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..: stories

..: Bored With Beauty

The shuttle moved the thirty of us along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We were travelling the portion of the park that was closed to all vehicles except the shuttle. It made its stops at Maricopa, Hopi and Mohave Points. We approached the fourth stop that led out to Hermit's Rest. This stop was called The Abyss.

We moved off the tram, moving swiftly to the edge, to the View. The reason this lookout point is called The Abyss is because the face here is a sheer cliff wall, falling nearly a nautical mile just feet beyond the piped railing. If you fell here, it would take you so long to hit bottom that you would have time to think about how stupid you were for falling, and even think about how you could have prevented it. Before you hit bottom, you would even have time left to remind yourself there would be no other chance to prevent this fall, silly.

Like the other tourists, we all take our pictures. There are many couples, a few bunched groups. Many are from Europe, weighed down with expensive camera equipment. One is dressed nicely, for the photos she'll be in, presumably.

The abyss is remarkable. No person ever gets used to seeing such a large hole in the ground. The Canyon averages 10 miles in width, and most of the time, you can't see the North rim at all. The most difficult shift for me was getting used to looking for miles down. I'm used to looking straight ahead to scenery on the horizon, but never looking down, for miles. The hole here is spectacular and unattainable. There is little about this Canyon that is safe, discovered or conquered. We mortals approach and peer out into it, but know this is the closest many of us will ever come. It is beautiful, and it is intensely dangerous. Temperatures near the bottom reach 126 degrees in summer.

Kj and I have been here all day. Our morning started at 4am, when we drove like madmen at double the speed limit to arrive at the Grand View to catch the sun rising along the East Rim.

So we've been here all day. We're tired, but it's only an hour or so until sunset here on the West Rim. We've got to see that today too. We have extra film.

The shuttle had dropped us off, and continued on to the next stop at Pima. Our shuttle's driver had been fast. He drove our delicate tram at what must have been well beyond the advised speed. Maybe 50, 60 mph at times. Again, more speed. Considering the speed limit throughout the park is only 25 mph, there is a tremendous thrill in careening along the rim at breakneck speed. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, that's what it was.

So it would be quite some time before the next shuttle arrived. Especially considering how quick we had arrived here, thanks to Mr. Toad. The tourists took their pictures at the rim, and moved back to the road, and sat to wait for the next shuttle.

Kj and I watched the tourists. We like observing people, that's one of our hobbies. Everyone we had rode here with was now sitting, facing the road, with their backs to the Grand Canyon. Nobody was looking at the Grand Canyon. Some had flown for half a day across the Atlantic, arrived in Phoenix, driven four hours North to Flagstaff, and another hour to reach the small town just outside the South Rim's gate. Some came from relatively closer locations, like California and Texas. But here we were, at the most majestic and famous of the Seven Wonders, and every last one of us had our backs to the Canyon. Looking at this ugly road.

And now is the portion of the story where I make an observation.

Why is it I have such a short attention span? Faced with tremendous and unspeakable majesty, beauty, and significance, eventually, I will sit down, and face the other way.

Is it because the Canyon has always been here, it isn't going anywhere? Some might say that I've been desensitized. Watching Luke barrel down trenches on the Death Star hundreds of times has made real grandeur less so. Or is it this barrier, the railing, that keeps me safe from the instant death it would mean to disrespect the Canyon and the law of gravity? Something has me lulled, something has me bored with beauty, and it grieves a small part of me.

Oh, Kj has gotten up and moved back over to view the abyss. She sits herself down on a rock, and gazes into Beauty.

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