Think of the biggest thing youve ever seen. And multiply that by the biggest thing you can imagine, and add to that the word BIG, in mile high shiny letters, riding on the back of an elephant 50 times the normal size of an elephant and wearing a very big hat, youre still possibly not close to how big the Grand Canyon is.
Its really big.
And of course I knew that before we got there – I had figured out that Grand probably wasnt much of an overstatement, as its a bit too famous to be completely made up. And also when people want to describe something ridiculously large in this country they tend to describe it as filling the Grand Canyon X times over, which would seem to suggest its large on the kind of scale that you can imagine in relation to other things.
But it isnt.
Its just ridiculously big.
We drove up from Las Vegas to the south rim of the Canyon – although we were staying outside the National Park, so, as we got there after dark, we didnt see it that night. Luckily, I was so excited about being on holiday I couldnt sleep and luckily, due to some assiduous shin-kicking, neither could My Beloved.
And by 7am we were stepping out onto the first viewpoint in the National Park
Which is, as I may have mentioned
I mean, youre looking across and you can see the other side of the canyon, and its probably about ten miles across at that point. And you look down, and its just layer after layer of cliffs, and there are canyons within canyons, and youre staring straight down at a mile of air: because thats how far the floor is, its a mile. And the trees look like tiny specks of green – like the individual buds on a head of baby broccoli – not like a whole floret, like the tiniest bud on the end of the tiniest branch on the tiniest floret – THATS what it looks like. But tinier.
And then you slowly start to realise that youre looking at something very big, but that this bit that youre looking at is just a little slice of the whole thing. That it goes on for hundreds of miles, and that the cliffs and valleys you can see are only ones among hundreds of thousands of similar cliffs, the tiny broccoli practically goes on forever. Youre standing looking at the opposite side of the canyon, and you wonder if you might just go there and then you discover that you could go there, but it would involve hundreds of miles and about 5-6 hours of driving.
I cant deny, my reaction to the grand canyon was neither poetic nor profound.
Nor, it must be noted, fitting for a family-friendly blog. (Which this isnt, by the way. Never has been. I mean, its friendly to MY family ((hello little mother! hello uncle john! hello beeeeeg seeeeester!)) and to all people with families and perhaps even to people who might euphemistically say they were family when they meant they were actually in the mafia. I just mean this blog is just possibly not what you would put on the required reading list for your kids unless you were hoping they would grow up to be swearword salespeople. Or sailors)
ANYWAY. So this is the Grand Canyon:
(are you ready for purest poetry and deep insight?)
My first words on seeing it were:
Oh for fucks sake
Because nothing should be that large.
My words for the next ten minutes mainly revolved around the same theme, generally being a rather disbelieving Seriously? Fuck OFF..
Not just for the sake of swearing. But in the same tone of voice you would use if someone tried to tell you they had nine stomachs, or that the pope was made of cream cheese, or that you had just won 187 million pounds, or that the plane youd just boarded was actually going to the moon.
It was just so BIG.
SO beyond reasonable scope of understanding. SO utterly, insanely awesome and audacious that, to my shame, I couldnt stop swearing at the bloody thing.
BIG, it was.
Big. Really big.
It was so large, this incredible and improbable thing, that it quickly became too much to take in, all at once. You started increasingly focusing in on little details on the sides of the Grand Canyon, or taking pictures of nice branches on trees NEXT to the Grand Canyon, because those were beautiful yet comprehendable, size-wise. And by doing that your brain could shut down the overload being caused by trying to take in something SO big and SO magnificent all at once, by zooming in on a small part.
Oh course the problem is that youd do that, then turn around and the Grand Canyon would be standing behind you, waiting to ambush you again, and it would go BOO!!!! in its enormous booming silent shouty canyon voice BOO! I AM THE GRAND CANYON! BOO! and you would go Oh, fuck OFF! out of sheer surprise and disbelief that it managed to sneak up on you again, and then you would sound like a lout, all over again.
And then someone with you might complain that you were getting a little boring with the constant swearing, especially since for all your stubborn pleading, the Grand Canyon didnt seem to be fucking off, and was, in fact, more likely to stay right where it was than you were. And that the RV-ing pensioners from Idaho sharing the viewing rock with you were starting to look at you a bit funny.
So you might start focussing on other thoughts to amuse yourself and distract yourself, like imagining the first people to come tramping across the plateau just minding their own business, trying to get from A-Z, when they suddenly came out of a grove of trees and found this. And you draw a little cartoon of it in your mind. Oh bugger they are saying. And then you amuse yourself by taking pictures of the many signages that employ the word Rim somewhich way or another.
But then you forget what you are not looking at, and you turn around once more and BOO!, the sodding Grand Canyon has crept up on you again. But you dont swear (out loud), instead, you might try very hard to switch it up a bit and replace your nonsensical swearing with something entirely more rational.
Well thats just RIDICULOUS you would find yourself saying, over and over again. Thats just STUPID.
As if outraged by the idea of someone having the CHEEK to put that there. The sheer AUDACITY! And did they think theyd have you fooled?!
And then youd revert to swearing for a while.
I mean, come off it. Thats just fucking insane. Nothings that big.
I dont know if you would react the same if you were a country person, used to bigger scales and wider horizons, or whether you would react differently if your brain didnt go in quite as much for super-detailed observational overload as mine tends to. And maybe its just because I didnt have any canyon to compare it to, mentally. I dont think Ive ever known another canyon. I mean, I think there might have been a log flume called Splash Canyon at Thorpe Park, but not I say that Im not quite sure, because it sounds like the kind of dreadful euphemism someone would have remarked on even then (Mi<“I took her up the Splash Canyon at the weekend” etc), so maybe Ive no canyon experince at all.
Anyway. Im now just being silly because I cant stand how stupid my sincerity would sound if I tried to describe it to you.
Or how I would even start doing that. Its just BIG, people. Really: seriously: I knew the Grand Canyon was big. The clue was in the name. I just didnt realise how big, or how hard that was going to be to take in. Big like you cant understand unless youre looking at it. Big like exceptionally, unbelievably big, but so far outside the parameters of normal experience that you cant think of anything logical to compare it to or measure to describe it.
So when people say What was the Grand Canyon like?
All you can think to say is Big.
And they say Obviously. But how big?
And you say Really fucking big
And they look at you like that didnt help very much, and theyre not sure why you started swearing at them.
And you say. No. Seriously, its just ridiculous. Dont even get me started.
I am glad I am not an astronaut, my brain would just explode.