Friday, May 17, 2013

Canyon

Kim Harrington Photography
It happens sooner now.

Your feet are steadier than they once were as you boulder-hop downstream between high canyon walls. You pass through splashes of sunlight and shade. You are small. The pressure and force of water that has carved out this passage is mind-boggling to you, as are the house-sized boulders through whose shadows you must sometimes slip. You hold your breath as you do, knowing that once, this 60,000 pounds of granite fell out of the sky, dislodged by who knows what large or small mechanism -- the expansion of frozen water in a crack the size of a fingernail, perhaps, followed by that icy fingernail's inevitable melting away.



A shiver ripples down your arms, mapping your skin in goosebumps. You tuck a strand of wet hair behind your ear and squint through a shaft of bright waterfall. You have just rappelled 80 feet into chest deep canyon water. You have swum out of the pool. You are cold.

Canyons are not friendly places, despite their beauty. They are harsh and treacherous, boulders loose underfoot and poised deadly overhead, rappels and down-climbs steep and slick along water-polished rock. Your trail is a bushwhack through cat's claw and poison ivy tangled among innocuous vines.

You are here to do business with your true nature.

You imagine it like this: You stand in a suit and dress shoes, your hair neatly combed, your eyes sharply focused. Your true nature sits reclined behind an uncluttered cherry-wood desk. Casual, unconcerned, your true nature stands and shakes the hand of your eager, ambitious youth. Smiles. "You're here to learn."

"Yes, yes. Teach me."

"You'll need to go away from here. Go and undress and walk naked in the deep places. You must forget your own name."

The dry-rot log collapses under the weight of your right foot. You slip and catch yourself on a sharp rock, cutting your hand. The blood is like the flash of a cardinal's red wing caught in a sunbeam, beautiful.

You laugh quietly -- everything is quiet in a canyon, noise being appropriate only as appointed. Your blood delights you. The pain is a sweet, throbbing reminder of how alive you are.

More quickly, the chatter in your brain grows quiet now. You do not push out the voices exactly -- the ones fighting for real estate in your mind, the ones that whirl through your insecurities, that question your timetables, fight your dreams and longings. You let the voices clamor. You let them fade into the sensual curves of rock, striated with color from layers of sediment. Fade. Into the dense fecundity of this riparian oasis, nestled in the folds of a land of desert cacti and vast blue sky.

Here, fish leap in the creek's clear blue water. The scent on the air is wild and ripely sweet. The longer you move, the softer your own voice. Your feet feel more yours, and somehow also less. Each step is more difficult, in spite of the mineral-thick water you guzzle at momentary pauses, in spite of the nuts you chew and swallow for their energy. Each step is also more sure. Your arms move through snarled foliage without hesitation, thorns raking your arms as an artist's brush drawing beads of red along your skin. Your legs are heavy with fatigue but steady and resolved. Sentences form only vaguely now in your mind and do not slip past your lips. There is no need for words. You are beginning to think like the canyon.

Inside its walls, you are beginning to disappear.