Grand Canyons of Your Soul...
I had a mid life crisis at 30. I was successfully lawyering things in Washington, DC. I was achieving all the stated goals. I had a very nice hundred year old brownstone on Capitol Hill, I had a BMW, I had my own law practice. It was all going according to the ten year old’s version of myself plan...
Then I rafted the Grand Canyon for ten days. I had nothing but earth, water, sky...and a couple of bathing suits. I felt free. I felt happy. And when I returned to my life on The Hill, none of it fit me anymore. I mean nothing. Not my relationship, not my career, not how I spent my time, not my friends, not anything about my life fit me anymore.
So I left. I moved. In the span of five months, I closed down the DC life and moved to the middle of nowhere in Arizona. I ended up shortly after buying a little ranch in New Mexico and moved there with my five dogs, five cats and began ordering chickens, ducks, goats and was on my way to getting a horse as well. I lived forty five minutes from a town for two years...
Everyone in DC said that I was running away. That I would be back. At my going away party, there was a pool allowing people to bet on how quickly I would return. No one won any money...because I knew that I had to go, that it was time for a change. I also knew that the change would be painful. That it wasn’t going to be easy. Sometimes with my work schedule, I would not see another human being from Thursday at 5 pm until Tuesday morning at 8 am. And I didn’t mind it at all.
I would spend my time walking around the lake with the dogs, hiking up old volcanos, doing home improvement projects, yoga, writing, reading. I just lived my life...day after day. And sometimes I was so very lonely. But most days, I was living my best life.
I do not believe that there has been another time in my life that was more mine. I had begun thinking about having kids before I left DC. Not really wanting to get married, but definitely wanting to be a mom. I began that process on my own out there in the high desert. It didn’t come to pass the way that I intended but I did become a mom in New Mexico.
The time that I spend out there living MY life was incredible. It was hard. It was painful. It was lonely. It was scary at times when I realized that I was alone in the world, with only dogs to stand between me and whatever might decide to threaten me.
I rafted the Colorado again the next year. I had to return to the place that changed my life. I had to see it again and make sure that I hadn’t misunderstood. So I returned the next year and did the same trip, this time with a friend, instead of my dad. It was kind of the end of that friendship, I didn’t know that spiritual journeys are best taken solo. Neither did she.
I can look back at myself now, at that time, and see how much work I needed to do. And at the very same time, I can see how much I was a better version of myself. All the trappings of success stripped away, all the stuff that made me feel like a big shot. All the props and show offy things that I did while being upwardly mobile in DC, removed...by several thousand miles. And I miss that version of myself. She still lives inside me now. And she haunts me. I feel the pull towards the outside, the woods, the simpler life. It has always been there, and seems to always be a place I need to return to.
It isn’t exactly solace because I sometimes dread the pull. I feel distracted by it. I feel the call but sometimes I do not want to answer it because I know all too well that that call leaves me alone in the woods, with only me. And for someone who has spent the whole of her life running away from herself, that time, spent alone with few distractions, is hard time served.
I know that I will return there though. I will go back to the place where I reside removed from all the worldly clamors. It isn’t today but it is coming. I can feel it. My need and desire to get away. Feels almost desperate. For simple. For quiet. For less. For me it is the call of the wild. That place I can exist where I do not jockey for position or power, but live each day, alive, wondering, and appreciating all that I have while not really working all that hard to acquire more.
Being in the world, kind of removes me from it. Somehow. If I among the people, I seem to get distracted. I need the removal, the distance to experience the peace and tranquility I find and crave.
One moment of the rafting trip stands before me, it is the place I return to in my mind every time I am stressed, or hurt, or worried. This image comforts me when almost nothing else will. It has become a mental process for me. I go back to when I hiked up a steep canyon wall. Carefully choosing each step, as death waited for me with every misstep. As I moved up the canyon, I felt lighter, as if the worldly clamors that plagued me below my ascent were being casted off. So when I arrived at the top, I was less me and more me at the same time.
I distanced myself from the crowd. Took my time through the pass. Until I arrived alone at the falls. I didn’t say anything out loud but the whole of my soul cried out to me. Saying:
“THIS is where you belong!”
“THIS is what you crave!”
“THIS is your becoming...this water spilling over the edge, is the missing thing in your life.”
And so I stood there immersed in a spiritual moment. One where I stood within myself and began to fold inward and soar skyward at the same time. Creating my own Grand Canyon within my soul. A crevice where I allowed the broken parts of me to begin to heal while opening up to the sky, allowing light to gravitate towards the darkness.
There are not better words I can write to describe this event. This time that I stood transfixed gazing a water falling. I just know to the depths of my soul I was changed that day. I was no longer the person I was the day before, and yet, I was more me than I had ever been.
I was present in my life for myself. I was with me and it wasn’t painful. I was with myself and I wasn’t afraid. I made peace with the warring factions within myself and began a healing process that continues to this day. I made a home in the canyon in my heart that ran all the way up to my mind and down into my gut. The great divide within me somehow wild and free but more passable. No longer did I stand on the edge of myself waiving at my other self across the large crevasse. I now was one with all of it...and somehow that happened while I stood looking at the most beautiful place I have ever been.
Sometimes waterfalls are not just waterfalls, sometimes they are God falling and washing over you at just the right moment, where you are open to all that you are, all that you were and all you might become. Sometimes, waterfalls in grand canyons, alter your life forever. Sometimes, life, takes on new meaning even as you stand in the body that remains unchanged. Sometimes, you find that crater within your soul, is actually a canyon, and you are never the same again.
Havasu Falls, Havasupai Tribal Lands, my personal holy ground.