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  • Writer's pictureKristi Rauckis

Deep, Deep Down

Jan 12, 2020

It’s 6:40 in the morning, deep in the heart of the Grand Canyon. We’re nestled in the charms of Phantom Ranch, a campground, cantina, and horse corral that has a magical, rustic, and down to earth quality.

My calves are sore from hiking down the South Kiabab trail, a 7-mile trek, the shortest and steepest route from the top of the rim to the shores of the river.

We wake up bright and early, a morning call at 5am for a 5:30 breakfast. We eat family style meals and drink our coffee. It’s still dark outside in these winter hours, and will be for another hour. The moonlight, still shining, hits the surface of the ground as everyone crawls back into their beds, deciding to catch small parcels of extra sleep before we make the 10-mile hike out.

I get into my bed, but I don’t want to go back to sleep. This is my first time in the Grand Canyon. I know the way the light is dancing along cliffs above that it’s magical outside.

But I stay. I stretch my legs above me, catching my feet on the bunk above me in the dark. I feel the ache and pull of my tight muscles from yesterday’s descent day.

And then I sit up and think, “Oh I could meditate!”

So, I sit up in my bed, situate my pillow, and close my eyes. I sit there in the warmth of this dorm with all these eight other sleeping hikers and explorers.

What am I doing? What am I doing! I could be outside!

It’s not that cold out. I grab my gloves, my coat, throw on my sandals. I walked along the side of the creek, a spring that gushes out of the side of a cliff seven miles up-canyon. I find a picnic table next to the flowing, babbling brook. And I sit there, crossing my legs. I look up. The moon is just touching the lines of my nose, the brim of my baseball hat, and along the edges of the hood of my coat. The moon is almost full, extra bright. The pale light of night with everything soaked in its cool blue hues.

Sitting here, my toes start to get a little cold. I giggle as I slip my big winter gloves onto the tips of my toes and then up to the arches of my feet. It looks pretty goofy if you ask me. With the long fingers extending out, it’s almost chimpanzee-like. My toes are still tingling from the constriction of blood flow from crossing my legs on the wooden table.

I cross my legs again and put my now bare-hands into my coat. I can hear what is left of the last few leaves of the trees start to fall as a breeze softly whistles through them.

My sketch of the cabins of Phantom Ranch

I can see the light of the moon catch a fluttering yellow leaf every time it shows its face to the sky. The leaves dance down towards the creek and present me with a playful light show.

The sun is now slowly creeping up the edges of the canyon. I’m surrounded by the small charming cabins of Phantom Ranch. A dozen or so rustic old buildings, almost showing off in this morning light. The stone corners and wood siding playing perfectly with the landscape around them.

It’s a beautiful morning. Sitting here meditating. Connecting with the earth that is surrounding me. The crisp air is breathing life into my already caffeinated body. The corners of my mouth turn upward and stretch wide. I let the gratitude I feel in this moment settle into my body. The moon begins to tuck behind one of the ridges in front of me, casting a large shadow, along the path, and then over me and across the land behind.

The light on the rock is becoming more prominent as the shadow envelopes me. The sun is not far behind, soon to peek over the other side of the desert mountain, a huge granite feature at the bottom of the canyon.

I watch as the light shifts on each layer of rock creating a whole new dimension of the world. The moon is gone now. The sun begins to rise. New light, new shadows playing along the rocky slopes. I slip my toes out of my winter gloves and travel down the path next to the creek.

My sandals are flipping the cool sand from the path up the backs of my legs and brushing my ankles. Further down the path, the moon reveals itself once again. Peeking out from a saddle in the ridge and teaming up with the newly rising sun, creating a beautiful glow on the tips of the branches and the smooth faces of the stones along the trail. The moon-set and the sun-rise create a dynamic glow in the light, only imaginable by having two light sources come from different orientations of the earth.

I walk a little further down an off-shoot path closer to the water. My gaze, too busy running along the natural walls and their quick changing character, doesn’t catch a section of mud that my foot slips into. My body reacts to the instant chill of my bare foot in sandals now covered in mud. I shrug it off with a smirk. Stepping up to dryer ground, I look up to realize I have joined a doe and her young one for a morning graze.

15ft apart. They look at me. I look at them. They stay grazing. They’re used to people here and continue going about their business. But they’re being watched with admiration and wonder. I almost forget that my right foot is soaked and covered in mud.

I turn around after sitting here watching them for a while. They continue on moving up the main path. I see their buck laying in the grass, just his ears and his antlers peeking over the rock. He’s stoic. He’s beautiful. We look at each other.

I respect you. I love you.

The deer here are so trusting. With them sitting only a few feet from the path, I am able to sit on a rock unbelievably close to this buck as he lays here in the grass. His presence is beautiful, sacred, humbling. He’s a 3 point, still kind of young. But stoic in his own way. I feel connected to him as I look into his eyes.

This trip is a gift. This moment is a gift. This buck’s presence is a gift.

It feels as if I am the only person here. All the campers have gone, their tents packed up and already on their way back up the canyon. I’m far enough away from the cabins and the dorms to feel as if I’m out here in the wild, just the deer and I.

The doe is grooming herself. She’s a softer color than the others, a little lighter in the face, older maybe? I’m not sure. My toes grow colder as I just washed them off in the creek. No longer muddy, but now wet and chilled.

I’m present with this moment, watching these animals go about their morning ritual, warming themselves against the insulation of the earth. The sun is almost completely risen now. It’s brighter, that light yellowish glow is starting to hit the peaks here. The buck’s eyes start to close, coming in and out. He’s calm, he’s peaceful, he’s aware. Aware of my presence, aware of his surroundings.

Moments like these have a deep impact on my way of life. They remind me that life can be simple. Coming back to the nature of our being by turning our focus to the present moment. There’s an instant clarity that shoots through me. I breathe fully and become a mere witness to what’s going on within and outside of myself. Observing the seemingly small, but ever so grand nuances of nature; the sun, the moon, the plants, the flowing water, and the animal life within all of it.

Quick sketch of the Colorado River

These things inspire me. They move me to create. Experiences like these keep my blood pumping and my chest rising and falling. They bring light and life into my eyes and spark my soul.

Listen to what pulls you out of bed. Listen to that voice inside, the one that wants you to meditate in the morning moonlight instead of mentally checking out again in sleep. I’ve found listening to those little voices…

will start to change the course of your life.

I love you!


"The world is my canvas, and my life is my masterpiece."

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