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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Now in Repose, the Storm Withers

Who’s thinking snow now?

“Think snow” was a phrase frequently repeated when I was growing up in Flagstaff. It’s one part ski-bum mantra, one part solemn invocation to the great Chamber of Commerce in the Sky, and – in healthy winters – 100-percent self-fulfilling prophesy.

We were all thinking snow four months ago: One of the heaviest winter storms in Arizona history was inundating the state with the white stuff or, in lower elevations, rain.

No one is thinking snow these days, and that topic is off limits for at least five or six more months. We Phoenicians and other lowlanders don’t torture ourselves with such thoughts when it’s in triple digits, and folks on the rim have had their fill of winter talk. Trust me.

Yet it’s impossible to ignore the effects that linger. The administrative aspect of the storm continues as the personal aspect remains painful for some.

For me, there’s that moment of fine definition when disaster gives way to serenity, when things that burdened and buried us literally washes away.

I'm no rockhound or even much of an outdoorsman, but I'm struck at how a river's edge can be so clearly defined. One step forward and you're one with a river that has a hand in carving the mighty Grand Canyon. One step back and you're standing on ground that wouldn't harbor an earthworm.

The water is brown but not dirty, at least to me. How can water that started as snow in the White Mountains four months ago be considered unclean?

Especially when it churns and turns white again...

It's also ironic how this aftermath of a winter disaster, this river on the Rim, can be coursing through a part of the state that is currently bone dry. This river is the Little Colorado River, and the water in it is snowmelt from higher elevations in eastern Arizona. It travels mostly upon the plateau, passing through the Painted Desert and the Navajo Reservation before it joins with the Colorado River.

Quietly, the river runs its course, making at least one noisy leap for joy.

Grand Falls is reportedly higher than Niagara Falls. It's not as accessible: The main road is a dirt "highway" that may not be passable in bad weather. Or with bad shocks.

Despite not having visited it since the fifth grade, it was familiar to me upon a recent visit. That could be because there are next to no physical improvements to the site save for a couple of shaded lookout platforms. There are no rails to keep you from walking off the edge, no signs warning you to be careful, no ingress or egress directions.

Nothing separates you from it. Nothing even identifies it for you. It's just you, your senses and the eerie beauty of a torrid storm's aftermath.

It's kind of like real life, in that sense.

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