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••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Hacktreks Travel USA

An Insufferable Trip
• Cassidy Sommer

Our four-day trip to Arizona from South Carolina started with my getting infectious mononucleosis. For the few of you who don’t know, that’s the kissing virus. Neither my partner, little siblings, roommate, nor my mother had it. Did I drink after my little siblings? My mother? I wasn’t entirely sure how I was mistakenly given it. Therefore, I was the only one in Arizona visiting the Grand Canyon with mono.
Thumbs up to this gal right here.

Image: Grand Canyon National Park (crow), Artist: Lantern Press

Grand Canyon Print

Here was the original plan: enjoy the hiking, walking, sight-seeing, and the rides through incredible scenery. I was ordered very excessively by my physician not to exert any energy whatsoever. So, here’s what really happened: I slept, sat in a wheelchair being pushed around by those who came with me, and slept more.

We had been planning this trip, my roommate and I, since October, and there was nothing that was going to stop her from going. Even my parents, who graciously came with us, weren’t going to stay home with the sick twenty-year-old. I could eat absolutely nothing. Nothing! It was painful to look at my cellphone. I was car sick every day. I couldn’t even watch tv without wanting to hurl my guts up like riding a roller coaster fifty-seven times in a row. Do you know how hard it is to take pictures without being able to look? While it is not important to share these lesser moments of my life with you, I just wanted you to know there has to be some kind of respect for what I went through, just to see some giant rocks. “Magical” and “brilliant.” More like repetitive and tiresome.

I know, I know. You’re supposed to be ecstatic to see the Grand Canyon. It is “grand,” after all. You’re supposed to love the vastness about it. The depths and shallows. You’re encouraged to enjoy the sharp edges contrasting against the very smooth ones; the multi-colored sections and the large stones piled high are largely pleasing to a southerner’s eyes. I was seeing rock, rather than soft sand and waves and blue sea. The biggest thing I noticed in immense difference would be the trees. I live a warm life in South Carolina, where the sun shines bright on Angel Oak, one of the oldest living trees in S.C. The hefty wind blows the long leaves on the palm trees, not through the canyons and red dirt. In Arizona, there’s only cacti, cacti, cacti. It was ridiculous, dramatic, somewhat terrifying. The air was so fresh. I didn’t understand—no trees, no fresh air, right? I mean, even the palm trees down south offer some oxygen, and there’s plenty to soak up the carbon dioxide tourists release. Cacti, I shook my head in laughter just looking at them. They had different shapes. Some looked like the typical long stem with a few branches out of each side; others were like cucumbers bunched up like bananas.

What magnificent creatures cacti are! Sedona had them taller than our biggest trees. You could be driving over one hundred miles per hour and you could see the spikes (or really spines) sticking out, jagged and sharp, from the back seat of a silver Land Rover. Honestly, they had cacti ranging from the size of my pinky, which is inhumanely small, to the size of redwoods. And those cacti were colorful. Pink, orange, yellow, green, brown. I couldn’t exactly see red, as I’m colorblind, but I’d like to think there were some in that color as well. Perhaps this isn’t strange to a westerner, but it was eye-catching to a good ole’ southern girl. Either way, the vegetation was memorable—even if I did just sit in a wheelchair all day and glanced out at it every now and then.

The only reason I kept looking back at it was to see crows. Yes, the crows caught my eye.

Crow in Grand Canyon

Caw! Caw! CAW!

I have to say, I was rather impressed by their mass. Their greatness transformed them from the prey to the predator. Easily. The largest bird in America could shiver like a wet chihuahua in comparison to these crows. They looked more like Ferruginous hawks than the normally small, black, and the most annoying creature this planet has. They peck, crow, peck, and crow.. all.. day.. long. Walking home alone late at night? Leave it to a crow to scare the living crap out of you. Your kid dropped a pretzel? The crow will plummet down into enemy territory just to swipe the delicious, crunchy snack. This happens all the time at the pool; and if it’s not the crows, it’s the seagulls. Crows in the south are annoying, but perfectly harmless. These crows? In Arizona? They’ve been eating really well it seems. And their screech? Holy crows! I thought my ears were going to burst every time one flew by with a beak full of insufferable squawking. Being confided in my handy-dandy wheelchair, I couldn’t run from them.

What would happen if I wiped away the Grand Canyon? What if I lifted it like a god, and placed it elsewhere? What would you see? Cacti not palm trees. Giant crows instead of seagulls. You’d look to the sky and see the emptiness of Arizona filled with life, movement, color. The dry, cracking red dirt beneath your boots. What would you hear? The soft whispers of wind rather than the roaring sound of waves crashing. You’d hear those obnoxious, but stunning ebony crows and not the Carolina Wren or Woodpeckers. You’d hear the ruffling of leaves on the tiny bushes, because you know there aren’t any trees. You’d definitely hear the popping in your ears from the high altitude (a good portion of South Carolina is under sea level).

I could feel even more. I could feel the warm sun dancing lightly on my skin, barely kissing it just so. It wasn’t like the stifling humidity and blistering sun waiting to burn the first three layers of skin from my beloved south. Even sitting, restless, in my uncomfortable wheelchair, I could feel relaxed and at peace, much different than the busy beaches and tourists. I could feel the slow, easy breeze through each strand of hair, unlike the tangles I get from walking between buildings or at the marshes. More importantly, I could feel the overwhelming sensation of being insignificant. There is such a wide, simple span of earth. And you hear next to nothing, save nature. You realize how deep and fulfilling that wide span of earth is--so different from your regular busy, small life. No, the Grand Canyon wasn’t the best part of my trip. It was everything surrounding it that truly spoke to me. It is calm. It is nature. It is life itself.

© Cassidy Sommer August 20th 2019

Desperate Girl
Cassidy Sommer

She could hear the scrapes of shoes as they walked up to her bed. She could smell the dirty, electric air wash over her cool fragile body.

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