Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

Mary-Jo and I have been home from Arizona for two days now, but I wanted to add this observation:

In our image-saturated world, it's extraordinarily difficult to respond appropriately to a place one has seen ten thousand times in pictures before seeing it in the flesh. While staying in Sedona, Mary-Jo and I made the two-hour drive north to the Grand Canyon. It was interesting and certainly impressive, but on the whole we ended the day feeling more as though we'd ticked off an item on our lifetime to-do list rather than having experienced something truly awesome.

In truth, our main reaction was, "Well, the Grand Canyon looks exactly the way we expected it to look." Which is a shame, of course. How one envies the first European explorers to glimpse the American West--to say nothing of the people we call the Indians, who of course were the continent's original and true pioneers.

For real grandeur, the high point of our week was our hike up Boynton Canyon, a two-hour, three-mile trek through scrubby desert and pine forest that culminated with a brief, steep uphill scramble leading to an exposed rocky ledge where the whole valley was spread out below us while red sandstone cliffs and white limestone cliffs towered overhead. (The picture above, which we took from that spot, scarcely hints at its beauty.) This is where our breath was truly taken away--because we'd never seen a picture of Boynton Canyon before and had no idea what to expect.

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