Saturday, August 12, 2006
Running to schedule in the land of the free.
I can't continue with matters early modern without some reaction to my first trip to America. So here's your blogger and, sliding into the distance, his son, near the top of the Tioga Pass, en route from Yosemite to Death Valley.
I had never done anything like the driving to a vanishing point on a long straight road through desert such a touring holiday in America dictates.
I approached the Grand Canyon with something like a geological version of 'Jerusalem fever'. We managed to be there on three separate days. My expectations had been that viewing would be uncomfortably vertiginous. But that wasn't the case, from its brim, the canyon seems benign, tranquil in its stupendousness. It was pleasant to be at Hopi Point at sunset, with people from all over the world, of all races, there for the same experience. Tim and I were lucky to hit on a cloudy morning for our main day there, and we descended down the Kaibab trail as far as Cedar Ridge. I was cajoling him along with the mischievous sentiment that he could repudiate going any further country walks with his mother, on the basis that he had done the ultimate walk. Even the one-fifth descent we did was a tough re-ascent: this is where the canyon feels a very dangerous place.
That evening, I was looking at fossils in the Permian Kaibab limestone at the edge near Trailview Overlook. Here there is also a non-denominational 'worship site', occupied by a few young Americans addressing themselves, under the rather pressing dictation of one of their number, to the matter of the blood of Christ. This combination of geological deep time and fundamentalist verities was piquant. I suppose that their feelings were intensified by being where they were, but it didn't seem like they were discussing anything they would not have said to one another anywhere. The much seen National Geographic 'Imax' Grand Canyon film resorts to a sub-Wordsworthian note in its commentary, which is safe enough, though rather absurdly it personifies the Canyon as a 'she'.