Revelations in a Big Ditch
When my mother-in-law asked if I wanted to raft the Grand Canyon for a week with Western River Expeditions, my answer was a resounding HECK YEAH. My sisters-in-law, mother-in-law, and 24 other folks made our way down to Lee’s Ferry via plane, train, and automobile, and launched into the Colorado River on giant J-Rig boats (with engines! they were huge!) for a week of rafting, camping, and exploring the Canyon from the bottom up.
The trip was *epic*. Our guides were capable, the excitement was high, and the scenery was stunning. The first stop of our trip was at Redwall Cavern, a giant, hollowed out space in the rock wall that had a way of making me feel small and temporary. Further downstream we did a short, steep hike up to the Nankoweap Granaries, where the Native Americans stored their grain in little clay bricked rooms. Standing at the top of the trail looking out across the Canyon where people stood thousands of years before was humbling. What were the mamas who stood here before me like? What did they worry about? What excited them? Who did they love? Who *were* they?
Our boat lost an engine running through one of the larger rapids, but our captain navigated the rapid like a pro, and he and two of the other guides had the bad engine removed and replaced with a new one within ten minutes. Seeing that level of skill in action made me feel *very* safe. I mean, if you can change out a motor in the middle of a river, I’m pretty sure I’m in good hands.
The first three days of our trip were unseasonably cold, and we had ample opportunity to be miserable. The thing is, though, you’re in the *Grand Canyon*. If you choose to have a bad attitude in the Grand Canyon, where are you going to be happy? So we powered through the cold, and I found myself repeating to myself the mantra that I coach my kiddos with – “Happy hearts and good attitudes!” It worked! My sisters-in-law and I swam in the bright blue waters of the Little Colorado River while watching our breath cloud in front of us. We rafted rapids that splashed the 50 degree water of the Colorado onto our windburned faces. After a couple days of cold, the weather turned and warmed, and we were able to peel back a few of our layers. With the sun shining the scenery took on a whole new glow, and I *loved* it.
I stared, awed, at the red and black streaked rock walls and giggled through rapids. I led sing along sessions at the top of my lungs on the back of the boat, and explored during side hikes with my new friends. I soaked up the sunshine on the boat in between rapids and played in waterfalls at Havasu Creek.
At camp each evening, we all worked together to set up tents and cots at beautiful campsites along the river while the guides cooked fabulous meals. Our guides serenaded us in slot canyons and at camp, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing better than a guitar, a cold drink, and a campsite. Most nights we forewent the tent and slept on our cots under the stars, and I remembered what it was to feel full and free.
So much of motherhood is pouring yourself out for your littles, and that is good and right. Life is about pouring yourself out for others. But life is also about seasons, and you shouldn’t pour into others for years on end without being refilled. I tried. And you know what? I did it. But I also started pouring out bitterness and impatience. We were created to reflect beauty, and when I haven’t made time to absorb beauty, I reflect my own selfish, tired heart. You know that feeling when you’re swimming up from the bottom of the pool and your lungs are burning and you’re desperate for air but you don’t know if you’ll make it to your next breath? The Grand Canyon reminded me how to breathe.