As you drive north on Highway 64 to the Grand Canyon,
the ponderosa pines give way to scraggly junipers. The sky is wide,
wider perhaps than you’ve ever seen it, and it seems
entirely probable from here that this same sky stretches
beyond these horizons, from Budapest to Beijing.
On the drive you expect a glimpse of the canyon, a vista between
the trees, perhaps, especially if this is not your first visit to a
national park. A little teaser shot would be nice, you think. But
there’s nothing but a few nondescript hills, even more trees,
and sad, yellow grasses pushing up through the cinders.
Past Tusayan (am I pronouncing that correctly?), you’re back among
the ponderosa again. Just when you begin to lose all hope of
arriving, doubting that this road might ever end, there are suddenly
stop signs, stone buildings, people, parking lots! And so you park, still
wondering if all those miles you’ve driven were for naught.
Afterall, who hasn’t seen a canyon?
They’re everywhere, right, as common as can be? Even so, you sling
your binoculars across your chest, camera in hand, you follow the signs pointing
toward the rim. You make your way through throngs of people. There
must be busloads of them, speaking languages you’ve never heard
until now. Looking down, you pick your way along the uneven
sidewalk, not wanting a twisted ankle. And so, it isn’t until
you finally, truly, reach that edge that you look up, expecting more
trees, more hordes of people, stone buildings, smelly mules.
But this is where your breath catches. Your eyes, taking in
the sea of canyon, struggle not to spill over. How it is possible
that the earth is so many hued? How could an absence be
so vast? What could make a poet forget her words?