2007 was a horrible year almost as soon as it got started. First, my Nana died before her 97th birthday. It was a shock to everyone, because even with the knowledge of her age, she was very healthy, and I think everyone secretly believed she’d make it to the triple digits. Secondly, my dog died not even a month later. This was the dog I had grown up with for twelve years, the dog that was steady in his presence that maybe I had occasionally taken for granted. And now he was gone, my childhood friend. And I felt like my childhood had expired early.
Needless to say, I was in not overly excited to jet off to our summer adventure to the Southwest, something that had been planned the year before. I was still overcoming the headache of sophomore year, anticipating the headache of junior year, and feeling pretty low from missing those who I would never again see in this world. Perhaps it was because it caught me off guard that my trip to the Southwest United States was the most memorable trip I have ever taken.
I must give most of the credit to my dad here, who planned our adventure so seamlessly that we never grew bored, but were not overwhelmed. We visited the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Four Corners, the Durango-Silverton Railroad, Meteor Crater, Monument Valley, plus places that weren’t so touristy like the Indian Reservations. Each stop was spectacular and filled with so much that we went through 5 disposable cameras by the end of the trip. If you’ve never been to the Southwest and seen everything in person, you wouldn’t understand. Pictures don’t come anywhere close.
The Grand Canyon, clichÃ© as it is, was my favorite, as well as the Durango-Silverton Railroad. There’s something about the naturalness of the canyon, the color of the Colorado mountain river in Durango, that takes my breath away and leaves me bare. And in that moment, you know nothing man made could ever come close to compare. It is a confirmation of faith. A renewal of trust in a higher power. It is unreal. But as much as an out-of-body experience seeing these natural wonders were, it was not these final destinations that helped me heal. It was a place in between.
The second night we were there, we were on a deserted desert highway. Our headlights were the only ones on the long stretch of thin cement in a vast landscape. My dad pulled up to a lone motel in the desert, the only stop for miles in either direction. Its neon lights for the front office glowed green and red as my dad parked the rental car and sauntered off towards the building to get a room key. I got out of the car and sat on the trunk, the warm Arizona night surrounding my exposed arms. From my perch on the back of the car, the motel could be blocked out of my vision, and I stared into the desert, transfixed by what I saw. The navy blue sky was punctured with the brightest and clearest stars I had ever seen. The sky was so big that there was no clear distinction of where sky ended and desert began. Dark purple mountains in the far distance marked California. And in that moment, with so simple a vision as a desert at night, I knew that everything was all right. I could sense it just as I could sense the gentle night breeze on my face. He was watching.
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