When I was a senior in high school, two boys I liked invited me to the Grand Canyon. It was a Sunday, a spring afternoon. One boy had a sexy accent, and the other had a sexy mind and his parents’ gas card. I turned them down because I had a delicate balance with my parents. I didn’t want to get locked in a closet until I turned eighteen. I did not go on that adventure. This is my only regret.
I did not go to the Grand Canyon in 1994 with two sexy boys. I went in 2010 with my dad. The year began with me getting my heart broken, and on the drive out west, I thought about how we were going all that way to look at a big hole. A big, jagged, broken gap. A loss.
When we were there, the mules were still off duty for the winter. The trails were snowed over. So we didn’t climb down, we just walked along the edge and looked. My dad had given me a Cookie Monster blue coat for our trip. Two things about my dad: he loves to buy people jackets, and he is always surprised by how small I am. The Cookie Monster coat is an adult medium, and it swallowed my size 4 frame. I pulled my hands inside the cuffs to keep them warm. We stood next to each other and looked across the emptiness.
The great thing about Maunday Thursday and Good Friday is that you can go to church feeling bitter and depressed, and this is totally appropriate. You can let the service remind you of everyone who’s betrayed you, and all the good, sweet people you know who have been destroyed, and what an awful, violent, callous place the world is. Nobody tells you to cheer up. In fact, if you’re walking around grinning, it looks weird. Even Jesus is allowed to lose it: “What the hell is this?!” he yells. (Alternate translation: my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)
I could have been at the Canyon with youth, with rabid curiosity and a thrilling fear of the coming punishment. Instead, I was there wondering about how earth so barren that it could be plowed away and collapsed by a ruthless river, rock helplessly tumbling in to open it wider and wider– how could that become something inspirational? Why wasn’t it a tragedy? We walked out to the edge, across snow and rock. We paid attention to our feet. Ravens that had been perched near us took off and chased each other. They flew even with our position, and dazzlingly high above the canyon floor. “They’re not worried,” my dad said. “They’re right at home.”