When I speak or run workshops, one of the stories I often tell is about the Grand Canyon. It’ll be one of the journey time stories on the new audio programme I am putting together, by the way. In fact, it’s about rafting the Grand Canyon, about taking a trip deep into the heart of the earth, deep into mystery, deep into the rock. It’s a journey that a helicopter ride or a stroll on the rim can never show – a journey that left me profoundly moved, profoundly changed – a memory that will remain with me forever.
I would tell the story of arriving at the top of the Canyon, where the Colorado river still skitters on the surface… about waiting anxiously as we stored our stuff into storage bins to keep the river out… just taking those few things that we needed during the day and putting them into ammunition boxes on the deck. I would talk about watching as the crew arrived.. you’d stand around, waiting to start – and you’d hope that you’d found a good pilot, a good leader – someone who had been there before, someone who knew what he was doing – and you would feel reassured at being able to tell, somehow, that he had been there..done that.. and had the certainty that whatever happened, he would be able to deal with it.
As the raft sets off down the canyon, it’s almost leisurely at first.. the river gently drawing us all further in… the vivid blue of the water adding to the peace and tranquillity of a gentle ride through the rolling yet barren Arizona desert. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the river starts to carve a channel into the rock, as the Canyon begins to form – the continual flow of water creating a channel in the rock. As the raft goes deeper and deeper, the walls start to rise on either side of us, casting shadows onto the river. The river reveals layers in the rock, unlocking times gone past – layers that have been created over many years are stripped back so that we can see the story from the very beginning – revealing secrets that were buried in the past.
A river joins the Colorado, causing the raft to swirl and spin, and turning the bright blue of the water into a muddy brown, and causing us to pick up pace. The river grows faster and the flow of the water takes us further in, deeper and deeper into the canyon. A supernatural peace falls over this deep rift in the earth, as the water begins to ripple with suppressed energy.
In the distance, a new sound is just present on the edge of our hearing – we become aware of something new, of something that creates both anticipation and concern – the roar of water over rocks, carving rapids through the uneven river bed. It’s hidden from view still, but the sound causes a tremor in our hearts – a thrill of excitement and joy as we move into the unknown, but with an undercurrent of concern as we step into something new, into a new part of the adventure.
As the raft drifts further, we round a bend in the river and in the distance the river seems to disappear in front of us – and yet although we cannot see where the river is going to take us next, we see the spray rising, a sign of danger and of excitement.
It’s a voyage into the hidden spaces – as the spray gets closer, the rapids are still concealed from us as we move insistently towards the sound, the roaring getting louder as we move closer to the edge of the unknown.. until the raft leaps over the edge and we find ourselves exhilarated as we bounce from rock to rock, drawn by the current. There seems little we can do, sometimes, apart from simply holding on, holding ourselves in place on the raft as we are buffeted by the implacable fury of the river – the excitement causes our hearts to leap in our chests as we shout with unalloyed abandon, the whoops of joy echoing off the canyon walls as the raft rebounds off the rocks and spins down into the deep pool that lies at the foot of the rapids.
Breathless, we spin round as the last energy of the rapids causes the raft to surge forward – the energy of the rapids creating a new current that accelerates our progress into the unknown – the first of many such obstacles in our new adventure has been passed and the journey of a lifetime has begun….
[to be continued]