Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beauty #1

Pastel Sunrise, Crazy Jug Point, North Rim Grand Canyon

Beth turned right down the soggy forest road, headed home after we’d been traveling together for a couple of days.  I turned left, toward one of my favorite remote places to enjoy the Grand Canyon.  Before too long the downpour started.  There was 1 ½ inches in the four hours I hung out there (I happened to have left my bucket out) but it was intermittent as our summer rain generally is here.  

Astonishing Fog, Saddle Mountain Trailhead, Grand Canyon
Each time the rain stopped, I bushwhacked through the wet undergrowth to stand on a rock perched on the edge of the canyon.  Roiling fog collects in these situations, churning up from the canyon floor and defining the edges of the rock spires and outcrops.  Photographers love that.  The thing is that the cloud then accelerates and reaches up tsunami-like to engulf first the scenery and then me.  I’ve rarely experienced anything as astonishing.  Then the rain comes, sending me and my gear to hold up in the camper peering at the radar until the cycle begins again.

Fog overtaking the topography, North Rim Grand Canyon
This trip had a numinous veil from the start.  Earlier, Beth and I were bouncing down forest roads, she in her much more capable Jeep Wrangler, and listening to NPR on satellite radio.  An interview came up with John O’Donohue, a philosopher, poet, and former Catholic Priest. My sister had long ago introduced me to his work.  I radioed to Beth that she might enjoy the interview.  There were two surreal aspects to hearing this broadcast at this time; Father John had died in 2008, and he was talking about beauty and landscape.  I find his words truly profound and these were just what I needed in that moment, when I was wondering why I feel eternally drawn back to this and other special landscapes.  Beauty, he says, is not a luxury.

       “Beauty is the illumination of your soul.”
--John O'Donohue

Later, over a burger at the Kaibab Lodge, I shared a delightful conversation with a friend who lives at the North Rim and possesses an remarkably generous heart.  The conversation was all over the place, but we touched on providence and fate a bit. Why do we share our journey with particular souls?  I reflected on Father John's writings about the genuine beauty and creativity in friendship.

In truth, a trip like this makes the photography seem secondary.  Don’t worry; I shot plenty, and my favorite images from the trip are in the Summer 2015 gallery on the website.

Here's a poem from Father John.  I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.

        “You have traveled too fast over false ground;
           Now your soul has come to take you back.

           Take refuge in your senses, open up
           To all the small miracles you rushed through.
           Become inclined to watch the way of rain
           When it falls slow and free.

           Imitate the habit of twilight,
           Taking time to open the well of color
           That fostered the brightness of day.

           Draw alongside the silence of stone
           Until its calmness can claim you.”

On the way home; Lurch in the sunflower bloom near Flagstaff