April 19, 2012: Grand Canyon Sunrise, Monument Valley Sunset
Up at 3am, on the road by 3:30, eyes burning in the dark night, straining to see the deer feeding on both sides of the road. L drives Dixie and I keep watch, muttering and pointing, every few minutes, “Deer over here. Deer over here. Deer over here.” It is a stressful ride and, by the time we reach the Canyon’s south rim, even tree stumps, clusters of rocks, and tuffets of grass have morphed into deer shapes.
A faint yellow tint has just begun to peak out over the horizon when we join the other few undaunted souls at Yavapai Point.
Here we are, strangers and friends, huddled together on the edge of a precipice in the gray interval that separates night and day, shivering under our layers of clothing, braving the cold and the wind, for a chance to see the sun ascend over the jagged ridges of the Canyon on which we now stand. We have dragged ourselves out of comfy beds and assembled in a place as inhospitable as it is grand and this experience makes of us instant companions on a shared quest for light.
We have come here to greet the sun, yes, but I feel we have also come here to greet ourselves – to remind ourselves of the golden glow that shines within our own hearts and to acknowledge the miraculous that permeates our very existence in this world. It is important to remember that the sun – this same sun – has risen every day of our lives and will continue to rise long after we are gone. Though the Canyon provides a striking setting for this remarkable light show, the show itself is always remarkable, whether observed by human eyes or not, whether taking place over a Canyon in Arizona, a wheat field in Saskatchewan, or any bustling city. Every morning, a miracle takes place.
We turn our sleep-creased faces upwards and watch as the faint yellow hue gradually transforms into darker yellow and, then, into a bright, blinding orange light that explodes from behind the big, billowy cloud resting in the eastern sky, pouring forth in brilliant beams, making the reds, purples, blues, and greens of the rock face shimmer to life.
We are struck, once again, by the sheer magnitude of this place. We walk along the ridge, warming up a little, snapping pictures that fail miserably to capture the dawn’s ethereal glow.
After some time, we return to the car, drive to a semi-deserted parking lot, turn on the heat, strip off a few layers, and sleep.
We wake more than an hour later, slightly rested and better ready to tackle the day. After more panoramas, a film about the history of the Canyon, and the difficult task of saying “goodbye,” we get back into Dixie and hit the open road, heading East, towards Monument Valley.
We drag out our Canyon farewell by stopping at various lookout points along the road and basking in the splendour of it all. We travel down a highway that allows us to observe the deep, ragged gorges in the valleys adorning the road and, again, we stop to take it all in. We find ourselves at an outdoor market and buy jewelry from a pleasant Navajo woman who neither pesters nor pressures us, but smiles kindly, a knowing twinkle in her eyes.
L drives and, when I feel somewhat certain that the best scenery has passed, I close my eyes and rest for a bit. When I open them, I can tell that we are nearing Monument Valley for there are red, oddly shaped pillars protruding from the ground, transforming the landscape once again.
We pull into the driveway of Goulding’s Lodge, a lodge that seems to originate from the rock itself, and then proceed to our private cabin a few meters away, perfectly nestled amidst enormous boulders and sand the colour of cinnamon. It is the most stunning campground I have ever seen and it pulsates with the rhythm of the American Southwest.
At the sun begins its evening ritual, L puts on her beloved cowboy boots, which have been patiently waiting for this dusty moment for a long, long time. We spend the evening sitting at the picnic table on our small front porch, sharing a tetra pak of Malbec and munching on crackers, carrots, hummus, and hard-boiled eggs. It is a light dinner, but we are not very hungry. In fact, we have not been very hungry for the past three days, in spite of all our hiking and sweating. I wonder about this and L says, “It’s because we are so full already” and I do believe she is right.
Here, nourishment comes in the form of sunrises and sunsets, holes in the Earth that are miles deep and wide, open roads that lead us where we need to go, blackbirds gliding in the bluest sky, crimson sand embedding itself under our fingernails.
Here, we survive mostly on water and wonderment.