I have to go back home tomorrow and face a bunch of brushfires that grew into full-fledged firestorms in my absence.
I walk east of Grand Canyon Village along the South Rim, away from the bustle of the tourists at El Tovar. I follow the Rim Trail and stumble upon a rocky outcropping. Well, really everything around here is a rocky outcropping if you think about it. I sit and bid goodbye to the remainder of the sunset, and my trip. Murky twilight. In between. Indecisive. The world can never make up its mind about what it wants to be in twilight. The moon isn’t yet made up and ready for night and the sun not quite done with the day. So the canyon below stayed fuzzy. Dark patches of pine about a thousand feet below the rim seemed out of place. Swaths of stone along the cliffs appeared too dark. Soon, the anomalies corrected: the pine patches transformed into the shadows of the South Rim itself, cast by the moon onto lower slopes. That dark rock clarified into the relief of wrinkled escarpments.
As soon as I stopped demanding that the twilight clarify, as soon as I placed my mind on something else, the moon rinsed away the last of the September heat. The ivory Kaibab limestone cliff to the south shone with a purity lacking in the day’s glare, its stillness unperturbed by all the little wars waged in all the minds that ever beheld it.
I made myself sit until the last of the astroglow faded in the west. True night revealed to me things the twilight never would. Sometimes, you have to wait awhile and watch for the deeper, as opposed to the apparent, nature of a thing to emerge from itself. No one invents it. It comes to you, if you wait for it. And it doesn’t come to a select few. It comes to everyone. You just need to sit quietly enough to listen to silence, patiently enough to look for nothing.
I walked back toward the Village. Even a few steps from the rim, the air grew noticeably cooler. The canyon conveys warmth from its depths like a clay oven with a lot of reserve.
My anxiety about the future had passed unnoticed. All my fears slid off me, over the edge. I could’ve chipped away at those worries for a dozen dozen years by focusing my powers of concentration on them, and they wouldn’t have budged. But take my mind off them for just a moment, and they fall away.
I slipped into the forests hugging the rim and ambled back to my room in the moonlight. On the ground, tree shadows coalesced into an ebony latticework against the icy moonpaint. My phobia of mountain lions should have reared up by now, but it dissolved in the moon’s tranquility. And the Grand Canyon itself always stirred with foreboding at night, a bottomless maw that lost track of everyone and everything it digested. Yet that spooky feeling flew off somewhere. Maybe I had to be with the thing I feared, spend time with it, find how it got dark. I only feared the things I didn’t take the time to know.
I thought about the nature of fear. The specifics of fear never matter because all fear is uniform. It doesn’t matter whether I’m afraid of being alone or afraid of being with people. The feeling of fear remains the same. The truth is that, once I eject one fear from my psyche, another one usually rushes in to fill the vacuum. Fear seems to be an effect. Trying to remove a specific fear is like removing the symptoms of a disease with a pain killer. Though I’ll feel better for awhile, killing the pain never cures. Fear’s source is what’s important. And the source of my fear seems to be the idea that I’m all alone. That evening, the Canyon twilight conspired to remind me of these things. I stopped wrestling with my solitude and walked away from my war with the mind, waged by the mind. I couldn’t be alone as long as I had the patience to spend time with myself.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just