Wk5, Day5: Open Space
In the summer between 6th grade and 7th, my family drove across country the month of August. My father re-tooled his work van with collapsible bunk beds on either side, a blow up mattress for my parents on the van floor, and a foam-covered plank placed across the driver and passenger seats for my older brother. My mother refashioned the letters of the HoneywellTM logo to read, “Hello,” inviting beeps and waves as we journeyed from Connecticut south and west to California then back home along a north and east route.
Five people in a van—two parents, 12- and 7-year old boys, and a highly introverted 11-year old girl—is a lot, and by the time we reached Arizona, we were all ready for a break. The Grand Canyon offered one to me, quite unexpectedly, at an overlook. These days it’s been built out. In 1979, it was just rock. There was not even a fully protective fence, just a single linked chain, draped through poles around five feet apart, giving the hint at where to safely stand but without obstructing the view. These were less litigious times.
I sidled up to the chain and leaning on it hung my feet over the edge, my then 4’8” frame easily clearing the space below the links. As people behind me chattered away, I got lost in the canyon. Time stopped, everything became silent. I disappeared. And at the same time, I had never more fully occupied my cells in my life.
Unaware of how much time had passed, I was eventually roused by my parents and brothers shouting my name. “Denise, for the millionth time already, come on. We’re leaving.” Up until that time, I did not know that life could feel so full and complete. I wandered behind them back to the van, took my seat on an upside-down bucket in the back, and spent the rest of the day’s drive gazing blankly as the scenery disappeared behind us.
Sometimes, when I’m in a sitting meditation, everything falls away. Just like that day at the Grand Canyon more three decades ago, I’m just sitting there, and suddenly time tops. Everything becomes silent. I disappear in one way and simultaneously become more present than I can remember is possible. That happened this morning.