I lived in the canyon country, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, during a turbulent time in life. I still can’t look back with anything but a sense of peace. Despite the harshness of a sandstone landscape an unrelenting sun and dust in my eyes, there was peace outside. The desert country has a quiet about it, a stillness. I think that if you are open to it, that country will become part of your soul.
The desert has a way of making you feel insignificant, of reminding you that greater forces than you can properly imagine have shaped the way things are. It reminds you that you are just one piece of a puzzle so big you can’t see the picture. You have to have faith that the part you see fits into a larger whole.
This is just what the desert means to me. It means many things to many people. In the past it meant “home” to the Anasazi, who built a civilization nestled into the canyon walls and disappeared without a trace. Now home mostly to ranchers, the desert is winter grazing country and the chance to make a slim living off of the land. For my father, the Grand Canyon represents and enormous landfill opportunity.
Looking back, I remember seemingly endless nights under the stars, watching Orion appear and draw his bow on Taurus, who chases the Seven Sisters through the night sky. Replaying this drama every night. Five hundred miles of gathering wind coming across the Great Basin, the air hot even at midnight. Millions of years of creation being blown across the land to Colorado, where it is still creating new soil on the Rockies. A stillness after the wind when nothing at all seemed to move, inside or out. I remember coyotes singing at night, feeling that they were as close to me as anyone I know.
The Grand Canyon itself is simply the most dramatic part of this desert landscape. You might call it the main event in a show spanning eons. The grandeur of it, the sheer size of it, makes even the most practical minded of us pause and consider our place in the universe. It is at once beautiful and solemn. If it is available to you, head for the North Rim and spend a night or two away from other people. Cook your meal on a fire at night, look to the stars for guidance and in the morning go for a walk along the rim. By then, you may see what I mean when I ramble on about the desert.
If not, maybe you’ll find the perfect spot to stash the nation’s garbage. Either way, take pictures and keep a journal.