Firsts and Lasts

You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.”
-John Wesley Powell-
To say I have spent a good portion of my adult life living and working on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon would not be much of a stretch.  I have rowed, paddled, and kayaked enough miles down there to make the round trip coast to coast in the US over 6 1/2 times.  Adding up the years and river miles I have spent down there puts things in graphic perspective.  I have seen all of the seasons on the river, seen the changes carved by the floods and wind, rock and water, seen the changes etched on the people I have travelled with, some of them hopelessly taken by the magic of the canyon like I have been.
It is not an easy life and my body shows the harsh reality of the constant battle between too hot, too cold, too dry, too windy, too, well, too.  The real mystery is why it is so hard for me to leave.  While there can only be one first time down the Canyon, the possibility of a last time for me looms larger every year. 
I have to admit that a few times this last trip I debated whether or not this would be the one; the last trip, the end.  Then, like it always does down there, the reality of what this place represents, what this place does to people, and the joy of being totally immersed in an alternate REAL-ity for two weeks sinks in.
The Aussie paddlers I shared the river with were wonderful companions and made the choice of one more trip an easy one for me.  One in particular stands out because she represents what I brought to the Canyon so many years ago.  We all put limits on ourselves, it’s the cultural norm, more so for girls it seems.  Sometimes they are justified,  but more often than not they are imposed because of self doubt or lack of faith in oneself.  I hope Mel, my little Jedi on this trip, truly understands what she has just accomplished, both physically and mentally.  I hope she builds on the skills and strength that she came to understand are inside her on all of her future “firsts”.  I wish her many more “firsts” and far distant “lasts” in her paddling life. 
So, I will give it one more go, bringing with me the hope that the “one mores” really do not have to end.  Everyone needs to have a first on the Grand Canyon, and everyone should be so lucky to have the luxury of just one more potential last.
 
Happy paddling; here’s to many more firsts…and lasts,
Hilde
All Photos courtesy: KEVIN SONGBERG, Australia
Hilde  All Photos courtesy KEVIN SONGBERG, Australia

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