As mentioned in my posting Traveling- Las Vegas & Sedona on 22 August, Rich and I took a day trip to visit the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I was very excited to make this trip because when I was a young girl growing up in England, many of my friends wanted to go America. There were those who were enthralled at the thought of visiting New York City, others who wanted to see the White House and the nation’s capital, and yet others who were attracted to the bright lights of Las Vegas or Hollywood.
But my only desire re-the USA was to see the Grand Canyon. I had seen it in a couple of movies, read about it here and there, and I believe I saw it featured in a National Geographic article at least 40 years ago. (I know, I’m dating myself here!!). From those experiences I knew it was something hugely majestic, but I had not retained much descriptive detail about it from them. So this trip was almost like visiting it with no pre-information about it at all.
As we approached the area of the Grand Canyon, I remember being somewhat puzzled, or maybe perplexed would be a better word. I think I expected the landscape to begin to change dramatically to prepare me for what I was about to see. But everything was amazingly “normal”, fairly flat country with quite a few trees. We entered the visitors center, acquired our tickets, and watched a great informative documentary.
Even as I watched the movie I wasn’t particularly struck by anything special, and we headed out afterward on the road that led into the National Park in Arizona where the south rim is located. Again, I was puzzled/perplexed because the countryside did not change. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting and I was quite surprised when we eventually saw the sign for the first “viewing zone”. We parked and I got out of the car and looked around. Nothing, just the road we had been travelling and a line of trees. But the arrows pointed toward the trees, so off we went.
I don’t think it would have mattered if I had seen a thousand photographs or hundreds of movies, nothing would have prepared me for my first view of the Canyon. As I passed through the trees and stepped out the other side, my jaw dropped, my mouth gaped. I was absolutely speechless. My eyes tried to come to grips with what I was seeing and I was somewhat aware that my mind was scrambling for words to describe it. Some of the words that came to mind were: spectacular, majestic, awesome, awe-inspiring, amazing, stunning.
But even as I tried to put the words together in my head, I realized that none of them would do justice to the landscape unfolding in front of my eyes. I was aware of tears welling up inside me. I felt completely choked up with emotion, my heart was racing and my breathing had definitely quickened. It felt like my soul was seeing a touch of home, and in that moment I knew that one word, and only one word, could describe the view that lay before me – God. I could imagine Him during the days of creation, eyeing this particular piece of the earth and, feeling the inspiration, reaching His hand down and slicing a two hundred and eighty mile long wavy line through the State of Arizona.
Just as words do not do justice to the majesty, the size, the total “stunningness” of the Grand Canyon, so too pictures cannot capture it’s breathtaking awesomeness. But I am including a couple that my husband took as we went from viewing point to viewing point along the south rim. The picture of the raven is included for a couple of reasons. My adopted Native American name is Raven Woman. When we first got out of our car at the condo we stayed at in Sedona, a raven flew onto the roof, and every viewing spot in the Grand Canyon had several ravens hopping around. I felt especially welcomed in both places.
As I stared at this miracle of God and nature, once again I found myself thinking of the first pioneers, those courageous men and women who set out from the eastern settlements of America to explore what lay beyond their known territories. I tried to imagine a lonely cowboy riding across new and unexplored country, galloping along on his horse and coming through the tree line to approach the edge of the canyon. I’m sure he must have experienced feelings similar to those I described above.
For those of you who are interested, here are a few facts about the Grand Canyon. Even as I write them I find them hard to digest and fully take in. The Canyon is nearly two hundred and eighty miles long, reaching from Marble Canyon near the Utah-Arizona border to Grand Wash Cliffs in Mojave County near the Nevada-Arizona border. In some places it is eighteen miles wide – yes, eighteen miles!! And it reaches depths of up to one mile. At the south rim the width of the chasm is about ten miles.
All I can say is, if there is nothing else that you do, no specific location that you have a desire to see in the USA, plan to go to the Grand Canyon. I do not think you will be disappointed and I am sure you will be at least a little bit changed afterward. Happy trails!
In the last few weeks leading up to the change of clocks, I would go out to my lanai and claim my God-time. One day I realized, that even though I had gone out at the same time as usual – about seven o’clock – the morning light had changed. In fact it was not fully light but rather that eerie time of in between when the sun has not quite risen but there is a pallor about the sky.
That was the first time I allowed myself to even consider that summer was ending and autumn was pushing through the door. I sat and watched, and listened. There was absolute silence. Normally as I go out there in the morning, squirrels are rustling through the trees and the birds are beginning to awaken with soft twitters and small trills. But on this morning I noticed the total quiet.
Although I accept the changing of the seasons, after all there’s very little that I can do to stop them changing, I do not like it. In sixty six years, however, I have learned that lesson. I think much of my non-acceptance stems from my British upbringing. In England, once whatever precious little summer that we got was over, then we were always assured of grey cold autumn coming in, followed by an even greyer and colder winter. Grey dooms my heart and soul. I get de-pressed and sad, and I’m just not my usual bright sunny self.
So even though I live in Florida now and the summer blurs into autumn, and winter usually is not so cold (let’s forget about last winter,shall we!!!) and definitely not so grey, I still have an imbedded expectation around this particular change of season, that the grey is about to descend upon me. I am grateful to be living here because I soon realize that autumn-into-winter is not synonymous with grey and cold. In fact, in the almost seven years that I have been here, I remember sunbathing frequently in the “winter” months and reveling in the fact.
So, as I was saying, in these past few weeks I have watched the morning light grow dimmer each day, even though I have gone out there at about the same time. Then, suddenly, about ten days ago I realized that there was barely a glimmer of light. I sat there and had to squint my eyes to make out shapes and forms in the un-light. But then I had the unexpected pleasure of watching the dawn light creep across the sky and in those pre-sunrise moments I began to make out smaller shapes and forms, and the details of leaves, flowers, trees, gazebo, slowly filled themselves in.
Then, in one glorious instant, a shaft of bright light came across the side garden fence and illuminated a slice of the picture in front of me. The trunk of a tree, a few branches, a small angle of the top of the gazebo, all became as clear as if in a naif painting. Moment by moment, my back yard and the woods beyond were suddenly lit up like the opening scene in a live theater. Almost immediately the rustling, the soft twitters, and the small chirps began until there was a full-throated burst of bird song.
Thank you God for the joy and the beauty of your creation. No matter what the season, there is always something wonderful, something awesome, to see and marvel over. I hope I always keep my open eyes and my open heart to appreciate the glory that is our world.
Many years ago, during a period that I was living in England, I attended a very special retreat at Aylesford Priory which is located in the heart of Kent. The Priory is an ancient religious house belonging to the Order of Carmelites and dates back to the 13th century. The setting there was extremely peaceful and welcoming and I returned several times to attend other retreats.
The reason that the particular retreat I mentioned above was so special was because I received an incredible gift, the first of many messages that God has given me through others. One of the participants on the retreat was a woman who suffered some physical disabilities. She was confined to a wheelchair and had a companion who helped her with everything.
On the second day of the retreat our group had broken up into small groups for discussion. I do not remember the specific topic that we were discussing but I do remember that I struggled badly with the word “faith”. I was, of course, trying to be very “intellectual” in my participation – probably trying to impress someone as I did frequently in those days. And because I was not being “real” I was totally missing the point.
In my egotistical attempt to appear sophisticated and clever I became very frustrated and irritated. I remember making a comment along the lines of, “so what the heck is this “faith” thing anyway; I’m not a theologian. How am I supposed to understand the notion of faith?”
At that moment the woman in the wheelchair (I regret I do not remember her name), leaned across the table, took my hands in hers and spoke very quietly and gently. I will remember her words for ever, and for ever I will be indebted to her. She said, “Margo, use the word trust.” I sat there, unable to say a word, and my heart filled up and my eyes filled up and my soul filled up.
She continued to explain that she implicitly trusted her companion to take the best care of her physically and in the same manner she implicitly trusted God to take care of her spiritually. I was very humbled and I think that was the moment that I experienced my first real feelings of gratitude. Today the whole of my belief in God rests in trust and this trust in Him has grown over the years as I see all that He has done for me, a wretched imperfect human being.
God continues to send me messages, sometimes through others, sometimes through readings or events that take place in my life. The most recent message is an old and beloved one. It comes from the gospel of Matthew, 11:28.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying
heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
This was the featured scripture verse in one of my meditation books on 27th July. It appeared again in another meditation book on 29th July. And one more time Max Lucado offered it to me in “Grace For The Moment” on 30th July. When He wants to get my attention I usually hear it three times in quick succession. So I am hearing that I need to rest more in the quiet of God. I need to quit struggling and let God do it for me. I need to stop trying to fix situations and people outside of myself. There’s already one Savior and it’s not me!!