Staring into the unfathomable abyss that is the Grand Canyon, my first coherent thought was a renewed appreciation of domesticity, i.e. everything the Grand Canyon is not. There is nothing soft, easy, or uncomplicated about it. The very name "Grand Canyon" is a misnomer. Not the "grand" part, it's certainly that; but this is no more a "canyon" than New York City is a hamlet. What started out ages ago as a simple riverbed has grown over time into hundreds of fissures at different depths veering off and doubling back in every direction. "Canyon" implies a slit in the Earth's skin, this is more like the shrapnel damage from a grenade. We were told the gap was unfulfillable, the width was unbridgeable, the river at the bottom was all but unnavigable, the traverse was perilous, the environment at the bottom was wildly different from the environment at the top, and the trip back up was four times harder than the trip down. I challenged none of these assertions; I was saving my strength. After this stop I was going to meet my mother for the first time.
My second thought was about how hard the land had fought the water. The earth had not simply lain there and been washed away. It had resisted time's efforts at every turn, and thanks to its resistance it was still standing -- as a monumental, awe-inspiring wreck. Were it not for the human tendency to turn anything unusual into beautiful, inspirational metaphors we would be overwhelmed by the destruction endured by the earth in that savage, millenia-old elemental combat. I know something about that kind of resistance; growing up it was my specialty. Not the sort of active rebellion that brought retaliation; I got hit often enough already, thank you very much. But passive resistance, enduring the unendurable because there was no choice, that I know to my core. I have come so far, endured so much, my soul has been etched and corroded with so much pain, how could anyone else possibly understand me? I 'm not the unblemished babe she left behind. I wish I was. I have this primal, instinctive ugre to fall sobbing in her arms and have her kiss away my tears while I tell her, "You know how they told you how they were going to give me to good people who would take good care of me? They lied." I have dreamed of that moment for so, so many years. But now that it is upon me I don't know how I could do that to someone, anyone. There's too much to tell, so much more than a body should bear. Time and again even a tiny fraction of it has proven too much for other people and I watch myself transform in their eyes to something resembling the Great Stone Face of New Hampshire, something that time and erosion have etched into a thing remotely resembling a human being but not really human. I am so very tired of not being human. I have no idea how to be human.
The land had endured by being patient. I must be patient. I had to keep it together no matter what.
And -- I did. I kept it together all through our first meeting, because that was what she obviously wanted. And at the end she shook my hand and said it was nice to meet you and seemed flummoxed when I said we were going to be in town for a few days. And we kept it together through two more days of talking only to break down crying on the phone while we were pulling out of town. And then we drove back to Mississippi and I spent the next six weeks in bed from exhaustion.
Now -- I have no idea where we are now. I don't know how to navigate this unfamiliar terrain. I talk about awful things that happened to my friends and its brushed aside. I mention something mildly unpleasant that happened to me and it's "OMG That's The Worst Thing Ever!" and everyone starts talking past me instead of to me and I'm going, "For real? How y'all gonna handle the bad shit?" I'm lost in the back country and I have no idea how to find my way.