Flying back from Phoenix and doing yoga on the rim of the Grand Canyon,
I’m reading an article, Which Came First The Chicken or The Egg?
It’s got me thinking, Which came first yoga or a yogi?
My second cousin, Suzan is married to Lynn, who is the fasted talking Jewish lawyer in the West. He smokes cigars under the stars, loves to collect garden gnomes and share his research about the “Expanding Universe Theory”.
He takes a puff and then in his Bugs Bunny Meets George Burns sounding voice says, “Once the Universe was a dot! A dot! Get it?! A dot! There was no space and time. Get it? ! Nowhere and no when!”
The article reads…In many folkloric cultures the World Egg Theory prevails – the egg is the creation of itself, and our world hatches from its own shell fully intact.
The origin myths of Hinduism, in ancient Sanskrit texts, and Taoism believe sky and earth began as two halves of a broken egg.
In most world religions eggs are a symbol of life’s fertility and cyclical nature…
So Easter Sunday, my second cousin, Suzan (who I am visiting for the first time at her home in Phoenix) and I are driving to the Grand Canyon.
As we pull out of the driveway she says, “I have to admit. I don’t know the way there but I think we’ll be fine.”
I say, “Yeah, getting directions to the biggest hole in the world shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”
On the high way, I can’t stop saying, “Wow, look at the cactus! Look at that cactus!”
There are big monstrous Road Runner cartoon-like cacti everywhere.
And she says, “There’s called saguaro cactus. And that – she points off into the distance – is called a mesa. See that flat part at the top of the mountain? We’re going to drive up and over it.”
I say, “Oh, wow.”
I don’t believe her.
And then we do and she says, “See.”
My education of cacti and a mesa are literally from the Road Runner cartoon.
Suzan says, “Can’t you just feel what it might have been like to be on horse back?”
“Yes,” and I’m grateful to be in her green Kia, she calls “The frog”, going 80 + miles an hour on Rte I-17, past Bloody Basin Rd., Table Mesa Rd. Bumble Bee Rd. and Horse Thief Basin.
She tells me the story of how she fell in love with the West, graduated from Emory, got a job at a lawyer, moved from the East Coast, got married and never looked back.
“It was a sensory feeling. It felt good and right. The sky and mountains. The West.”
I get her drift. It’s vast and open. The tight-knit-Founding Fathers, Colonialism of the East vanishes in the vast, vistas of rubble desert, red rock and blue sky.
We see a sign in Flag Staff at the Quality Inn: No Train Noise, No Martians.
I ask directions for the Quality Inn receptionist. She doesn’t look up from her knitting. She hands me a piece of paper with directions to the Grand Canyon.
We proceed. Past a barn covered in a cow mural, snow peaked mountains and 5 moose running through pine scrub forests.
We pass mini-vans. And follow signs.
There are the usual teepee tourist shops and the Flintstone Lodge with Yabba-Daba-Doo by the parking lot.
It’s snow and rain as we pulled up the Grand Canyon National Park.
We arrive at the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park and park ranger with the right ranger hat and outfit on sticks his head out and says,
“Today’s’ the last day of Free National Parks! Have fun.”
He hands us a map of what I later call “the Grand Canyon campus”.
Suzan and I high-five each other and find the parking lot to the main look out point.
We park. Her hat blows off twice. It windy and spitting rain.
As we near the canyon Suzan says, “Do you want to close your eyes and I’ll lead you to the edge?”
How steep and big could the Grand Canyon be? I’ve been to Colorado, and trekked the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal. I’m a pro at travel. How scary could it be?
“Sure. It’s like a trust exercise.” I hold her hand. The wind and rain subsides.
It reminds me of a popular meditation we do in the labyrinth at Maya Tulum on the Radiant Retreat. One person is the leader and leads the other person whose eyes are closed all the way to the Labyrinth.
I close my eyes and hold her hand. This is the first time I’ve ever held her hand so it’s a great feeling – like having a big sister, someone to have my back.
“Ok. You’re almost there,” she says.
I’m better at leading than I am at being led. I walk, pretending to be cool and confident but having my eyes closed as I near the edge of the Canyon, is a bit like saying “Oh, I’m fine with falling to my death. I trust you, though, really. I do.”
“Ok, just a little further.”
I step cautiously. My body hit’s up against a metal rail. It’s cold.
I hold it.
“OK. Open, ” she says.
I open my eyes and there it is – the Grand Canyon. Vastest of the vast. All I can muster to say is, “Wow. Oh, my God. Wow. Amazing. Wowza. Beautiful. Wow. ”
It’s Easter Sunday and this view is like a new frontier an Easter egg hunt.
My niece, Sophie, age 5, told me on my cell, as we past Sedona,
“We had an Easter egg hunt and I couldn’t find one egg but I found most of them!”
I feel the same way. As if this is one of the missing eggs: The Natural beauty of the West and the Grand Canyon.
Staring at the Canyon I kept being like Kermit the Frog – big eyes, soft smile – what the heck I had no idea?! It was this big! I get tingly standing there. The same tingly as having a crush on someone mixed with a fear of heights and the thought, This canyon was hatched 2 billion years ago?
My mind can’t visualize or hold 2 billion. (Can you?)
The sun appears and the sky clears. I offer to take a picture of an Asian father and son. Tourist, speaking French, German, Swedish and Russian, all line up to get their pictures taken at the rim of the Canyon.
The vast depth and distance across the canyon gives me instant Alice and Wonderland feeling. I’m sure; I could reach out and touch the other side. Hey, no matter, it’s only 18 miles across. I swear it’s as close as the French tourist in her leather jacket who keeps saying, “Don’t fall in – bon jour!”
In the El Trovar lodge gift shop, Suzan finds a book called Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon – Gripping accounts of all fatal mishaps in the most famous of the Worlds Seven Natural Wonders by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers
This sparked my morbid realization that people die here and that there is no safety rail.
I asked the cashier, “How many people fall in or die each year here?”
She smiles, as if I’ve asked from porn and says, “3 last year.”
I like to think of myself as an adventurous type – cutting edge – I’ll try anything once – cow-girl and yet the vast jaws of the Canyon; it’s Vishnu Basement (translation 2 billion years old) and Paleozoic Sedimentary Rock, and the water Colorado River – trump my ability to say the word “edge” with out humbling redefinition.
The strata of sky, desert landscape, and complete record of Earth’s history are all displayed in a museum at the canyons edge.
Suzan and I pause at the rim of the world to enjoy Mother Nature’s yoga over the ages.
The water of the Colorado River is the life-blood of the Canyon and continues to carve its evolution.
Suzan and I walked the 2 mile rim walk. When I say rim. I mean like the actual rim.
Which scares the sh– out of me, given that there’s no railing.
I stay back on the side walk looking for the shuffle board and Oreo’s.
All the times I’ve ever said to a class of yoga students, “Feel your edge,” seemed pathetically cliché in the face of this new edge.
And yet, it illuminates how much being at the edge demands one to trust oneself.
I trust and dare my self, long enough for Suzan and I to snap a few yoga poses at the rim.
All the while the alarm in my head is going off: “Step away from the edge! Step away from the edge!”
An energetic, hyper-alert, happy medium between the fear of falling, mixed with a focus on the rocks, birds, trees and each layer of the canyon.
The canyons erosion, from Kaibab (the light sandy layer) to the hermit Shale (the orange rusty layer) to the famous Red wall Limestone (the dark red rock layer) all the way down the Colorado River, gave me a new gives me the experience an openness to life. Life and Death hand in hand.
I was hatching not only this geological perspective, but a new family relationship with Suzan and Lynn.
On the way back to Phoenix Suzan told me stories all about her grandmother, Jenny – loved to meditate and make pickled watermelon rinds. And Lynn invited me to see the Phillies.
And according to the in –flight article the chicken did come fist.