Whether looking deep into the inner chasm carved by water, at a wall of concrete restraining the water, or watching the swift flow of water, the Colorado River teaches life lessons for me about life’s journey, lack of control, and ultimately the freedom to flow. Because water is life, and life is about learning.
Life is always about the journey
Bill and I met at the South Rim Thursday for the weekend events of the Grand Canyon Historic Society, more on that event soon. We had all day Friday to play tourist at the canyon even able to walk Sasha on the Rim Trail. Although not as crowded as summer, still busy enough I chose not to venture onto overlooks. I am reminded about life’s journey that brought me to this special place to be enjoyed with a special person, and dog. This gentles me to the hordes who have also journeyed here. I can distance myself like the Colorado River so far below, ancient and wise it has carved through billions of years of rock revealing a geologic story of change. The Grand Canyon is a destination for many yet the river below tells of a journey longer than any of us have traveled. I felt the need to learn from the river, about rapids and riffles like the bumps along life’s journey, then flow on with constant change along the way. No need to rush the final destination. Life flows far too swiftly to the end with changes along the way and we have choices to make.
We have limited control
Yet here we were, Sunday afternoon caravaning east along the rim with only a few viewpoint stops. Instead we focused on getting to Lone Rock Beach camp along the shrunken Lake Powell before dark, just barely.
Monday morning at Glen Canyon Dam I looked for a good place to see, and photograph, the water release. A patio behind the visitor center offered a very crowded and limited view, especially for short people like me. Saw the first of four tubes release water. The bridge is right on top of the tubes. I felt frustrated by the lack of visibility.
A friend and Ranger recommended the Dam overlook which provided a good window and big show, although I could wish for a bigger lens for really closeups. I was not disappointed. The sound was clear. The vibe and energy beyond good to Grand. The water’s negative ions brought positive energy. Saw two tubes running, then went to lunch. Looked into staying at Marriott with my reward points but not enough of them for this #7 fancy smancy place. Oh well, go with the flow. No control, even with the best laid plans, shit happens, we adapt. Plans change for all kinds of reasons, sometimes by choice and other times not.
Returned to the Dam overlook to see all four tubes shooting out water. The Colorado River then flowed at ~38,000 cfs (normally ~13,000 cubic feet per second). More like the wild river it once was before the dam of man altered its temperature, salinity and ecology. Yet the river does not judge the dam.
Floatsom washes ashore like discarded junk from our lives maybe picked up again and dropped further down stream. Sand and sediments are moved and redeposited in the hopes of rebuilding sandbars and deltas. And yet, if too fine they’ll be moved again. If large they may be dropped early on.
Life is full of contrasts like the deep blue-green river against towering sandstone cliff faces topped by a clear Arizona blue sky. It can all change in a minute. Do we judge nature’s changes as good or bad, beautiful or ugly? Maybe there’s no room in the NOW for fear, anger, and hatred. Even if we have no control over change we can control how we react and deal with it. There is power in that.
I don’t usually talk about politics. In fact as a young person I said “politics weren’t part of my reality.” As I matured I did figure out that they were. I never chose a party, Republican or Democrat. I’ve always been Independent. Until I had to choose from the two to vote in a Primary. And so I chose to be a Democrat. Which to me is in name only. And I do realize that they both have different agendas that I don’t always agree with and I’m sure some of you don’t either. I’m about to be more opinionated in politics than ever but I have no intention to offend anyone and will not apologize for my opinions and feelings. Read on if you choose.
Probably comes as no surprise that I supported Bernie Sanders. I didn’t have to vote Democratic. Except for the fact the Republican Presidential candidate I find very scary in all his pomp about fear, anger, and hatred. And I don’t want to live in a World like that. No judging people by the color of their skin, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. The river doesn’t judge a rock or tree.
I have been uncertain about the future of our country for decades. In fact I’ve been waiting for a revolution like the 60s, since the 60s. However, now I feel even more confusion about what the future will see. And yet I know I can get my calm by reconnecting to nature.
It seems we’re always in a hurry, rushing off to our next destination. Something the river does as well. Yet to its final death where it meets the sea. Sometimes the river experiences slow, swirling back on itself in an eddy to search out something that needs more attention. Around, around, and around until a solution is found and release sent on to the journey of life.
Think about when you’re making big ultimate goal plans and how things change like a dam gets put in the way and you need to fight for the right to flow like the wild river you are. The babble of the river is audible. It may speak different words and language to all who will listen. Be careful that the ceaseless babble of the river doesn’t become the white noise of your life.
I will try to work with instead of against this quasi Democracy where We the People can make change by respectfully working together.
Be free to follow your heart
Monday afternoon we drove down from Page to Marble Canyon with a stop at Navajo Bridge where we saw two condors roosting on the bridge girders and sedimentary swirls in the river below.
In the afternoon Bill left for home and I decided to stay then followed him 10 miles down the road to Cliff Dwellers for lunch but they were closed. So I returned to camp and explored the beach by the Paria Riffles. I was joined by a Canyon Wren singing its song and paid scant attention to the news of the day.
Wednesday morning I read the election results in shock. I felt confused and couldn’t focus. It was like my brain absolutely shut down. I could not think. Should I leave or stay? Where to go, what to do? Down to the beach, be with the river.
Chatted with a fellow Ranger who felt as shocked as I and encouraged me to stay another day.
But I left camp and drove five miles to Navajo Bridge, where I saw Condor #54 a 12 year-old male. Talk about wild and free. Soaring over rock and river. Warmth of sunshine and Condor soaring mingled with swirling sediments called me to stay. I returned to pay for another night of camping.
Then I spent the day with the river. Found a couple of boulder-seats to take in the view, sound, and feel. My fingers went quickly numb as I dipped them into a shoreline eddy where the water felt like cold silk. My mind was also numb as I tried to wrap my head around the election results. I don’t want to go backwards to a time of discrimination like being caught in a river eddy. Enough human caused floatsom comes ashore our ocean, lake and river shores defiling the life of nature that supports us. That’s all of us. All people of the Earth. As we rely on each other to care for each other and our planet.
Note the height of the river over what is typically beach, deposits from the Paria River which form the riffles below (not yet large enough to be called a rapid by the likes of us). Who are we to judge and call names?
Warmed by the sun, cooled by the breeze and low 54ºF water temperature. Simply perfect. The rock would get harder under my butt as time and the river flowed pass. Must I always find complaint?
The water level had already dropped some from the first fierce flow dampening shorelines where vegetation grows, including some invasives.
Mesmerized by the water, never the same yet always flowing, freedom of shape no matter what obstruction gets in its way, lifting and splashing, dipping and churning. (The river is quicker than the camera’s continuous shutter click.)
[Imagine a video here and click the link to see an eddy.] https://youtu.be/pVFyMLw07jk
Does the water have choice for swift downstream in the powerful current, or slipped aside over rock to the shore getting caught in an eddy, or both?
[Another video of the fast flowing roar of the Colorado River.] https://youtu.be/AKLhqHrWz5o
And still I sat with the river, sun westering and shadows long. Watching it dance with wild abandon.
I will play by most of the rules as I flow along this journey called life, trying to lift and splash my way over obstacles to survive and perhaps carve some rock along the way. I will make my own choices, within reason, and be free of fear, anger, and hatred.
Had I stayed longer I’d surely learned more. But the river healed me, being with nature energized my spirit while calming my soul. No more dis-ease or in-tension. Stress makes me physically sick and nature de-stresses me whether desert, forest, mountains, beach, or river. So like the wild adapted river, rise and fall, carrying a load and dropping it along the way I left my angst behind and drove home to a new day with Colorado River lessons on my mind.
Life is short for us compared to the river. We all have a journey and choices to make. And life really is about the journey. In the end, we only have the journey. So we make the most of it as we flow along this river called life.
You know how when you hear really good music it moves you. You go to another place. Your mind expands like an acid trip from the 60s. You see the world with different eyes and ears, you smell and taste things differently? Everything around you is new, ever changing, and you are open to it. I want to be full of love, peace, gratitude, and compassion. To bring together a division so clearly present and embrace a better future for all. That’s what the Colorado River taught me.