Seventh wonder

August 11th, 2012

Grand Canyon, 9 August 2012
The sun is already rising as I find my way from my lodge at Yavapai Canyon Inn to Mather Point, on the south rim, which the Grand Canyon National Park guide describes as “the classic first view of Grand Canyon”.
As I reach the edge, even with the security of the waist-high fence to prevent me tumbling into the void, there’s an initial unease, looking out over the drop into the canyon. That quickly dissolves, as my attention is drawn to the canyons within the canyon, shadows and highlights multiplying each other as I look deeper. I find it impossible to estimate distances – from this, the south rim, to the north rim opposite, or from here at the top to there, at the lowest visible point. The alternating bands of colour – grey, almost white, graduating to pink, yellow, brown and darker, indeterminate grey shadows towards the canyon floor – call to mind the countless millions of years over which this seventh wonder of the world has formed. Down every facet of the stone walls, thousands of rivulets have been carved by air, fire and, most of all, water.
As I arrive a professional photographer’s tripod is already set up, the camera automatically rotating and scanning, taking a new exposure every few seconds. The soft whirring of the camera’s motor and the click of the shutter join with the sounds of birds and bullfrogs. Undeterred, I switch on my modest camera and take lots of pictures as the rising dawn increasingly lights up the yellows, pinks and greys of this giant landscape.
I chat briefly with a woman standing on the same look-out. A squirrel appears and, for some reason, I can’t resist telling her his name is Cyril – on the authority of my grandfather, no less, who told us stories about Cyril the squirrel and Sebastian the seagull. (I don’t mention Sebastian.)
The photographer appears and, eschewing conversation or even acknowledging my presence, checks the progress of his picture harvest. As he packs his equipment away and he and the woman go off together, I am sure he is confident of finding some masterpieces among the hundreds (thousands?) of images his camera has gathered, and will no doubt sell them profitably. If, among the few dozen shots I have taken, I find one good enough to enlarge and hang on my living room wall, I shall be content.
I take a few images of Cyril, breakfasting on a pine cone, and a couple of a bird with striking blue plumage. A young American couple think it might be a blue jay.
Bird, squirrel, photographer and his partner – pleasant enough distractions from the main event, which happens a little earlier: meditation on the south rim. The less said of that, the better – sufficient to say that this is an extraordinarily peaceful place. I resolved six months or so ago that my holiday this year should be an American adventure. Meditating at the Grand Canyon fulfills that.

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  1. Brittney M. Gay

    The Kaibab squirrel lives only at the Grand Canyon North Rim. It is related to the plainer Abert squirrel that lives at the south rim. The prevailing theory is that the population was separated during the early formation of the canyon and evolved into two different species. The Kaibab squirrel has a white tail and black belly. The Abert squirrel has a dark tail and a white belly. That’s about the only difference in the two species.

  2. Dion Stevenson

    Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet (2,683 meters), overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon. Here the canyon transforms as the narrow walls of Marble Canyon, visible only as a winding gash, open dramatically to become “grand.” Layers of red and black Precambrian rocks, not visible at Bright Angel Point, add contrast and color. Part of the viewpoint is accessible.

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