because they were the only thing that helped me survive. Kept alive by the purrs of my kitties, their snuggles reminding me I was human – and by the daily calls from Maureen, a friend like none other.
Two suicide attempts behind me, praying, begging God for some other direction. Some way to get out of the terror that followed me every single day. Some way to leave the experience of being a mere shadow of myself. Three nights of intense praying, crying and more praying, and the idea for this walk had started to take birth – Exactly One Year Ago. At that time, could I have guessed that in one year I would be standing at the Grand Canyon, beaming with pride, accomplishment, weight loss and health? Could I have guessed that my hormones which then were so screwed up and played a major role in the suicide attempts, that in just one year those hormones would have started to repair, and my health would take a major turn for the better? Could I have guessed that I would feel like myself again? That I would feel strong, capable and have faith? Like that experience in itself was – is – new, and sometimes shaky, but still there for me to reach in to. It is not new, but it is a long time ago since I last could really breathe it in.
So many people I have met who have helped me. So many steps, sometimes fighting for each one. So much beauty, and so many struggles and tears. One year ago – I thought I would never again truly see that beauty, now I was sitting at The Rim of the Grand Canyon, and tears gently dripped down my cheeks. What a difference a year makes. Just One Year.
I took a few deep breaths, dried my tears and experienced the gratitude of this immense, stunning beauty all around me. Then I took some photographs. Then I realized it was all wrong that I stayed to myself through this, but I also wanted to preserve the supreme experience. I chose three people – my Dad, my Mom, and Maureen. All three got a phone call with pictures I had taken immediately prior – I was able to share the view with these three very important people just as I sat there, in the middle of the experience.
After a while the coldness of the stone under me got to much, and I got up. I decided to backtrack a bit and go the other direction. Looking around it just seemed like there might be more views over there, and less uphill. I wasn’t disappointed. Throughout the day each corner presented different views, different color formations, one more stunning and breath taking than the next.
Throughout that day I walked, took pictures, got stunned over and over again. Every time I thought “I have seen it”, a new perspective, new shadows or colors showed themselves. Much of the day I felt breathless and kept mumbling “wow”. I also met some people and talked to them, spoke about my journey, and told them were to find me online. It was an amazing day.
Towards the end of the day I was exhausted, deeply exhausted. I tried to stay by The Rim till sunset, but I was too tired and it was getting cold, so I returned to Masvik Lodge. At the Lodge I got some dinner and charged up my gizmo’s which had all gotten low during the day. By 7 pm I knew I better find the camp ground. Unfortunately there is only one place it is legal to camp, and it is not on The Rim – Sigh. The bell boy gave me directions to the Camp Ground – 1.5 miles away – uphill. Ops, that is not an easy walk with a full Cadillac. And crap it was dark and really cold out. Crap. It took me two hours to walk to the campground, and it was a bit overwhelming to walk in that deep, deep dark. I am not afraid of the dark, but this was: “Can’t see where I put my feet right now” level dark. At the campground I did not bother trying to find an official camp site – I just popped up the tent and crawled in. I was chilled to the bone – especially it seems my thighs seems to get cold. In fact, it took me several hours to really get heated up.
The next morning I intended to get up at 5 am to find my way to the Rim for sunrise – the only problem was walking that 1.5 miles in the deep dark. Regardless, I totally overslept and wasnt out of the sleeping bag till 7 am, and by the rim at 9 am.
This was another long and exhausting day. What was wonderful was that the Canyon was relatively empty and I walked long stretches in solitude. At one point I lay down for an hour on a bench, letting the sun warm me and just listening to the birds. I managed to reach The Yavapai Geology Museum – and let me say this – that is a 3 mile walk so, so, so worth it! But I could feel the fatigue of two short nights, the heavy climbs at the Canyon and my own emotions.
I walked back slowly, feeling the exhaustion, and yet still wanting to breathe in the magnificence around me. I stopped on the way back for a burger, and then arrived at the Masvik Lodge an hour before my return trip to Williams. As I turned away from the Canyon my eyes filled with tears again. It was over now – this goal reached. The beauty savored, like a fine wine, drunk and exhausted on this beauty. I didn’t really want to leave it yet. May I never, but never forget, that beauty like this exists and is reachable. Even if I have to haul myself step by step by step – even if the walk is long, uphill and a struggle. This beauty is available. And if I am determined to find it, to see it again, then the whole Universe will help me get there.
Thank You to every single one of you who helped me get to the Grand Canyon. Each one of you are treasured, remembered and Loved.
Thank You God.