Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When Hell Freezes Over






A blast of arctic air gushing through the door of the Visitor Center was welcome contrast to the incinerating heat of the parking lot.  We yielded to its icy embrace, feeling instantly energized along with a substantial throng of other visitors who milled around chatting with the uniformed attendants and checking out the exhibits.

All around were pictures of the Canyon. 

Interactive maps of the Canyon.  

Brochures about the Canyon.  

Classes  and courses about the Canyon. 

Certification training for the aspiring Canyon guides.

Everywhere you look. 

Canyon. 

Canyon. 

Canyon. 

You can spend an entire day inside this air-conditioned heaven, thinking you were at the Grand Canyon without ever seeing the real thing!

Several times we were politely encouraged to view a movie about Grand Canyon in the state of the art (of course, also air-conditioned!) theater. We noticed a long line already forming in front of the entrance.

At first, I thought I heard it wrong.  I thought it was a replay of the argument we just had with our two teenagers in the car on the way to the park.

But then we heard it again. And again.

The much-too polite, much-too smiling attendants strongly suggested that we step into the line. 

I didn’t hear it wrong. I heard it right. Still inside my head, I simply couldn’t reconcile…

Why in the world would anybody want to watch a movie about Grand Canyon when you can simply step outside and see the real thing???

I know it's not an excuse, but I can (somewhat) understand the ignorance and inertia of my children. It still drives me crazy, but I can understand.

But this...? 

This - I simply couldn’t fathom. I couldn't comprehend that the same temptation would come my way AGAIN, right here, when the destination is practically at our fingertips, and that from no other than the attendants of the Grand Canyon himself!

I grabbed my husband by the hand, sinking my fingernails deep into his skin and said,

We got to get out of here!, and darted towards the door.

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Deafening Silence







Shredded by the gut-churning uncertainty we trudged along resembling more the inmates on death row than enthusiastic nature-lovers about to have their socks blown off at the sight of overwhelming glory. 

Interestingly enough, the only person who could have alleviated our fears with a word, the only person who’d already had the privilege of  meeting GC face to face - not once, but twice! - chose to remain silent.

At the time I begrudged it. I desperately wanted him to speak up, to assure us, to inspire us and float us on the wings of that inspiration all the way to the Matter Point where I can finally see it for myself.

I wanted him to dispel all our fears with one word. Even one-syllable word would be enough for me.

But he remained as silent as those rocks. Not a single stinking word.

It was only in retrospect that I understood why he refrained.  

Why it was not just O.K. but actually better to stay quiet...


Why it was not necessary for him to speak up, trying to persuade us on Grand Canyon’s behalf. 

But, at the time I simply couldn't either comprehend or accept his deafening silence. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Underwhelmed?







Mom… MOM! DAD???

WHAT?!!??  The urgency in the voice would have made us jump clear across the Canyon to the North Rim if our feet were not stuck in the molten goop of melting Village parking lot A asphalt.

Do you … do you think it’s going to be… if Grand Canyon is going to be…. UNDERWHELMING?

The question reveals that the same fiery demons of doubt tormenting me, now torture my child as well.

Except, it’s ten thousand times worse to see it in your child.

We’ve already been through waaaaay too much.  The burden of the journey weighs heavily on our shoulders. We feel stretched and pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. Even though we are so close - true, we can't quite see it with our own eyes yet but we can feel it there, almost at our fingertips - the big question still remains.

Will it be worth it? Will we consider it worth all the trouble of getting here?

Now, I can say one thing for certain - we did NOT come all the way here to be underwhelmed. We haven’t  gone through so much, exposed ourselves to so much misery, so much stress, so much pain, only to find the canyon, in the word of our teenagers, MEH.

Soooo, how was Grand Canyon?

MEH.

After everything we’ve been through, a mere MEH, just wasn’t going to be good enough.

Breathtaking?

Yes!

Overwhelming?

Yes!

Even terrifying? 

YES!

But, ‘Meh’?

NO! Absolute, unequivocal, resounding NO! 


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Out of the Frying Pan into the Convection Oven






Buoyed by such hopeful outlook, we arrived at the gate where we were greeted by a meticulously coiffed creature whose real face was perfectly masked by inordinate number of layers of professionally applied makeup. He/she/it was over-the-top nice, swooshing the supersized eyelashes up and down, creating a bit of a welcome breeze, then took our money with flair. In return we were lavished with not just a couple of hours but a full week of unlimited access to the aforementioned place that rhymes with 'well'.

We were almost at our final destination.

Our resident optimist pointed out that there is still plenty of parking spots in the Village parking lot A. This was immediately balanced by our resident pessimist’s assessment of intellectual properties of the people who choose to visit the park on the hottest day on record.

We swung open the doors, slamming instantly into the solid wall of Arizona’s other-worldly heat. 

Having lived in sub-tropical climate for the past twenty years, one can say that I am rather well adjusted to hot weather. In fact, I love it! But this heat was nothing like what I’ve experienced in Florida.  Our heat, if I dare to brag, is nice, steamy hot and 90% humid. The kind of heat that makes you drenched in sweat after two seconds of just standing there, ridding your body of toxins better than Miralax. The heat that makes you feel like you’ve done a two-hour intense aerobic workout without even lifting a finger.  The heat where you can cook spaghetti without ever opening the box!

I love Florida heat-and-humid combo. It’s like getting two for the price of one.

But, as I said, Arizona heat is nothing like Florida.

If Florida feels more like sauna, Arizona is more like a convection oven. The moment our feet touched the ground we were enveloped by bone-marrow drying temperatures matching the surface of the Sun. It was coming at us from above and below and all around. It felt like stepping inside a crisper sleeve of the hot pockets. I could feel the entire surface of my skin turning into beef jerky as we were walking through the heat wall across the parking lot.

All I could think of was that I did not want my family to be remembered for being baked to a crisp in our foolhardy pursuit of wonder-lust.

A tiny voice reached from afar and yanked me back from dangling over the brink of the abyss.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Perfect Day in Hell








This is just not worth it… A voice from the back seat had the audacity to articulate the swarm of fears inside each of us. ... Not worth at all. If we really wanted to experience Grand Canyon, we could have done it in an air-conditioned IMAX theater…

Yea! IMAX would be much better…

The alliance was formed and the mutiny was catching on.

The under-normal-circumstances totally outlandish idea of a U-turn just as Grand Canyon was not hours but literally minutes away ....

...the laughable temptation to go back to miserly creature comforts of the hotel pool and air-conditioning was becoming incredibly alluring as the prospect of hellish heat was becoming more real also.

Something had to be done before this gets seriously out of hand.

C’mmon guys… IMAX? Really…??? It’s GRAND CANYON for Heaven's sake…  My feeble protest revealed way too much of my own qualm over the situation.

We rode on in silence, each of us visualizing our own version of a perfect day in hell.

Well…, I finally interrupted the derailing train of my own thoughts, …. we don’t have to stay long. If it’s THAT miserable, we’ll just leave. There. No need to kill ourselves over Grand Canyonee. We can pop in for a couple of hours at the most and see how it goes…

I understand this was pretty lame for a Grand Canyon pep-talk but in the moment I couldn't scrounge anything better.

Plus, I’ve always found great solace in the knowledge that there is a time limit to hell on Earth. And perhaps even greater solace in the possibility of setting the timer myself and having an option to bow out of it when staying any further would only threaten to turn into uncalled-for martyrdom.   

Monday, August 14, 2017

It Seemed Like a Really Good Idea at the Time...






Back in March, when we mapped it all out on paper in our study, it made perfect sense.

Our summer trip was during our anniversary…. Grand Canyon was on my bucket list… our teenagers wanted to do it! All this and more was meticulously evaluated, then choreographed into a perfect family vacation inside our heads. We did our bookings, we double and triple-checked our lists. We were as prepared as it could be deemed humanly possible for a family of two middle-aged parents and a couple of teens in full bloom. 

We got this!, we thought, both logic and our hearts confirming our belief it was true.

We arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona at the end of June, during the peak of a record breaking heat wave.  Phoenix airport was under a threat of closure due to extreme temperatures, extreme even for Phoenix. All the locals were hunkering down, shaking their heads at us, the crazy tourons, in much the same fashion we treat the tourists who flock to Orlando theme parks in the middle of Florida summer.

Why would you go to Grand Canyon NOW???
 
Good question!

Back in March, the answer seemed rather self-evident.

Why wouldn’t we???

Today, however, I couldn’t recall even one of those obvious reasons, particularly not what made them so passionately compelling. My bucket list, our wedding anniversary, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon… they all seemed to be evaporating in the heat that was melting the asphalt and the rubber on our new tires as we bobbed towards our impending doom.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Stitch the Cat





Both Lizzy the owner and PJ the pet sitter warned us ahead of time about Stitch, the cat.

Cat is super shy and will hide.

I keep track if he is alive by food and poop levels ….

Don’t expect him to be friendly.  

IMPORTANT: Cat will try to escape if a door or window is left open. Please don’t let the cat out!

I don’t mind cats. I really don’t. But, I am definitely not a cat person.  The cat keeping to himself seemed like a mighty fine arrangement to me.

I can do food.

I can do water.

If I have to, I can even do the litter box, but I would rather let my husband deal with that.

Hairballs on the other hand… That’s where I draw the line.

With so much advance knowledge about Stitch, I was getting rather comfortable with the idea of taking care of the invisible cat. But before I could get too cozy, our resident Cat Whisperer heard the rumor.

Cat??? There is a cat in the house??!!?

With those words my dream of a ghost pet keeping dissipated like morning mist while the house echoed with forlorn meow-meowing, a call from one Kitty to another.

C’mmon people… Cats…. Whatevers! It’s really late. We need to get up early. Let’s go to bed. It’s pointless, I was determined to wrap up this ridiculous search party. 

Just then, out of the basement emerged the Kitty Queen with presumably Stitch the Cat draped over her shoulder.

Mom, I found him, I found him! I found Stitch!, she beamed.

I can see that. The cat eyed me suspiciously. It’s time for your shower.

But what about Stitch?

You can take him with you – cats love baths, don’t they?

Long days and late nights do that kind of thing to me.

From that moment on, the Cat Whisperer and Stitch the Cat became inseparable. They played fetch. They ate together.  They carried on their long conversations in Meow-meownese. They watched Ketflix together. The Cat followed the Whisperer everywhere she went - even into the bathroom!! And if the door was closed, he would keep meowing until the door was opened for him. At bedtime Stitch would go down into the basement bedroom and spend the night sprawled across the Whisperer’s face.  There were more belly rubs administered than I dare to admit. Theirs was the endless unembarrassed, unashamed exchange of loving, giving and receiving.

I scratched my head wondering whether somebody might have kidnapped the real Stitch described  in the warning messages and replaced him with this affectionate, snuggly impostor.

Or was it the Whisperer who, by all the knowing, caring and loving brought out Stitch's transformed nature?
It might be far-fetched but it also made me think if this could be a visual of what Jesus had meant when he said,


My sheep hear my voice and I know them… and my own know me … A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers… I am the Good Shepherd…I know my own and my own know me…