Autumn is a mysterious and magical season. The wind seems restless as winter pushes in after weeks of warm summer days. This afternoon, hard rain had come down as I drove for five hours to reach the North Rim of Grand Canyon. It’s my first night at the higher elevation of around 8,000 feet. Breathing seems just a little more labored.
Cold wet air surrounds my little cabin. Inside, I huddle to stay warm in my sleeping bag. As I begin to drift asleep, I get a feeling/vision/sense. A thought but not a thought. A message gently wafting into my consciousness. I listen. Magic is coming. I set my alarm for early morning. I will not regret having done so. And morning arrives early.
In this new day I begin the long drive to where I know I need to be, on the rim looking in. It’s so early that only the headlights pierce the pitch black. My head is still foggy in the early morning hour. To add a few more minutes of sleep, I had skipped making coffee. Then I see through the trees and into the canyon. Suddenly no caffeine is necessary as my biochemistry jumps awake. The shamans and wizards had not slept.
Below the edge of the rim, the Grand Canyon is filled with a sea of clouds! An inversion layer floats across the canyon and reaches out to the horizon.
Getting my photography gear from the back seat I head down the trail, awkward and cold, toward the tip of Point Imperial. I find a perch down below, on a ledge, overhanging the tall limestone cliffs. As I sit near the edge I feel the sharp limestone through my pants, and the dampness of a fresh puddle of rainwater next to me.
Far below the floating clouds move like a sea at the shore. I wait in the pale gray light for the warm colors of sunrise. I feel like sweet honey is swimming in my veins. Then the sunrise! The first light paints the clouds like a storybook in the making.
I have already begun to frame images. Find the shot. Look again. Need to change anything? Keep looking. Dig. Soften. Let intuition be heard. Look to find the best composition. Then, listen as each new image creates a hush entering through your lens then lands on the sensor.
Without a thought, I look up and around, and stop being a photographer. I pause into being a human being, and let the emotion of what I am witnessing seep into my soul. Tell me, how else do you truly take a sacred moment into your being? Nothing replaces the real.
The dance of light is eight-hundred feet below as sunrise sings in glorious colors across this restless sea of clouds. Point Imperial, at 8,803 feet, is the highest point in the park. The castle in the clouds, ensconced by a steadily moving fog, is Mount Hayden.
I wonder what the ancient peoples called this tower of stone? What stories did it tell them? Did they sing to it? Songs of sadness, surrender, or celebration? Did it have a different name, that’s somehow still alive, which resonates with an untold mythology?
When I leave, the tower of stone rising from the sea of clouds stays with me. It will live, mysterious and magical, inside my photographs and deep in my soul.