Thursday, August 27, 2009


i've been here for almost 3 months. and i'm going home in less than 2 months.

there is freedom here that i've never known before. it's not just living on the rim of the grand canyon, or having access to some of america's most beautiful landscapes and wonders, it's the simplicity. the canyon helps, the desert, and sky, and mountains, rock formations, colorado river, wild flowers, winding roads - these things all help - but they're not quite exactly what i'm talking about. of course the drives with my windows down help too - with my hair flying about inside and outside of the car, my radio up so loud and the sunsetting gold, purple and red over sand, dust, rock and desert. walking along creeks, and rivers, watching butterflies flutter and wild flowers passively wave as you walk past, looking upwards to the sky as the gnarled bark of desert brush points towards the sun - all of these things are also helpful. but they're not it, either.
out here i'm void of the two things that have defined me the most: community and kids (feeling purpose in my job). and for now, i haven't really missed it. i am almost convinced that most of my not missing this has to do with the fact that my time here is temporary - but regardless, the lessons are still real and permanent. finding myself defined in other terms - or maybe no terms at all, has been probably the most freeing thing of all. the simplicity of this life here has been what's freed me, the freedom from obligation to myself and others, the freedom from care, the freedom from purpose - just to be. to sit. to walk. to work a simple job. to read.

can someone tell me how to do that in a city?
to be fair, though, i miss home. i miss my family. i miss my friends. but i know they'll be there. and i know it'll be just as easy to come home as it was to leave. and that's what makes it home. and what makes them my family and my friends.

Monday, August 24, 2009

and still somehow it's cloud illusions i recall, i really don't know clouds at all

i took a month-long break from the grand canyon. yesterday i saw the clouds from the window of the lodge i work in and i knew it was time to go. so i went. people always ask me if i ever get sick of it - and the answer is yes. so i take breaks. and then i return. unfortunately, very few people will ever get to experience the overwhelming, sweeping silence of the canyon. it's the biggest, loudest, most fantastic and awesome silence i've ever experienced. most people get to see the canyon with 5,000 tourists all around them. so, a community of 2,000 people have kept this place our secret. i spent a few hours here. overwhelmed, powerless and useless before the silence.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

we will see when it gets warm

everyone from the team has left the canyon. this leaves me a little more "alone" time and with a lot more to think about. with time and distance now beginning to separate us, my head is clearing and my reflections on the summer are becoming less scattered. a correction: my reflections on community this summer are becoming less scattered. my time here is polarized: my story and our story. and rarely do they seem to overlap. the most obvious difference seems to be that my time here is not finished / our time here is finished. other differences seem to be that my personal time has been fantastically vibrant, loving, happy, spiritually-focussed and peaceful. my time here as a member of a community seems to be the opposite. as a whole, the group ended up being fantastically divided, disjointed, and sort of an embarrassment to christian community. individually, there was reconciliation and peace made between me and the "others" - we learned not just to love each other, but, i think, even like each other. this summer, for the most part, has been about me - alone, individual, independent - and my relationship with the community was an extension of this. i had success with the team. but i don't think the team, as a whole, was successful - rather a complete and total disaster. learning to deal with things when they're just fine - not great. and being excited to start looking forward to returning to real community and friendship.

oh, it's a picture of the moon from the street i live off of. i'm really happy that this picture is as awesome as it is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

strange people in a strange land

after sahra and i left sedona, we headed north back to flagstaff and then east on 40 to winslow, holbrook and the petrified forest national park. i got my picture taken with jackson browne while standing on a corner in winslow, arizona. we spent most of the day stopping at funny old route 66 hideouts and slept that night at a KOA along the highway in holbrook. in the morning we woke up early to get to the national park - we knew it'd be too hot to enjoy anytime after noon. the national park was ugly - i mean. i talk about the grand canyon sometimes being ugly to me - but this, this was ugly. it was difficult for me to remember that i wasn't on a construction sight - and the white stuff wasn't cement, and the piles weren't piles of coal. instead, it's a fantastically old, prehistoric sight, full of history, and remnants that give proof of the power that nature and time have. beautiful petrified wood. awesome color, pattern, movements of textures mixing together, stuck like something dead in the middle of a dry, lonely, desolate and unforgiving landscape. not beautiful in spite of it - but beautiful because of it.
i want to be petrified wood is maybe what i'm trying to say.


my friend sahra and i planned to go to havauspai falls this weekend - but due to the monsoon season and the fear of flash flooding, we instead spent a few nights camping and traveling around the areas a little south of the grand canyon. our first night was spent in sedona (cottonwood to be exact) and in the morning we hiked around a little. by hike, i mostly mean walked, and walked slowly. sahra lost her shoe in the creek and so we continued along the creek and path nearby for a little while and turned around when the path was getting too difficult/hot for her to walk on without shoes. mostly i feel like if i never go back to sedona in my life i won't really be sad about it - i kept thinking about the hills / laguna beach and how sedona would fit perfectly into an MTV reality-drama about rich high school kids. only instead of their parents being lawyers, their parents would be psychics and fortune tellers.
there are trees in sedona with leafs - and that's nice. it felt good to feel the sunshine through the leaves, in spotted patterns across my eyes and face. it made me wish i was laying in frick park.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

we drove out to the desert just to lie down beneath this bowl of stars

the vermillion cliffs
make a house out of rock
the colorado river

tuesday we left the south rim of the grand cayon around 4:00. we arrived on the north rim around 10:00 at night. including a short stop at cameron to get najavo tacos, the trip took us 7 hours. the distance from the south rim of the grand canyon to the north rim of the grand canyon is 25 miles - hiking. the drive, though, is a little less than 300 miles. we slept in the car and woke up early so the boys could start their hike while it was still cold. i spent the morning on the north rim, taking pictures and enjoying the feeling of being a visitor. i have only been to the north rim one other time before - it's really beautiful and i think i might suggest as a better place to visit than the south rim. i am constantly surprised by arizona's diversity. the north rim is covered in huge pine trees, as you leave, you find yourself in beautiful fields with buffalo roaming - and then just a few miles later you're in the desert. nothing. signs for a mcdonalds 80 miles away.
as i was leaving the north rim to go back south, i got an awful feeling. a sense that the south rim was still too busy, too populated, too noisy, too much - which was, and still is, sort of shocking to me. because the south rim of the grand canyon, although a little more populated than the north rim, is still incredibly remote and desolate. it seems like the less that i have, the less than i want. i think i keep waiting for some kind of resolution - or reconciliation between these parts of me. like maybe some day pennsylvania and arizona will border each other. like maybe the solitude and the community can exist together, the independence and the dependence, the quiet and the noise - i think this takes spiritual discipline that i don't have yet.

Monday, August 10, 2009

i've had some time to think about it, and watch the sun sink like a stone

so we took a drive to flagstaff to pick up a friend from the airport. i got a pair of new nikes. two girls got their ears pierced. on the drive back, we intended to take a short hike to the top of a "mountain." we had a lot of difficulty finding the trailhead, and instead, had an awesome day of driving the dirt roads around the san francisco peaks. we ran into a family that had a flat tire and met a couple of the cutest boys i've seen in a long time - luckily they were happy about me taking their pictures. i didn't just move back out here because the canyon is beautiful - but because all of northern arizona is awesome. it is incredibly diverse - you can go from 110 degree, sonoran desert to snow covered peaks in under 4 hours and then just an hour and a half later wind up at the grand canyon. i think if i lived here my whole life, there'd still be things that i wanted to see around this area. i think when people imagine where i am living they are generally picturing the wrong thing. hopefully these pictures give a better idea of where i'm living.
fires are all around the area between flagstaff and the grand canyon right now.
this is a picture of kendrick park. this beautiful valley opens up after driving through some high desert. this is also where the chapel of the holy dove is. there is also a dead cow there right now with its feet in the air.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

my little pete & sarah got married.

these are pictures from when we went to the dress fitting. i didn't take any pictures at the wedding. so this is all that i've got. i've been waiting to post these until after her wedding - i didn't want anyone to get a sneak peak of her in the dress. let it be known that i cried the entire way through the ceremony. it was ridiculous. i cried more than pete and sarah combined.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

kaibab lake (your preference for vertical pictures is showing again)

this lake is man made. as are all lakes in the state of arizona. i went here a while ago, in july. i forgot to post these pictures because i didn't think they were all that extraordinary. neither was the day - really. i went with two couples to the lake. one couple is awesome. the other couple was not awesome. i'm usually pretty skeptical of the people here who seem normal. the people who are obviously misfits in society and wind up working here i greet without reservations; arms wide open. it's the graduates of smith college and the university of massachusetts who i try my best to stay away from. i'm more confused by them than by aleria, the 30-something who loves the power rangers, is going to a star trek convention, is working on a novel and wears ungodly amounts of makeup. working in a national park isn't actually all that glamourous or romantic. it's not the days of edward abbey in arches / or john muir in yosemite / it's the days of laura phillips working at the front desk, eating at the employee cafeteria and going days without even looking at the canyon.