Wanderers with no sea of fog flock to the edge — where else would America lead? Right up to that edge of speechlessness and the need to declare ourselves; the end of a road so dramatic, we can only envision some ghastly end — the cowboy in the Western, hooves skidding to a halt as the camera pans to a vertical shot, bird’s eye, gravel crumbling and falling, falling, invisible before it makes contact. Thelma and Louise freeze frame.
But here we are, looking out. No end. No clear stakes. All the drama gone, but the backdrop still there. We say something (it doesn’t matter what) to fill that big empty view, and (it doesn’t matter what) it will fall short. It will sound inane. Big flag flying like it, too, could fill the vast chasm, contained on the back of a fleece — wish I could see the tag, probably Made in China — still, at some point, we’ll have to turn away again. And it’s unbearable to look too long. Quick, snap a pic so you can prove you were there with all that majesty, then get the hell out before you start thinking about how we stole this view and packaged it as something special, erased histories, languages, homes so that someday, some great-great-great-grand-something could eat a granola bar and know this land is GREAT — we have the pics to prove it — you gotta get there before you die; don’t worry, it’s paved and accessible (for a price) and your death (potential or otherwise) won’t live up to the view. It never does.
When the canyon looks back, what does it think of the fence, the goofy poses, the inbred dogs plodding the edge, immune to the profundity? Does it have an idea of its own immensity, or is it weary of these little visitors, clustered in jewel tone outdoor wear, gawking.
She seems proud of something she has really nothing to do with. Her partner walking dogs beside her. The depth of the canyon almost as impressive as the complexity of her fleece. She’s not posing for pictures. She really is there to take it in. To take in what? What is she thinking about while she looks at the Grand Canyon? Her country? Her family? Maybe her parents who emigrated here? Or if not her parents then some symbolic long ago relative (is that better? The symbolic relative?).
This sort of Heaven on Earth – terrifying in its enormity and our inability to really take it in. It sort of forces you to believe in god. Or cling to some notion of spirit. It’s too beautiful. Too beautiful to not speak in clichés. Is it USA that is the god to believe in? What is she thinking about? How does she relate to this land? I look at it and dissociate. I feel detached. Like I will never understand or have a deep connection to the land. I think about the people that used to live here. When this place was a home. And not a symbol. When this imminent sense of godspirit, its inevitability, was everpresent.
What is she thinking about? How frequently does she wear this fleece? What does the Grand Canyon mean to her? Does it make everything worth it?
It’s like believing you can paint. Painting it over and over with your eyes while you try to figure out what the fuck you’re looking at. Painting it over and over until you made it. You made the Grand Canyon.