where the writers are
Artist in Residency--Grand Canyon South Rim

November 5, 2013


I am sitting in a hotel on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s where I go to use the Internet, across from my artist-in-residency apartment over Verkamp’s Visitor’s Center. The apartment is spacious and rustic and modern at the same time. The main rooms have a view of the rim and I can’t sit at the desk because I stare at the canyon’s ever-changing light and find that time races when nothing is there to mark it except the blond, going red, going blue—the sun setting.  Color and space and light and rock and ravens flying across the windows all day distract me. But according to the journal kept by other artists-in-residence, we are suckers for this scene and feel inverted somehow by being here. How can we create, our purpose for being here, when this is the master creation wrought by water and wind and time?


Yes the ideas get lofty because there’s no ordinary way to talk about it. I can’t say the canyon is cool or nice or even picturesque. I can only say, it makes us different.



I talk about magic, I lose cynicism, I breathe more deeply and heavily in this altitude. I don’t want noise, not even music. I am offended by the occasional car alarm in the parking lot.  This canyon has been like a dream spot that I have visited and felt like I didn’t learn enough or touch enough and had to come back. Anthony proposed to me here, in a blizzard.  I am now here to write. And I am speechless, wordless.


This a personal experience for each person but I have a platform, a deck in front of my apartment on the 2nd floor that shows me the rim path and the people going back and forth on the trail. Some people see me, some don’t. Very few people rush along the path. Everyone takes pictures but they look first. They read the Trail of Time explanations about the 1.35 million year old rocks, they point, they sit on log benches. They talk in several languages—lots of French and Italian. A group of men took out a banner and held it up while they took a picture of themselves—vets or a club.


What I’ve noticed the most are people holding hands. Especially old couples. They saunter, gripping each other’s gloves. For some, this is their life now. They are done with work and kids and going from park to park, making the hikes, renting bicycles and buying snacks at the general store. A man I ran into at Verkamps said, he felt the hike today. “I'm doing the Grand Canyon shuffle. I hiked for 7 hours and now I'm moving slow. I’ll be ready for another one tomorrow.”


Don’t doubt him.


While sitting in this lobby, usually right before my dinner, I watch the tourists come in after their day out there. Faces are flushed, hair blown back or smashed by a hat. They whip off their gloves and stuff them in their pocket. The nylon jackets bulge with layers that are necessary when the temperature drops from 60 to 19. Twelve tonight. Two women in their forties came in from one hike, sat down right in the lobby and planned another.


Across from me, now, while I write is an Italian family with two boys. The parents were reading their email and the boys were playing with coins on the coffee table. Then one accidentally hit my phone onto the floor. He picked it up and looked at me then went to sit by his mother. He said something in Italian and then whispered “I'm sorry.” In English. His mother put an arm around him and flipped her ipad to another screen and began to read them a story. The brother came behind the couch to join them. They are falling asleep on the couch now.


It’s not all spiritual and story telling. In this lobby too are stuffed animal heads under the log beams. Elk and moose mostly—I have apologized to them. At the store below the artist’s apartment, they start the day with cowboy music. “Rawhide” by 9am. The radiator in the apartment bangs like semis wrecking into one another, but that’s a childhood noise so it doesn’t bother me. And yes you can get Grand Canyon inscribed everything from mouse pads to wooden chop sticks. The crap is contained though. The stores are miles apart and there is no push to buy.


As I go back to my apartment for the night, I’ll glance at the canyon and see nothing but black. There is a silver slipper of a moon tonight and huge glossy planets and stars.


I’ve got things to write and I best get back to it—if I can find words.


2 Comment count
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Lay on a rock for me

It is spiritual and has a deep soul. When I was there, the geologist I was filming was sitting on a rock and said, it's amazing to think that we're sitting here are animals that were once under the ocean. He pointed out fossils to me. His daughter, raised there, would have breakfast with her dad and 'run' down the canyon to have lunch with her mom who worked for the forestry service and then back up for dinner. Can you imagine? Not only the beauty and sense of the world that must have given her, but the great shape she was in!

First time I saw a falling star was there. I was so thrilled, then I saw so many.


The canyon overwhelms the Western huning culture doodads, thank goodness.

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trail of time

i've become obsessed with rocks as one would in this place. The trail of time shows how old they are! And we think we know everything.