SOL 17: In the Canyon

American Rivers is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by petitioning Congress to protect 5,000 new miles of wild rivers. They’re asking people to “share your stories, share your love of wild rivers” as part of this campaign.

For over 30 years, my family and I have spent vacations and weekends kayaking on rivers throughout the northeast. When my boys were teenagers, it felt like our lives revolved around paddling. We all have favorite memories of these trips. Even, or especially, the near-disasters become epic stories that are told again and again. (You can read one here.)

But not every minute on the river is filled with roller-coaster whitewater. In fact, rivers are mostly flat water. Thrill-seeking paddlers like my boys tolerate these stretches. But I enjoy the peace of these sections of the river more than the danger-filled rapids. One such moment took place on quiet section of the Colorado River during a trip through the Grand Canyon. Ten years later, it’s still vivid in my mind.

Deep in the canyon there is a beach where, at five am, long before the sun reaches over the eastern rim, long before the cook yells, “Hot coffee,” you can sit on a rock and watch a secret chapter of life at the bottom of the world.

Before dawn, the river is a ribbon of dark ink, a constant, rippling presence. Oblivious to you, it pours downstream from distant mountains, is churned up from the depths of Lake Powell before being let loose from the bottom of the Glen Canyon Dam.

Above, dense clusters of stars in the Milky Way begin to fade to pinpricks of light. Bats flit and dive around the feathery branches of a tamarisk, feasting on midges and flies. At first they are just shapes in the moonlight. As the sky brightens, they continue filling up before returning to their roosts in crevices in the soaring cliffs. Even when the sky turns blue and clouds become streaked with pink, they linger.

Yellow flowers that look like four-o’clocks cling to the rocky shore, still folded in sleep. The river begins to lighten, shimmering silver, not waking exactly, but turning to a new day in its timeless journey. Just as it has for millions of years.

 Thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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6 thoughts on “SOL 17: In the Canyon

  1. Beautiful post, Catherine. I peeked back at your story on Lava Falls – yikes! You are brave. We had friends who vacationed there as well, and said it was the time of their lives. Your gift for poetry is always apparent in your prose. I loved these two lines, “Before dawn, the river is a ribbon of dark ink, a constant, rippling presence.” & “Even when the sky turns blue and clouds become streaked with pink, they linger.” Beautiful imagery…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your memory and it sounds lovely. I didn’t float the canyon with students, but we were on boats and camped at Lake Powell then went on to the canyon, down & up, camping at one of the campsites there. I loved the trip, and one favorite part was seeing the cave art at various places.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can see why this memory is forever etched in your heart. I call memories like this “storybook memories.” Your writing is captivating and smooth to read, well done. We visited GC rim one winter between Christmas and New Year’s and I’ve flown over it many times, but I can only imagine it’s beauty from the canyon floor. Love your words “. . . you can sit on a rock and watch a secret chapter of life at the bottom of the world.”

    Liked by 1 person

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