Food For Thought




Finding the Grand

11 comments | May 21st, 2012

(story by Mir, from Woulda Coulda Shoulda)

I am currently on an extended-family vacation, which is a rare treat. We are scattered all over the country, and this is the second time we've gathered to vacation together. The fact that my father thought to do this for all of us—and is doing it again—is pretty amazing. We're very fortunate that we have the chance(s) to get together this way.

For me, of course, being a fairly solitary person who is sadly used to not seeing my family very often, a whole week with so many other people is a mixed blessing. I love it. I really do! But it's an adjustment, for sure, to adjust to the hubbub and the excitement and help my kids adjust and all of that. Stress is stress, even when it's good stress! Especially if you are normally sort of a hermit, like I am.

All of this is preamble to this: We are vacationing in Arizona, and on Sunday we all went to the Grand Canyon. Before we went, various people had assured me that "You just can't imagine until you've been there" and "pictures really just do not do it justice." So I was prepared to be wowed, yes. And I was not disappointed—grand? Yes. Huge? Also yes. Majestic, awe-inspiring, amazing? None of that was a surprise. But it's just… so… LARGE. It goes on and on and on and no matter how much I looked at it, I just couldn't reconcile all of those sheer cliffs with the tiny river we could see way down at the bottom.

It would've been a spectacular experience no matter what, walking along such a gigantic piece of proof that the world is capable of making strange and wonderful things wholly without human intervention. But viewing it along with my husband and children and parents and siblings and their kids made it even better. There was the scenery and the company together, sort of like sharing a juicy secret with the people you like best. Then there was also how every conversation, every exchange seemed more important, somehow, when set on such a breathtaking backdrop.

Many of our group were busy taking pictures, too. My husband spent the day muttering at his various cameras and lenses, trying to get the perfect shot that would capture what lay in front of us.

I took very few pictures. Mostly I looked, and listened, and just tried to drink it all in. It's easy—too easy—in our daily hustle and bustle to get wrapped up in our own little worlds. To me, looking out over the Grand Canyon was a swift reminder that anything that feels huge to me is, by definition, not all that big in the grand scheme of things. I don't believe you could look at all those miles of rocks, worn smooth by a force almost unimaginable, and still be convinced that your worries about work or school or whether you have time to stop at the store later are really what life is about. (And as if that wasn't enough, we were also lucky enough to see the solar eclipse while we were there. It was a whole day of natural wonders!)

At the same time, being there with my family made me tune in to the little things. The moment when my daughter took my little nephew's hand, or when my niece ran up to tickle me and skipped away laughing. Rather than feeling insignificant, those moments somehow felt bigger. What mattered came into focus: the preciousness of that time together, how quickly our kids are growing up, how lucky we were to be seeing all of these things together in spite of normally being so far away from each other.

I wish I knew how to preserve those times when what's most important seems so clear. How do I make myself a metaphorical Grand Canyon I can take home and refer to when life seems overwhelming? Because I think that would be epic.

Where or when have you felt like the world just somehow made more sense? How do you hang on to that feeling?

(There's lots more Mir here)


  • MCS

    Posted on May 22, 2012

    If anyone figures that out, please bottle it. I’ll buy a case.

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  • birchsprite

    Posted on May 22, 2012

  • Victoria

    Posted on May 22, 2012

    I think vast expanses of nature help… my area, I can walk in one direction for hours in the woods, never encountering sign of man. So, solitude and unspoiled nature…can lead to a quiet moment to ….decide everything is ok. (Something like that)

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  • wendy

    Posted on May 22, 2012

    I went to college in Flagstaff. We used to drive up to the grand canyon to watch the sunrise. of all of the weird and crazy things we used to do in college, those quiet moments shared with my closest friends as the sun came up over the canyon are some of my most clear and vivid memories. It doesn’t get any less inspiring with time and exposure either. that is always what grabs me about the canyon. it never ever gets that “been there, done that feel” to it…. you see it the next time and are still awed by just how big it is and how little you are. I feel that way about the ocean, too. Sitting on a non-sandy balcony staring at the ocean always makes me feel like I am tiny and small. between just how big it is and the never ending ebb and flow of the waves. Waves that have been moving through the water for millions of years, water that has been cycling around the world for millions of years.

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    • Anna

      Posted on May 22, 2012

      Yes, I think it is the way that it makes you feel small, and you just can’t believe you’re in control of everything. Then you know that you need all the wonderful little bits in your life, no matter what.

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    • Frank

      Posted on May 22, 2012

      It was very similar for me and my college friends, except we drove multiple times about 3 hours to the coast just above Boston to watch the sun rise over the ocean. It was exactly the same for us: quality time with friends while watching a special sunrise. Thank you, Wendy, for giving me a reminder. :)

      Mir — I am not so sure about a time when the world made more sense… but you mention about the ‘big stuff’ in your like not seeming so big. I have 2 of them.. one for nature and one for life experience. i am a bit of a geek. I still remember the first time I looked through a powerful telescope and saw Saturn. the other was when I traveled abroad and walked / saw, first hand, how some people are forced to live and exist. For both of these things, pictures, stories, etc. just didnt do them justice for me. Seeing first hand… thats a different story.

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  • The Other Leanne

    Posted on May 22, 2012

    Not that the world made any more sense, but for a brief time I was able to have that “grand perspective” after a trip to the UK. Now I focus on a much smaller view: the cat at my feet knows nothing of cranky co-workers, dementia, politics, or the daily travails; her only cares are for a safe place, a full dish, and a warm bed. And really, that’s all I need for myself as well.

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  • karen

    Posted on May 22, 2012

    I’ll take a case of what you hopefully figure out how to bottle and sell too. I haven’t been there yet… hope to make a family trip some day soon, and please tell me you’ll post some of Otto’s photos when you come back home?

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  • Karin

    Posted on May 22, 2012

    I agree with the comment that seeing the canyon never gets old. There has never been a time that seeing it didn’t take my breath away and pull me completely into the moment of awe. We call it a ‘Yay God’ kind of moment. There might not be a Grand Canyon moment every day, but I bet if you look carefully, you can find a ‘Yay God’ moment!

    I am so glad you got to experience the Canyon. Something you will never forget!

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  • Stacy

    Posted on May 26, 2012

    Strangely, things made the most sense for me in Moscow Russia. It almost felt as if I had been born in the wrong place and was finally coming home. Although I love it there, I wouldn’t want to live there, long term, due to the political situation. But I felt as though they shared my values and understood better than anyone in the states ever had. I still have experiences where I’m transported there, just for a magical minute.

    But, also nature. As a bird-watcher, nothing is as cool as spotting a bird and just watching it. I’ve never seen an ugly bird: not even vultures are ugly to me. There’s something about the diversity of birds that reminds me that God loves, and find beautiful, color, music and even the most insignificant is special to him. And then I try to apply that to humans as well (although some people make it really, really hard to figure out why God loves them).

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