No one had to tell me to feel the way I did. I felt it all on my own. With depths as bottomless as the ocean, and craters so vast they seemed to spread across the world forever, the view was like nothing I had ever seen, or have since. As the scorching sun baked me like a cookie I knew I was crumbling, but not in any kind of physical way. As I looked out across the cliffs, my hands gripping the rails, I felt something within me lift, rising up beyond the abyss below. I could feel the water beneath me, felt my toes extend into the narrow glass of a shallow sea, snaking through the cliffs like it almost didn’t belong: yet it did. The very colors, striking at my eyes like lit matches: shades of reds and bronze magnified my vision, made it brighter. I knew that if I closed my eyes and imagined the sheer stillness of one million miles stretching like a ghost over the Earth, I would feel it. The crowds around me wilted away and I was alone. In my mind the world consisted of only this moment. A moment where there was no war, or violence, disease, or pain. There was instead a raw sort of majesty, cradled only by the comforting silence.
“Kind of opens up a new way of looking at the world doesn’t it?”
I opened my eyes and my Mother stood behind me, smiling. “Smile!” She said, holding up the camera as the flash blinded my face. “And say, Grand Canyon!”
In the years following the moment when my twelve-year old self stood face to face with what many consider to be one of the world’s seven natural wonders, I have been to many remarkable places. I have traveled the United States far and wide: from the coasts and deserts, forests and waters, to the bustling cities and the intimate towns. I have been humbled more than once by the sheer vastness and beauty that makes up our diverse country. However, I’ll never forget how I felt in that one moment as I looked out over the Grand Canyon and realized for the first time just how small and lucky we really are as human beings.
Now that I’m older, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world we live in is like a gift. A gift freely given and merely waiting to be unwrapped by us. Amidst all that is troubling about our existence, all that is spiteful, all that is selfish and hateful, there has always been this tremendous amount of natural beauty not created by human hands. This beauty doesn’t exists solely for one person or even one group; it is what it is, generation and generation, always the same, ever-unchanging vistas. Be it a desire that captivates the human spirit, there’s just something about a waterfall or a mountain side that draws people together; the Grand Canyon did that for me.
Looking back, when I think about that view and how it felt to lay eyes upon something so ancient and so loved I couldn’t help but feel part of a connection. Thinking about all the differences in beliefs, cultures and way of life, there seems so often an un-crossable bridge between peoples. However these places: the Grand Canyon and so many others not just in the United States but throughout the entire world bring people together in ways not much else can.
For in nature were all the same: human beings marveling at something truly beautiful.
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