What does the Grand Canyon have to do with Cornelia and Emily’s trip to Europe? Nothing, actually. But before I head to England and officially start the adventure, I am making a four-week cross-country trek from Los Angeles to New York, stopping in various cities to meet with those who knew Cornelia and Emily, along with visiting some of the girls’ old stomping grounds, and touring a bit of Quebec, where the girls first sailed from and then returned to a couple of days later, after the ship they were traveling on ran aground before it ever made it out of the St. Lawrence River.
So for these first few days of the big adventure, instead of boarding passes, deck chairs and dressing for dinner, my travels are more about open roads, stopping for gas station chicken and staying in motels along old Route 66.
Yesterday was the first time I had ever been to the Grand Canyon, and those few hours left me wanting to come back and really explore the place. My friend Allen is right – pictures can never do justice to the magnificence of what is in every way a true wonder. With the brief time I had at the park, I walked the South Rim trail, and found a quiet spot to just sit and really look at the rocks and cliffs.
Some of the best advice I ever read was that being present in the moment is as effective as meditation for calming the mind and lifting the spirit. And yesterday, sitting on a rock at the Grand Canyon seemed like a perfect place to remind myself to start practicing being present. A few deep breaths was all it took to start clearing my head. The stresses of the last few weeks – sorting out details of the trip, packing, moving – fell away into the past. The noise of thoughts about upcoming plane trips and appointments was quieted. I was able to sit and really experience the moment, enjoying the feel of the light, cool breeze and the warm sun as I studied the colors and patterns of the canyon and watched the wispy clouds.
It reminded me of childhood, of lying in the grass with friends, gazing at the clouds, working out what each formation looked like, while the sky slowly changed colors as the sun went down.
If only we could, as adults, have moments like that every day. There would be no need for blood pressure medication, I am certain.
Before I left, there was one last stop to make: the park gift shop. This is something I should mention up front, and you can consider it my pledge to you. Wherever my travels take me, if there is a gift shop, I will be visiting it, and reporting my findings. Because there is just something terribly alluring, almost intoxicating, about a museum store or tourist attraction gift shop that just calls to the traveler.
The shop at the Grand Canyon was, not surprisingly, filled with beautiful photographs of the canyon, reproduced on everything from playing cards to posters. But to me, the coolest item was a bandana printed with wilderness survival tips. And all proceeds go to benefiting the park.
It’s time to pack up and begin the drive from Gallup, New Mexico to Elk City, Oklahoma. Will check in again soon.