God and Woody Guthrie

John and I were hiking back up the Grand Canyon after spending the day baptizing ourselves in the name of whatever God created the Colorado River. The sun was going down, and we were glowing with excitement.
Before this time, I’d never been excited about seeing the Grand Canyon because I had seen it on so many postcards. Views and sunsets don’t bring tears to my eyes. In fact, I once missed what my friends called “The most beautiful desert sunset they had ever seen” because I was having a conversation with a friend about how to escape an axe murderer chasing you up a sand dune. (We theorized that you would have to climb over the sand dune, then bury yourself on the other side when he can’t see you. After he runs down, you pop up at the top of the dune. It will take him 30 minutes to get back up, and you will be far away by then). My mind jumps too much to take an interest in postcards. Probably the same reason I struggle to appreciate poetry. NOTE: four years later- looking back this idea has a flaw because he’d probably see where you buried yourself.
But the Grand Canyon moved me. John and I stood on the edge of a thousand foot cliff, barefoot, with our toes curled over the edge, and although an instinctual fear of heights and death made our hearts beat fast and everything in our bodies feel wrong, we tried to look at the wall of the other side of the canyon and discover new intricacies in the details of the rocks.  If we could appreciate and discover beauty through this blinding fear of death, we mused, then what could possibly keep us from always overflowing with happiness?
John got bit by a squirrel at the bottom.
I climbed a 50 foot wall to get to a small cave, but I was too scared to enter.
We met a very pretty British girl who had spent her last year in Botswana working at a zoo.
We read books while laying in shallow parts of the river so that half of our bodies felt extremely cold while the other half felt extremely hot.I had changed in LA. The genuine personal connections from college nights at Mary Washington, filled with laughter and creative expression, were slowly replaced over the year with a burning desire for status. I craved thrills, alcohol, the next thing.  I was in such a rush to go nowhere that I remember lighting a second cigarette while I was only half way done with my first.  I just sought anything that got my mind off of the fact that I felt like one of a million minnows. I wanted everything. I got greedy.
Being with John (or nature) was changing my mindset and snapping me out of my craze. We’d been eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two weeks. We slept in tents, played guitar, drank water, helped people whenever we saw an opportunity, and felt sheer enjoyment for random moments each day. All the things that I had wanted a month ago didn’t matter anymore because my happiness was present. It was real, and it was right there, and no amount of stuff could have made it more real.
Less booze, more buzz.
Less jokes, more laughs.
Less sex, more love.John and I were reaching the ridge that night to conclude our 15 mile trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back.
“Do you know what I like about you, Watt?” John asked.
“What?” I said.
“It’s that you are doing this. You are the only person I know who is actually doing this.”
“Yeah, dude. Of course. I had to. It’s the Grand Canyon.”
“Yeah. We’re feeling what America feels like.”
“I mean, this is life. This is our one human existence.”
“This ain’t no dress rehearsal.”

If you aren’t happy everyday, I recommend that you burn up all your stuff and sit in the bottom of the Grand Canyon until you feel great. It shouldn’t take long, and your life will end whether you do it or not.


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