Coastline Pilot News
June 4, 2002
“Like love, travel makes you innocent again.” – Diane Ackerman
Serrated clouds drift overhead punctuated by the shimmering stars of the morning triangle. Snuggly wrapped in a purple sleeping bag, my eyes scan the pre-dawn sky. Laurie Lee and Julie slip quietly through the beach sand. “Hey, birthday girl. Still want to light the blaster?” Reluctantly, I slither from my cocoon. Part of me desperately wants to linger, to savor the moment of this last morning of our 16 day journey down the Colorado River. But the childlike glee of something silly, out of place – to light the blaster (a high output propane burner used to heat coffee water) on my birthday is too enticing to pass up. It’s 4:15 am and no one else stirs in camp.
The flame ignites with a loud “whoosh.” The girls hand me a small piece of carrot cake complete with candle. I make a wish – ah, don’t you want to know – and extinguish the flame with a small poof. Light begins to paint the top of Diamond Peak a soft beige. The last of the evenings bats flutter about, scooping up insects in a mad dash before dawn.
Breakfast is simple this morning – bagels, juice and coffee. We are a mere three miles from Diamond Creek, our take-out point, and a sumptuous brunch awaits us after our de-rigging. We load the boats one last time, and begin our final hour on the water – a silent float.
Paddle commands are communicated with a thump on the tubes – one thump for all forward. Two thumps for stop. Canyon walls rise and fall before us – and without words to pull us away, the power of this space carries us deeper into ourselves. Leslie and Emma sit behind me, their faces glow in the early light. As I ponder their beauty, I am overwhelmed by a simultaneous sense of lost and found. Tears become common.
226 river miles have woven our lives together in adventure, in laughter, and in sharing. We’ve hiked through sandstone, limestone and granite, into the aeries of the red wall, paddled through roaring rapids, and floated through lake like pools. We come from two continents, multiple coasts and spaces in the middle. In the sixteen days, we have become as much alike as not, and our common goal – the welfare of us all – has bound us together.
The canyon bares her soul, and asks us to do the same. Julie cajoles us up rock faces. Jeff and Sam gently fill the air with their guitars and voices, inviting song and lulling tired hikers to sleep. Owl tells morality tales. Hank leads spirited games. Evie plays her recorder, and the joined voices in tight side canyons echo our spirits. Birding takes on a new light as we quickly identify the Avocet, Hooded Warbler, Canyon Wren, Merganser, Phoebe and others. Tracks in the sand: the beaver, the ring-tail, deer and the big horn sheep remind us that we share this space, their space, and respectfully do our utmost not to disturb their home.
What is the magic of this place? A deep chasm within the center of the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Canyon invites us to step away from the energy that separates us from ourselves. This vast wilderness begs us to let go of our daily race - to be perfectly in the moment. To give ourselves the gift of rowing the boat, climbing the rock face, or simply watching the river roll by. It brings us deeply to our core and allows us to face our value systems – to adjust as necessary and to enjoy the luxury of stepping out of whatever madness kept us from here.
A hummingbird swoops in front of my face. She hovers over the water’s edge - eye to eye. Her closeness creates reverence. Her wings resonate melodious within my system. Her gift: more innocence as I let go of what I know and discover the world.
We round the final river bend to take-out, but my eyes are frozen up-canyon. Thoughts are tangled in memories of sand storms, large waves, shared touches, and caring. I can hear my heart beat deep within my chest, in harmony with my friends. This is my third journey down the river, and it strikes me that I have just begun to scratch the surface of what personal transformations are possible.
I invite you to step outside tonight – to gaze at the night sky and open your heart to dreams. Then, plan a trip – to any wilderness space. Walk among tall trees, raft down river corridors, hike desert plateaus. You’ll find new spaces within yourself – and an expanded sense of home.
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