Despite numerous hairpin curves, the small bus moved easily along the winding road. The driver expertly negotiated each twist and turn while juggling a small microphone into which he promised wonderful views on the way to our final destination, an overlook where we would stop to watch the sunset. Through speakers in our cozy seats we learned interesting facts about the formation, geology, and wildlife of the Grand Canyon.
With his presentation finished, the driver put away his microphone to concentrate on the last few hills before our stop. We passengers peered through the huge windows of the bus and anticipating the wondrous awe of it all, waited quietly.
Silence was broken.
“Hand me a few, Marion.” the man said as he held out his hand.
“Hold the tub, Stanley.” the woman responded. She handed him a large plastic tub. I craned my neck to see what made the obnoxious sound.
The couple’s synchronized crunching was the only sound in the bus.
Several heads jerked around with mine to identify the noise, but as the driver’s voice came again through the speakers we turned back to the windows. We had arrived at our final stop and the sun would soon go down. We were told to hop off, enjoy the view, and prepare for a beautiful sunset.
We filed slowly from the bus and parted ways as we drifted towards a railed edge of the canyon. In the waning light there was a reverent beauty to the place and each of us carefully picked our way over rocks towards private spots from which to soak up the natural grandeur in peace. We had come from all over, various cities and countries, to enjoy this place each in our own way.
“Here.” Marion said, her voice muffled by a full mouth. She handed the cheese puffs to Stanley who took the tub in one arm and locked the other around Marion’s. They helped each other onto a rocky ledge next to me and cradled the plastic tub between them, their hands alternately reaching inside for another puff.
I slowly moved away, along with several others who were standing near Stanley and Marion. I like cheese puffs as much as anyone, but we were there to witness the spectacular sunset in silence. The glow from the lowering sun hit the opposite wall of the canyon and lit up ancient colored layers. Breathtaking, and I was lost in the sight.
Hues of blues and stripes of whites with sun’s rays shining straight onto slate-grays in glorious ways were amazing. From the canyon’s brink the pink and delicate greens were seen and further down the browns and taupes melted into rocky slopes…
“That’s a long way down, Marion.” Stanley reported as he casually wiped his mouth.
“The Gram Camyom is bootiful.” Marion replied, pushing two more cheese puffs into her already full mouth.
I moved away, again joined by several others. Some shook their heads at Marion and Stanley as we sought quieter vantage points. We were here to enjoy this experience in peace. I focused again on the massive canyon lit by the setting sun and stared into its vastness.
Ravens rode the winds and the river’s bends cut through rocks and blocks of ancientness. Sand and lime and water and time allow erosion’s explosions of color sublime…
“There’s a river down there.” Stanley pointed and nudged Marion with his elbow.
“The Cororaro Rirrer.” Marion clarified, as she plugged a few more cheese puffs into her mouth.
Irritated, I moved further away from the couple with several others right behind me. We had the right to enjoy this special sight as we wished and the disturbing nuisance of this couple was unacceptable. Several near me grumbled that those two could not possibly enjoy all that was before them if they were going to stand there and eat. I agreed. This was a magical display and it was doubtful those two noticed. We walked even further away from the couple.
“Marion!” Stanley shouted. “There’s orange everywhere!”
I stopped. So did others in the group. We could hardly believe the excitement in Stanley’s voice. Could it be that the wonder of it all finally hit him. And her?
The history and mystery and arid display of scraggly shrubs clinging and bringing life to ledges with wedges of color was a wonder. Colors the couple finally noticed?
We turned towards them seeking their source of excitement, expecting maybe, a glorious glow of tangerine bluffs illuminated by the final seconds of the setting apricot sun? No.
Stanley was wiping orange cheese puff dust from Marion’s face.
Exquisite scenery and wonder of the place aside, we laughed.
They laughed too and as Stanley continued to brush away dusty crumbs, Marion held out the plastic tub towards our group. With orange fingertips she pointed at the puffs, offering some to us all.
Laughter and giggles continued as Marion and Stanley insisted on sharing. Some accepted, so then did a few more, and soon orange finger tips pointed out rock formations and layers of various deposits. More orange fingertips pointed at one last raven making its way to roost. Orange fingers scrambled for the last few puffs at the bottom of the tub as the sun made its exit and orange hands applauded the golden orb as it disappeared from sight.
Riding back on the bus in the dark I pondered the Grand Canyon. Truly a wonder of the world, I’d eagerly anticipated my trip to see it. Though the experience may not have been the quiet spiritual one I’d imagined, thanks to Marion and Stanley, who was I to begrudge them having the experience in their own way?
Could be they enjoyed the canyon more than the group of teenagers who will only remember it as a backdrop for their selfies. Or maybe they enjoyed it more than the men who remained huddled smoking cigarettes beside the bus. And they may have enjoyed it more than the groups of kids who never left the branches of the crooked pine tree they climbed several times. Still, in this world full of millions of people, we were the only ones there at that time in that place, enjoying it together. And that was how I was supposed to experience it.
But, it might be nice to have a little more serenity during my next visit. I was surprised when the others who followed me away from the distraction of the couple then actually chose to join them, laughing, eating, and forgetting their desire for a peaceful sunset. Had they given up and given in? I was amazed by the sight of the canyon. It’s surely something to behold and I’ll never get the stunning formations and colors out of my mind.
Or the cheese puff dust from under my fingernails.
Stuart M. Perkins