It’s hard to visit the Grand Canyon without thinking of that scene from Vacation where Chevy Chase runs over to the rim, gives the canyon a quick once-over and dashes back to the car.
(The only link I could find is dubbed in Spanish, but fortunately the language of comedy is universal.)
Of course, he’s in a hurry because he’s ducked out on his hotel bill, but the truth is, millions of visitors to the canyon do essentially the same thing, spending just a few hours or minutes at the rim, snapping photos and running off to the next site on their itinerary.
Don’t Talk, Just Look
So it was a good reminder to see this sign when we visited last month:
I continue to be a big fan of Grand Canyon signage — they’ve got some creative people working there. And, yes, once I took this photo, I did do what the sign says.
But I’m really guilty of this. Too often I experience events through the lens of a camera and, increasingly, measure them by likes and comments on Facebook.
Lesson From a Stranger on a Mountain Trail
Back in the ’90s I visited the Canadian Rockies, still one of the most beautiful places in the world I’ve seen. I was there for less than a week and had a typically packed agenda — Calgary, Banff, Columbia Icefields, Lake Louise, Jasper. Never a night in the same place.
One morning I was hiking up a (small) mountain and came across a guy on his way down who was visiting from Europe. We compared notes and it turns out he was there for six weeks. SIX WEEKS! My God, I thought, with six weeks’ vacation I could see all of Canada plus half the lower-48!
On my way down the mountain I saw him again. He was sitting on a log staring out at the landscape below. Just sitting there! Staring! I looked out in the same direction to see if there was something truly unusual to behold — like a bald eagle wrestling a grizzly bear — and saw that it was just the plain old landscape.
It was beautiful, of course, and I absolutely love the mountains and the outdoors. But I’d already seen it, AND I had the pictures to prove it. I chuckled to myself on the way down, “No wonder it’s taking him six weeks to see this place.”
Right Here, Right Now
As it turns out, the joke was on me. That was the go-go ’90s, and I was a good bit more … intense (I guess that’s one word for it) back then. These days I try harder to just “be here now.” It’s one of the most cliched concepts there is, but one that’s not so easy to implement.
So I’m constantly working on in it. By really listening, instead of just thinking about what I want to say. By truly experiencing an event instead of just documenting it. And maybe even watching a particularly good TV show with my laptop closed.
Stop, breathe, look and listen.