and 550 more / by laurel

"Here it comes! Here it comes! Here it comes!" Galloping across the paved trail and shimmying under a fence, we came to rest on a craggy point, a rock wedged into the weathered face of the canyon.

I tugged at my skirt and hunkered down on the very edge of the rock. The air was frigid--among other things I didn't expect--and the wind whipped in fits and starts against anything blocking its path. We were jutted out over the perilous depths of the canyon but from here it felt like flying.

The sun was a shade behind the jagged horizon line, ready to crest the peaks and sting our eyes with its brightness. We crouched. We waited. It was coming, and it was coming fast.

I felt a kind of fever sitting there, everything felt like it was funneling into a mysterious climax, and it was somehow intrinsically tied to the immense void in front of me. Rocks were painted in layers and layers, depicting plains and peaks, depths and crevices that hid a million secrets from a million minds strung out over the void.

The tourists were huddled in little packs, straining against the guardrails on the bludgeoned end of a lookout point. They middled around, snapping photos and chattering their teeth in friendly conversation with the cold. As for us, we climbed over the guardrail and blazed our own trail that ended staring that blazing sun right in the face.

It was a vastness imperceptible to our eyes. It was a flat picture, a movie screen, a painting on a wall. You couldn't see the depth, nor could you separate one peak from its countpart, 14 miles behind it. But you could feel it. Standing there at that guardrail the night before, watching the faded t-shirt bluish sky plunge into inky blackness--a veritable sinkhole, sucking all color, all light, all things with it--I could feel the dizzying vertigo, like something was sucking the very life out of me. That's what it felt like.

It felt like it was moving, but it wasn't. A conductor of energy, frenetic spats and spurts, sustaining an entire nation of tiny shrubs and mangled trees. I thought that if I closed my eyes and opened them again, it would have changed completely. It felt temporal, transient. I realized then that my own frantic, breakneck perception was shorting out under the pressure of this immovable giant. For this I blame the media.

Everyone has something to blame, I suppose. The Grand Canyon has water to blame for its undulating entropic flesh, and I had lack of water to blame for the way my lungs sucked for air in the 6,000+ foot altitude. What I couldn't reconcile, though, is the way human history seemed to reflect itself in the twisting, gnarled trees, in the way birds would float in mid-air, and in the tempestuous switch-backs that snaked down the canyon wall. There are no words for that.