That Was Awesome

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Oct 15, 2011

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
Maya Angelou

On a recent trip to Phoenix, Arizona Evie and I decided to arrive two days early in order to give us time to revisit the Grand Canyon. Over 25 years ago we were there with our two teenage sons and much of our time was focused on keeping them away from the edge. And besides, everything looks different through older eyes. 

We landed in Phoenix and drove north to Flagstaff and from there to the South Rim. By the time we arrived the sun had long gone over the horizon. If you have ever been to the desert southwest you know the sights are dramatically different from the green northeast. 

In order to get a perspective on our short visit we took time to join hundreds of others to watch the movie of the Grand Canyon in the IMAX theater. As we were leaving the theater a little boy was heard to say, "Can we go home now?" We all had a good laugh. 

Just five (5) miles north I dropped Evie off at the Visitor's Center while I parked the car in lot number 3. We decided to take the Village Route (Blue) shuttle so we would connect to the Hermits Route (Red) Shuttle which went west along the South Rim while making frequent stops for passengers to get on and off. 

For the next four (4) hours or so we joined scores of others speaking all kinds of languages as we tried to take in the Grand Canyon. No camera or written or oral narrative or paintbrush could ever capture what we saw at those stops. Even now the awe of the size and colors and shapes and distance of it all overwhelms my senses. Again and again I heard total strangers say "Wow! Wow! Wow!" 

The Grand Canyon National Park is 277 river-miles long, an average of ten miles wide and nearly one mile deep. The Grand Canyon is widely proclaimed as one of the wonders of the natural world. It really is "grand." 

The Canyon shelters wildlife and plants that vary with elevation. Mule deer and elk roam forests at 7,000 feet. Beavertail cacti add color to the desert scrub between 7,000 and 3,500 feet. In the skies one can see big birds like the California condor with a 10-foot wingspan and the raven, the largest of the crows. 

For those who are able to stay longer, an almost limitless array of experiences are available. Walking and hiking trails invite casual or serious pedestrian movement. Helicopters and small planes provide daily aerial tours of the Grand Canyon. Mule trains and river rafts engage anyone in the rugged realities of this never-to-be-forgotten place. There is even a Grand Canyon Star Party and Night Sky Program. 

Needless to say, our one day visit was not nearly enough time to even begin to experience the Grand Canyon. But as we look back, even for those few hours on that one day we were exposed to enough to give us an awe-inspiring experience. Each of the pictures I took capture a small piece of each view. But my little Sony CyberShot camera was not match for such a subject like that. 

We all know that if we look closely enough we can find awe just about everywhere. There is awe in extra-ordinary acts of grace or forgiveness or generosity. The skill to build a skyscraper or expansive bridge or a machine that soars to the moon and back amazes average people like me. 

Awe permeates the concert hall and museum as well as the classroom and sanctuary. Even everyday celebrations for birthdays or anniversaries or graduations bring us healthy doses of awe. 

But every now and then we should all try to experience something like the Grand Canyon. It really is awesome. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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