Demosthenes Spiropoulos

Canyons of Epiphanies

September 6, 2019 - Volume 3, Issue 23

As you may have gathered from the overall theming of, I truly love the outdoors, especially our public lands like National Parks and National Forests. So to say I recently enjoyed a visit to both Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in a single vacation wouldn't be too out of the ordinary. I also visited Walnut Canyon National Monument during this trip, and while the little, lesser-known parks are always worth a look (and a shout-out, I may write a piece about just that park), today's piece is about the big boys.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona, cut by the Colorado River, and Zion Canyon in Utah, cut by the Virgin River, are both mind-boggling and awe-inspiring pieces of nature. The geography, geology, and topography have inspired countless travelers, explorers, and settlers for centuries. Seeing these gems in person will leave you gobsmacked (now there's a vastly underrated word).

Acting as a source of inspiration is constantly referenced when these parks are discussed (at least in the ranger-led programs), and it is easy to see why. At Zion, when you stand at a locale like the Court of the Patriarchs, with three peaks named after biblical figures (for this is a vista of biblical proportions) you can understand how these early pioneers were inspired. Over at the Grand Canyon, when you approach Mather Point on the south rim and first gaze upon the canyon, you are left speechless. Your mind simply can not comprehend the size... the grandeur... the majesty of it all. Inspiration, they say, soon follows.

I decided then, to let that inspiration come to me. I would see if any epiphanies of any greater understanding were to be had. Mind you, I didn't go on this trip searching for any form of inspiration. However, when hearing how these canyons have deeply impacted so many people, I got it in my head that this should happen to me as well.

Did I find it? Maybe.

But that's the catch when dealing with inspiration. Much like love, or a new job, you will never find an inspirational epiphany when you are actively searching for it. Perhaps, that was my pitfall. I was desperately looking, trying to will inspiration into existence instead of just letting it come to me organically.

Alas, for three days, no enlightenment came. Please don't misunderstand, I absolutely loved my trip and wouldn't change a thing (except for the forest fire near Flagstaff; no one needed that). As you go up, down, and around these sites, you can easily see why so many have had their spirit touched in some meaningful way. These natural wonders are truly magnificent. No photograph, no amount of hyperbole do these places justice compared to taking it all in live. I just wanted a piece of the action.

Brief tangent: this reminds me of my first visit to Yosemite National Park, and seeing the Yosemite Valley for the first time. I turned to my wife and said, "I can tell you, scientifically, how everything here was formed. But it does feel like God came down and scooped out this gem." These natural wonders are a paradox: science and magic, all in one.

But then...

I was in Zion National Park, standing on the Riverside Trail while my wife and daughter were frolicking in the river, and it came to me. This great awakening slowly manifested. Standing in between the sandstone faces of the canyon, listening to the water of the Virgin River flow over the rocks creating mini-cataracts and waterfalls, as the wind gently blew through the leaves of the neighboring cottonwood trees, I discovered... there is no inspiration to be had. Not really.

This is the "room" where it happened.

Wait, what?

Here you are, listening to me tell you about a place of inspiration, and that the epiphany that came was that there would be no epiphany? What kind of metaphysical double talk is this?

As I stood in this cathedral of red and orange rock, there was no synaptic zap, no light bulb illuminating over my head, no Archimedian shout of "Eureka!" Instead, I asked a question: "What's so special about this place that is just rocks and water?" (the "place" is equally applicable to both the Grand Canyon and Zion). The answer was equally as simple: "Yes, it's just rocks and water, but it's still awesome."

That's it. There would be no revelation of some great, new insight; instead, it was a redirection of my focus to, perhaps, a forgotten one. Where I happened to be standing at the moment, was merely the result of the earth after water carved a canyon out of it. What I was witness to was something greater than the sum of its parts. That stripped away all the unnecessary fluff from my head, and left me with a basic understanding of the parks, of life, of myself.

These natural wonders are just rock and water. Yes, they are big, and they are old, but they are awesome. And you know what, so am I.

I'm just a random dude standing on some of those rocks - not quite as old, not quite as big - but I'm awesome, too. The people hiking along the path with me? Also awesome. My family? Awesome. You, the reader? You, too, are awesome. We, like these canyons, are all greater than the sum of our parts, and we often lose sight of this.

It's easy to dismiss something like the Grand Canyon as merely a hole in the ground; and while that is factually accurate, that statement shortchanges it. It so much more wonderful for just being... there, chugging along, doing it's thing. As I apply that same logic to myself, it's easy to dismiss me as some random schmoe floating through space on a blue-green marble; and again, while factually accurate, that statement shortchanges me. I'm so much more awesome for just being... here. Chugging along, doing my thing.

I was hoping to find something greater than myself in these canyons that could guide me forward. In a way, they did that. They showed me that this "something greater than myself" thing that I was looking for is actually... just me. I have all I need, right here within me, and that's awesome.

That's the ultimate takeaway here, and even more so for my friends and blog readers that aren't in a good head-space at the moment (whether it be depression or anxiety or anything else preventing ideal mental health). When you take away all the excess debris out of your head, what are you left with? The answer = someone awesome.

In both National Parks, their respective rivers continue to move millions of tons of rock and debris out of the canyon each year, and we are continually left with something amazing. Let that happen in your head, as well. Let your mental rivers flush all that unnecessary rock and debris in your brain out of the way, so it can reveal your own natural awesomeness. Admittedly, it is easier said than done, but it can be done. Yes, it will take time, much like the work of the Colorado and Virgin rivers. But those rivers... They. Keep Flowing.

I was hoping for some inspiration, but instead I found something better... perspective. And a new understanding of the world. The world is an amazing place. And even more so because we are all in it.

Thanks for visiting. Love, Demosthenes Spiropoulos