The name is fitting. If nothing else the Grand Canyon is certainly grand. The size is enormous. There are rocks of every color. Red, oranges and yellows I expected, but the blues and greens in the landscape surprised me. When the moon sets in the morning, but before the sun comes up the stars are super bright and look like silver pinholes in the sky. But what impressed me the most was the silence. Once a mile down in the canyon, if you stop walking and just listen, you’ll find there is nothing to listen to. No helicopter tours; no raging Colorado River (unless you are within ear shot of the river because that is loud), no animal noises, no buzzing electrical wires, no people, no cars, no wind in the trees. I think it is the quietest place I have ever been. I would have thought that might be eerie, but I loved it. It was calming. For someone who can’t meditate and quiet the mind, it seemed great. It drew me in to appreciate the stillness and desert peace.

The serenity is deceptive because in that quiet, seemingly peaceful place everything seems to want to prick. In fairness it was foolish of me to touch a cactus to see just how sharp it was (pretty friggin’ sharp), but even the aloe is sharp. Trees there are prickly. And many of the rocks are sharper than you’d think. Everything is on the defensive in the desert, but somehow, I found it invited me to let my guard down.

From a mile down it becomes more beautiful. In fact upon driving up, I don’t find the Grand Canyon beautiful. It’s massive and impressive, but it isn’t beautiful to me in the way that a snowcapped mountain is. But a mile from its flat top it becomes stunning.

On my first morning there I got up to watch the sunrise. Sitting on a cool, giant rock alone I waited for the sun to creep over the landscape, and I noticed something obvious that seemed rather deep to me at the time. Everything I was looking at, everything here that inspires awe in everyone who comes is only visible because of the huge pieces that are now gone—that which has been eroded away. In the empty space where something no one remembers is gone, the loss of something once solid and grounded which created empty space is what enables us to see the remaining stone and find it awe inspiring. Without what is gone it would just be solid Earth like everywhere else. It wouldn’t be grand at all.

I’m not sure what to make of that thought yet, but I think there might be something very profound in that reality of what was missing if I could settle my mind a little longer to think about it. Or perhaps it just proves the saying: “Something lost; something gained.” And me being me, the rock being the rock, and the empty space being the empty space, I got antsy sitting still and hopped off the rock to feel the freedom of movement in the space around me. And if felt good.