I hiked into Clear Creek Canyon this morning. I squatted down in an alcove to watch the lightning strikes on the South Rim. Later I learned that sheltering in a natural alcove isn’t the best protection against lightning strikes because the rock is conductive. You’re supposed to minimize contact with the ground by perching on your toes.
The storm slammed into the rim. It seemed suspended in one place for hours, snagged on the side of the canyon. An illusion: as the moisture is trapped by a land mass, it continues to build from behind. The storm reconstitutes itself. An organism replaces all of its cells over the years but maintains the same outward form. It’s the same with canyon clouds.
Below, the silted Colorado gleamed in comparative silver against the darkness of the storm. I watched the lightning for a couple hours, imagining my worst enemies getting hit: that IRS agent who audited me: SLAP! The client who bilked me out of thousands: CRACK! It’s a good way to let go of all that poison, watching tiny imaginary figures fall off the cliff across the river after they’re struck. It works better than praying for your enemies, I don’t care what the Bible says. But then I thought, what if all my enemies are sitting at home, imagining me getting smote. We wouldn’t want that, would we? Okay, I reversed the tape, watching that jerk flying back up from the river and standing back on the cliff.
“Hello, Mike!” he shouts across Granite Gorge.
“Good day, Congressman!” I wave back.
It was on my mind I could be killed out here, but should I have let that stop me? I haven’t seen a soul all day, just the poltergeist in the lightning teasing the rim. I would’ve regretted not risking the storm and coming up here. And if I got hit? Well, maybe I’d die quickly. And happily. Life is about learning to live with danger, not eliminating it. Danger can’t be wholly contained without making life a thing pretty close to death. Life is by definition a risk. It’s a challenge to the inanimate, to death. To be born, to risk pain and sin, that’s thumbing your nose at entropy.
It says: “Hey, dare to be alive, rock! Reproduce or something.”
And the rock comes alive over a few billion eons and evolves into accountants and tiger sharks and lilies. And it celebrates and struggles and has bad breath and dies. But still, it was better than staying a damn rock. By being born, we all risk dying. This is an all-in bet, if I live it right. The Grand Canyon didn’t come with guard rails.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just