Between Christmas and New Year’s many years ago I was hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, descending through geologic time past tan, brown, red, and gray layers, pages in the book of Earth’s history—but reading it backwards, starting at the end and working my way to the beginning.
All through our hike, I’d been kind of dreading the descent into the Inner Gorge, because the rocks looked so dark and foreboding, unlike the lighter-toned sedimentary layers we were passing through. The Inner Gorge is walled by igneous rocks and gnarly twisted metamorphic remains of much more ancient sediments over a billion years old.
We finally reached the lip of the Inner Gorge, where the hard crystalline rocks have been etched into steep cliffs by the turbulent Colorado River below. And the scary dark gorge was filled with light! The huge crystals of mica and feldspar bounced sunlight at every different angle and I was immersed in shimmering beauty for two glorious days, basking in the warmth along the rushing brown river.
We finally had to leave the world of sparkling ancient rocks and climb back out of the canyon to fly back home, ascending back into the present both in geologic time and in our lives. It was a long haul, a vertical mile in just two days, and the temperature dropped rapidly as we climbed back up towards the plateau.
The last day, New Year’s Day, we rose before dawn. My partner lured me into keeping going with the promise that if we reached the rim by 11:00, we’d have time for a sumptuous champagne breakfast before we had to pile our stuff into the rental car to drive to the Phoenix airport. So I was hustling much faster than my normal pace, along the icy trail.
An hour or so before reaching the top, I saw a spotlight appear at the horizon. What concessionaire would have the gall to shine such a glaring light down into the natural dark and quiet?
As I ascended, so did the light. Finally I realized that it wasn’t a spotlight, but Venus, rising brilliantly over the horizon into the utter dark of the wilderness, the light of the goddess of feminine beauty perfectly complementing the shining dark liquid of the Inner Gorge.
That was one delicious champagne breakfast.
Before dawn this morning, I watched the moon grow darkeningly redder over the sparking lights of the Puget Sound shore during our total lunar eclipse: a rare part of its cycle, probably frightening to our ancient ancestors, now a source of wonder. Where do young women these days, eyes and minds glued to electronic screens large and small, find the feminine in nature?