Tuesday, June 29, 2010
When you visit the Grand Canyon, there is not much to do but hike and look. You can spend the whole day gazing at it, watching the light play off the cliffs and the shadows move across the expanse. Two days of looking though wasn't enough for me. The first time you see the canyon, and for a long time after that, you can only stare at it. If it weren't for the restless children, I would have found a spot on a cliff, brought my lunch, and sat there in meditation from morning to dusk, watching the shadow and light give shape and dimension to the canyon's peaks and ridges, an entirely different view unfolding every hour. It is so vast that it is unsettling, as if your mind has an idea how huge it is but your senses cannot grasp the proportions. So you just stare into the enormous chasm before you.
Every national park I visit, I find that John Muir has described it as though he has seen what I've seen and felt what I felt. He described coming across the view at the Grand canyon, "as novel to you, as unearthly in the color and grandeur and quantity of its architecture, as if you had found it after death, on some other star …"
The naturalist in the visitor center mentioned that the canyon gets deeper on average by less than a fingernail every year. When you look at the enormous space and vastness of the canyon, and imagine that all that grew by fractions of inches every year, you begin to have a vague sense of the canyon's age. The drops of water, snow, slow-drifting glaciers, and wind all shape the canyon in miniscule, painstaking ways, yet have created one of the most enormous geological wonders of the world. I was reminded of one of the sunnan (ways or laws) of Allah (swt) on this earth--that of gradual change. Within civilization and history, even when things appear to be hopeless, immutable, or impossible, there are the smallest, subtlest forces of change at work. Grains of sand blowing against the rocks, carving away at the walls, creating a new landscape. Tiny forces of erosion are working to build us up or wear us down, within our own hearts, as individuals, as families, as communities.
Nothing is still, not for even a second. Whether we are doing our best to raise our children, working for social change, or teaching others, we are responsible for the effort, the sweat and the toil, the long hours and sleepless nights thinking, discussing, planning, and praying, "HOW?" And then the rest happens through Allah (swt) in His power and in His ways. For those working for a better place on earth, it gives us hope and something to pray for-that the winds are blowing behind our backs, that the sunsets are softening the hearts, and the rain is making the soil firmer beneath our feet.
(In case this post inspires you to visit the Grand Canyon, due to the current boycott of Arizona over the SB1070 immigration law enacted this summer that mandates racial profiling and unjustly targets the Hispanic community, I humbly recommend postponing any visits to this beautiful state and national park until the call to boycott has ended)
Posted by UmIman at 10:35 AM