“So, this is what she saw.” My sister’s voice broke the awed silence as I tore my gaze away from the beautiful, sun-filled canyon. I imagined my mother’s face, decades earlier, glowing as she reached the top of a hill, pausing to absorb beauty so magnificent it seemed to belong to Heaven and not earth. I felt like crying.
It was June 2010 and we were standing on the edge of Bryce Canyon. My mom came here with her family when she was sixteen, the same age I was then. I still remember that distant gaze in her eyes as she flipped through faded photographs. She often talked about bringing us there someday.
â–º honorable mention 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
“I hate hiking, Mom! Why do we always have to go camping? Let’s just go to a resort like a normal family.” She would just shake her head and tell me I needed to expand my horizons.
Eight months earlier my mom died from a heart attack. As a way to give ourselves a vacation, we decided to visit Bryce Canyon and explore the place she loved so much. My dad told us to stand together for a picture and fighting against the ache in my throat, I forced a smile.
It was all too much. The sunlight hitting the reddish brown rocks — making them almost glow — the magnificent blue sky, even the yellow wildflowers growing on the side of the trail. My mom wanted so badly to take me here and all I did was complain about how sleeping in a tent was uncomfortable and hiking made my feet hurt.
Each bend in the trail and amazing view broke my heart, but it also gave me a sense of gratitude and calmness. I thought of my mom looking at the same rocks, tasting the same dry air mixed with dust. My sister Michaela bent down to pick a yellow wildflower and weaved it into her hair. I smiled. My mom loved gardening almost as much as she loved us. In the old scrapbooks of her trip to Bryce Canyon, there is a photograph of her doing the same thing. Except, I don’t think Michaela ever saw it.
Since my mom died in October, I’ve been longing to find her again. The absence of her steady voice, warm smiles, even her endless nagging tore a hole in my chest. For months I viewed life merely as an endless rolling of the dice with no explanation besides sometimes the roll favors you and sometimes people die. With shallow beliefs, I grimly faced a world I could no longer predict; much less give my trust to.
Somehow, in that place of brilliant blue sky and impossible rocks stretching toward the heaven, I felt something again. It was just a glimmer of hope: the first time I could see beauty without imagining it falling apart or recoiling from a bittersweet memory. I felt closer to her. I could almost hear her worried voice calling to us, “Be careful on that path! Go slowly!”
Near the end of Queen’s Garden Trail lies a huge rock formation of a Queen sitting on her throne, overlooking the canyon. Staring up at her, the group of tourists quieted and for a few moments I heard only my own shallow breathing and quickened pulse. I don’t believe in miracles, not even after witnessing this spectacular sight. I’m not sure I even believe in God. What I believe is things can change. After months of being closed off, my senses were flooded with life. The world could be beautiful again. That’s the only miracle I need.
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