07 August 2012
Clumsily, I tried to hike the cliffs and shed a sweat I didn't know my body could procure. In the midst of many others, I felt terrifyingly alone, one small step from the abyss. I grew to hate the Canyon and all it represented. It represented a place to look over the edge, a place to catch a glimpse of something impossibly and dangerously bigger than oneself. As a painter, I kept trying to keep things in that perspective, but all failed. I was inundated at every breath by the sheer magnitude of something vast that had gone on long before I arrived and would go on long after I left. The feeling was of helpless surrender and I was not ready to surrender: I was not ready to feel small.
I finally came home to the lowland valley of the Mississippi with no less sense of dread, loss of appetite and awareness of profound loneliness. I thought being among friends would lift this heaviness but it has not. The Canyon, imperceptibly, continues to crumble to the ground. The grand figures of my life continue to do so, with piercing personal impact. The stone walls seem to stand while the people fall beneath them and yet both continue to crumble. I wish I had Heraclitus with me on that hike.
In the end, those Canyon walls smacked me in the face with a you-cannot-go-here: just look, admire and walk away. The same is for those persons in my life who have transformed the foundation of my being, whether they be professors, silent friends or former students.
The real possibility of a continued life of loneliness is not unlike daring a glance over the edge of a Canyon that refuses to yield, that refuses to be sympathetic and understanding.