Fool’s Gold

Blogging without the validation of social media feels just like the way it did when I first started doing it when I was ten: the only people who read this were and still are the people who I know love and stalk me the most, and that’s fine by me. Which is also to say that most of the people reading this blog post will be people who went on the trip with me to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

I’m sitting in my bedroom in Waterford, Connecticut, writing this blog post, from the Briar Hill cottage at the O’Neill Theatre Center where I’m part of a playwriting retreat helping out twenty high school students along with other writing mentors. It’s been a really good experience being here, being able to write and walk along the beach, and think, and be with other writers. It’s the closest I’ve come to any semblance of a residency. But right before coming here, my days were filled with early wakeup calls, hikes, food, and a lot of Arizona sun.

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We spent a week travelling in the desert, from the Grand Canyon to Sedona, where we hiked everyday, swam on most, and ate all the time.

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My dearest roommate and best friend Sherry wanted to tag along, not knowing her involvement would have to include actual physical activity. I spent the first day hiking down the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. The hike down and up was supposed to take 12+ hours but being competitive the way I was I booked it down and basically ran back up with the company of a man I met who had travelled to hike from Holland, Bart. We raced through in the rain and made it back half alive but still pleased with ourselves.

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The times when we weren’t hiking were spent taking photos pretending like we were hiking. Or something. Or looking at very petrified family members who didn’t want us to die from falling into the abyss.

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Or just watching Sherry eat McDonald’s in bed like a raccoon. Or a beast.

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Or pretending like we were contemplating life. (I did contemplate some of my life.)

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That was what a lot of Sedona was for us: hiking but also going to different places called vortexes, which are places of concentrated electromagnetic energy. They say these areas, which are sometimes rock formations you can hike or other formations, are able to heal, or create creative flow, or simply energize you. It all depends on what vortex you go to. We went to Cathedral Rock, the Cocina Woman, and the Airport Vortex). The photo above is from Cathedral Rock, and we went to see the sunset at the Airport Vortex by driving instead of hiking so we could catch it on time (also because we were running so low on gas we had to quickly leave so we wouldn’t be stranded.

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My favorite vortex, however, was the Cocina woman. I hiked up the Woman three separate times, each time getting higher and higher. The first time I went with my Mom, who organized the entire trip. It was so lovely being with her, my aunt, Maya, and Sherry, all the people that I care so much about. When I was on the Cocina Woman rock formation I felt very at peace, alone but not lonely, happy but not rushing to do anything. It made me feel content with myself, which is something I’ve been struggling with recently.

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At the end of the trip, after everyone except Sherry and I had left the region, we managed to both hike to the very top and got a snapshot of what it looked like, our tiny bodies floating on top of this mound of energy. I hope to go back someday soon.

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We did lots of amazing hikes, including Devil’s Bridge, which I only understood the name of when we got there and I saw what it looked like:

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My mom refused to look at me as I climbed down into one of the deeper crevices I saw someone exploiting:

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And we, of course, went on swims and explored what it would be like to just laze around all day long:

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My mom looks lovely in these photos but she kept telling me I was missing the view by walking too quickly (zou ma kan hua)

But one thing that made me really glad is that I got to celebrate my mom’s birthday a little bit ahead of time with her! With my Auntie Suzette’s birthday on the Sunday and then my mom’s on Thursday we got free dessert twice, and free dessert in the desert is nothing to take for granted:

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After my mom left, Sherry and I got into total generic form: Sherry getting two massages in a row and me hiking the most strenuous hike up to the top of Bear Mountain where I met a Canadian couple who grilled me on my love life and had the funniest banter. Meeting people is my favorite part of travelling, including Ralph, the German man who moved to Arizona for the oil industry and who was wheezing up when I was going down and was in shock at the rate I was jumping down (I had to get back to catch our flight back to New York).

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By the time we got into the car to go to the airport, Sherry was drained from being pampered so much and I was basically a dying animal.

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So for anyone looking for any of those things: hiking, sun, food, pampering, or just a lot of really good energy and love. Sedona and the Grand Canyon are both worth the visit. Seriously. Go. I might still be on the Cocina Woman listening to the flautist playing at the top.