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!
It is Sunday morning and I am sitting in my lanai. I relished a short lie-in this morning after our trip home yesterday afternoon, unpacking and sorting out clothes and getting them washed and put away. It is good to be home in familiar surroundings. We had a great week in Orlando and it was good to be away from the usual routines. But it’s always lovely to come home.
It is a gorgeous day. Another one of those sparkling “Princess Di” days. The sun is shining brilliantly from a clear blue sky and there is a slight breeze sighing through the pine trees out back. Everything is gently moving and I can see all the individual needles on the pine trees fluttering in the breeze and shimmering in the sunlight.
I sit back in my chair and breathe in the soft, warm air. Yes, it’s warm here in sunny Florida at the end of November, although I hear that temperatures are going to dip down later on this week. In the meantime, I am enjoying this “Indian summer” and feel very happy and content. In fact my heart is full joy right now as I look at the beauty that God has placed right here in my back yard.
I notice that the small brown birds, I believe they are sparrows, are back again as they pass through on their way to who-knows-where and they are clustering on the feeders. There’s a flash of red as a colorful cardinal claims his place and the sparrows flutter away until he is done. I can hear the squirrels barking in the trees as they playfully, or maybe not, fuss at each other. Mokka, our cat, sits in the sun, her tail slowly swishing as she thinks her cat-thoughts about the birds.
But even as I am aware of the joy that I feel I am also aware that there is sadness punching and poking at my heart. It feels as though one ventricle is full of joy and the other is full of sadness. My life is blessed in so many ways and I am truly grateful for that. Yet I have a longing for a healed relationship with my sister who I miss so very much, and another longing for a happy, satisfying relationship with my daughter who I also miss very much.
And I am reminded of one of my favorite authors, Kahlil Gibran, who, when asked in his book The Prophet to speak about Joy and Sorrow, responds with these wise and wonderful words of wisdom:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.”…………..
“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”……………
“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”………..
”Together they come [Joy and Sorrow], and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
And so hangs the balance of all life. One moment we are in joy, and the next we are in sorrow. And sometimes we carry them together. And I can only learn to surrender to what is, to accept the gift of my emotions no matter what they are. As a character in the movie Shirley Valentine said, “If I can feel it means I am alive.”
I carry my reflection books in a small plastic tub. It keeps them all tidily in one place, and makes for easy transportation when I go away. As I reached down to pick one out this morning, my fingers encountered a loose piece of paper. There, at the bottom of the tub, lay a small 3” x 5” piece of printing. I pulled it out and recognized it immediately as something that a dear friend had given me about a year ago. It was the copy of page 242 from a daily book of goddess reflections that she reads.
At the time, I was going through an immensely sad moment in my life. In hindsight, I realize I was probably verging on the edge of depression. I am very fortunate that I have many tools that I use on a daily basis that help me to never sink into the desperate depths of that particular disease. And then too, I have wonderful friends who walk a similar path to mine who care about me and give me exactly what I need when I need it.
And thus I received page 242 at just the right moment. The goddess who was addressed on that page was O-Ryu. She is referred to as Grandmother O-Ryu and is the Japanese goddess of the Willow tree. This is what was written about her.
She waits for you in her sacred tree temple beside the quiet night river. A golden Moon whispers above her long and hanging
branches, casting a twinkling outline around her wavy edges. “Come to me”, O-Ryu calls out as she reaches her long and
leafy branches toward you for a loving hug. An owl flaps a low, deep hoot from somewhere inside her soft green tendrils,
and you notice a spider’s web gleaming silver on the tips of her twiggy fingers.
”I am the Witch’s Tree, sacred to the Wise Ones”, she reminds you. “My branches are for making magic wands. My bark
supplies aspirin, the remedy for pain. Come. Sit beneath my weeping branches. Let me hold you close. It’s okay to feel
sad. Let yourself mourn and cry and weep. The relief you are seeking is in letting yourself feel. Do not hold back.
Perhaps you have postponed your mourning too long,” O-Ryu urges. “Mourn means ‘to remember’. Who wants to be
remembered today? Can you whisper their name out loud? Call their spirit to come and sit beside you here by the River.
Let us cry together and gather the wisdom they want to share with you. The spirit of someone deceased wants to talk
with you. Something you need to know will be revealed in a powerful feeling.”
At the top of this page was a statement: “Tears, too, are sacred and can wash away your grief. Honor your memories.” At the bottom of the page was another statement: “Mourning my losses and grieving are necessary processes on my spiritual path.”
When I was in High School there was a small section of the playground that was a grassed area where we could sit in those rare warm English summer days! In the corner of this place was a large weeping willow tree that I loved to sit under and feel protected and safe, cocooned if you will. As I read page 242 I was reminded of those days and, because I firmly believe that nothing happens “by chance”, I chose to work with the imagery of O-Ryu for the next few days, weeks, however long it should prove necessary.
In those days, I discovered that I was mourning the loss of my daughter. No, she had not died in the physical sense, but I had “lost” her all the same. The details of this loss are not important to this writing. What is important is that I discovered what had been destroying me inside during that moment in my life, and I was able to release it with O-Ryu’s help. I also discovered that I needed to mourn the loss of my mother at a deeper level, I came to understand some of her pain that I had helped to create.
Tears are cleansing. They are an important part of our journey to wholeness. They wash away the grief and allow for new seeds of happiness to bloom in once broken hearts. Welcome your tears as the refreshing waters for new growth. As the tears evaporate and dry on your cheeks, so an inner peace will enter your soul and bless you on your way.