Well, I can now check off “Visit the Grand Canyon” from my personal list of things to do before I die. We didn’t have much time to visit – just a few hours’ detour while on a long road trip with my kids (more on that later). But there was no way I was going to drive all the way to Arizona and not visit one of the great wonders of the natural world.
And how was it, you ask? Well, as my kids and I finally stepped out on the crowded viewing platform and had our first glimpse of the canyon, my heart stopped. No really, I’m pretty sure that it actually stopped beating, for like, a full minute. I think I stopped breathing, too. In that astonished instant, my spirit floated away from my body and became one with the miles of colorful rock layers.
And then my teenager says, “That’s all there is? This is so overrated!”
Wham! My spirit collided with my body, and I sucked in a huge breath before gaping at my son. Who was this broken child who stood there, frowning at Nature’s Masterpiece, clearly unimpressed? What was he expecting? A Disneyland-style light show?
“It’s okay,” said my 11 year-old.
“I thought it would be a lot deeper.” My 8 year-old was frowning as he looked over the edge.
“Seriously?” I was dumbstruck. Were these my kids, whom I have been working hard to bring up with a love for the beauty of nature? Had I failed? Has our culture of instant entertainment and instant gratification finally managed to destroy an entire generation?
Five minutes later, the kids discovered the joy of throwing rocks into the canyon. And suddenly, nature was fun again. Yes, we did get a few curious stares from strangers (Though at least half of those, I suspect, were from international tourists who had rarely, if ever, seen an actual Black person before and were staring with great curiosity, and perhaps shock, at my dark skin and curly hair. I couldn’t help but imagine the excited text messages they were sending to friends back in their home countries: Guess what – we not only saw the Grand Canyon, but we saw a real Black today! Heehee…well, hopefully I provided a positive representation).
Anyway, after the kids discovered rock-throwing, suddenly, the 277 miles of rock layers became cool and interesting, the colors became pretty, and, according to the teenager, the canyon “totally lived up to its reputation.” After all, where else in the world could you chuck a rock, then count to ten before it hits bottom? We enjoyed the entire visit – hiking along the rim, discussing rock layers and evolution, taking family photos for strangers, and taking a bazillion photos for ourselves, too. In the end, we all agreed that our time there was far too short.
“Next time,” said my 13 year-old, “we should go camping here for a whole week, and rent bicycles to ride around, and hike down to the bottom of the canyon.”
“Yes!” My other two kids enthusiastically agreed. I breathed a sigh of relief. My kids were not broken, after all. There is still hope that this next generation can learn to love and appreciate the beauty in the world around them, even though nature does not come with a charge cord. And even in an age of instant gratification, easy entertainment, and Facebook, the wonders of nature are still the things which stay with us longest and touch us deepest. The Grand Canyon is still Grand. Yes, even for 13 year-olds.