The Grand Canyon celebrated one hundred years as a national park last week. As I mentioned in my prior post, we visited recently—two weeks before all the centennial festivities. While it might have been fun to be there for the celebration, somehow that century seems like a tiny drop in the bucket (or the Colorado River!) compared to the millions of years since the canyon first formed and the hundreds of millions of years’ worth of rocks that have been revealed through its carving.

Shirin McArthur hiking Grand Canyon 1986

We humans have such a limited concept of time, geologically speaking. I found myself remembering when, as a college student, I hiked into the Grand Canyon—top to bottom and back—on a six-day backpacking trip. The canyon is not substantially different than it was when I took that hike, almost thirty-five years ago. There was snow at the top and summer at the bottom, then and now. The various formations haven’t changed. I found myself appreciating the sense of permanence that I felt about the canyon, which has appeared the same to me every time I visit—but never loses its magic and majesty, and still calls to my photographer’s heart.

On the other hand, I certainly have changed a lot in the past few decades. I’m heavier, slower, and more at peace than I was in college. I don’t need to prove myself now the way I did then. However, I still appreciate the amazing beauty and colors of the canyon, even if my photos from that hike have long since lost their vibrant shades.

During our recent trip, I walked some distance along the Trail of Time on the South Rim. On this path, every meter represents a million years. It’s almost beyond human comprehension! Fossils of creatures are embedded in rocks that are millions of years old. The gulf between us and those denizens of our one world is utterly unfathomable…I can zoom in with my camera and look at rocks that are over a billion years old.

I can imagine that someday human beings will look at a layer of pollution-smudged rocks in some future canyon and sigh over our wanton defilement of Mother Earth. Some days I dare to hope that there will be a substantially unchanged Grand Canyon here in another century or millennia, but I’m not always able to be optimistic. Meanwhile, in another thirty-five years, I will probably not be able to hike into the Grand Canyon at all, even if I’m still alive at that point.

Time and perspective are much on my mind for another reason this week. Our Venezuelan friend had her second hearing at the Eloy Detention Center, submitting her paperwork (with the help of a lawyer) for asylum status. The next opening on the judge’s docket, when he will decide whether to grant her that status, will not be until June. For a vibrant, energetic, confined young adult, more than three months seems like forever—and it certainly was a disappointment for all of us.

The irony for me is that I cannot remember specifically what I felt about time in my twenties. I can imagine that I couldn’t wait to graduate during my final semester in college (building up my strength and endurance with swimming and weightlifting in preparation for the Grand Canyon hike certainly gave me an outlet for some of that energy!). I also have never been confined without my consent for months at a time, so there’s no way I can compare my experience with hers. She may well feel that many days crawl by unmercifully slow—yet, from my current perspective, my twenties disappeared in a flash!

Please hold our friend in prayer—and all those detained and waiting alongside her. Please hold our planet in prayer. May we be better custodians of the rocks beneath our feet and better humans to the people around us.

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