I sit on a rock inside Grand Canyon—in the Clear Creek drainage, to be exact—under two scrawny Fremont Cottonwood trees in full leaf. Above, singing and chasing one another from tree to tree then out into the side canyon and back again are two male Lucy’s Warblers just in from migration, staking out their respective spots to lure in the girls. It’s spring, after all, and it’s bedlam.
If not for the Voice, these tiny, grey birds with reddish brown on head and rump would live among the glossy green leaves unnoticed. Lilting with a hint of defiance, the Voice demands attention and encompasses a space much larger than its owner. Each ignores me completely as he rockets by leaving an ever so slight whoosh of air in his wake, pursuing his rival with singular focus, back and forth, forth and back all morning long and, probably, into the hot afternoon. Their shadows crisscross the page of my journal.
I am back at Clear Creek 30 years after my first hike here and solo. But not alone, traveling as I am with the ghosts of those who have accompanied me on other treks. How this timeless place marks the passage of my time. I note the loss of parents, beloved pets, of trust in relationship. Is it a cheap shot to mention my encounter with breast cancer three years ago? Perhaps…but I must; that experience undergirds a vivid sense of being here, now.
Part physical challenge, part walking meditation, every Grand Canyon hike pulls me straight back to center, to what matters, to what is. Fuel your body, be kind to your feet, watch the sky, yield to the Collared Lizard who just crossed the path and now hides under a rock, the tip of his tail still visible. Pay attention to life. Ponder your place in it.
Grand Canyon centers me in gratitude. For I am here still, under these warbler trees and magnificent canyon walls, the lone human witness to an enduring ritual of little birds fighting to be the first to start new life.