A Godful Cosmic Wildness: The Grand Canyon

September 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

An architect once told me that when you design a building, you think in terms of the perfect size –and the perfect size is you! You’re the perfect size! Anything taller than you looks high, and anything shorter looks low.

I remembered that saying the last time I saw the Grand Canyon. If I’m the perfect size, then the Grand Canyon is WAY BIG.

Panaromic View of Grand Canyon

How big is the Grand Canyon? 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and one mile deep.

As Bill Bryson said, You could set the Empire State Building down in it and still be thousands of feet above it — indeed, you could set the whole of Manhattan down inside it! The Grand Canyon is WAY BIG.

Grand Canyon Visitors  by Jane St. Clair

Even when you suspect it’s just a few more steps in front of you, the Grand Canyon always surprises you. It’s unexpected. You just don’t expect to see a gigantic gash stretching for so very long and cutting so very deep into the earth. If you stand on the canyon’s ledge, the Colorado River looks like a tiny little stream, and you can’t even see the hikers below, much less coyotes. It’s like a mountain in reverse — a mountain that left the earth and left a hole.

Grand Canyon with Colorado River by Jane St. Clair

It’s the “Oh Wow” moment, and it’s very quiet. The Grand Canyon is a silent place, a place with very little movement, except for the occasional raven who sky-dances with the Canyon’s strange wind tunnels. The colors of the Grand Canyon are quiet too, nothing gaudy, just pastels in purple, russet red, browns, and greens.

Beautiful Grand Canyon by Jane St. Clair

The Canyon has amazing colored layers that are perfectly horizontal — the whole panorama is a series of beautiful horizontals — all done in perfectly straight lines because water formed them, and water never lays crooked. The Grand Canyon is perfectly formed.

Grand Canyon Majesty by Jane St. Clair

J.B. Priestly said you feel when you are there that God gave the Colorado River its instructions. The Canyon is all Beethoven’s nine symphonies in stone and magic light.

Condor in the Grand CanyonThe Native Americans called the Grand Canyon by the name “Ongtupqa,” and they made pilgrimages to it as a holy place. It is a holy place, a place to experience transcendence and meaningfulness.

John Muir, an American hero who helped create our National Park System, said, “The Canyon seems like a gigantic statement for even Nature to make all in one mighty stone work. Wildness so Godful, cosmic, primeval, bestows a new sense of earth’s beauty and size. But the colors, the living, rejoicing colors, are chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven!”

Amen, Brother Muir.

For information on how to become one of the five million people who visit the Grand Canyon this year, see The Grand Canyon National Park.

Tags: Arizona · Arizona photography · Jane St. Clair · National Parks · nature essay