Man, did I need to get away even more than I realized. My son and my mom did most of the planning and I was basically along for the ride — or the 3000 miles of driving. One of the spots that was a “must” for our family was a slot canyon on the Navajo nation near Page, Arizona called Antelope Canyon. A slot canyon is basically deeper than it is wide and Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed in the world.
We rode on bench seats in the back of a converted truck with a total of 12 passengers through some bleak, barren landscapes and a dry wash that left remnants from rains creating a washboard effect across what some might optimistically call a road. As we bumped along, all I could think of was “How could this live up to expectations? How could this be worth the bone-rattling and the desolate view?” Then we arrived at the canyon and the mysteries started to reveal themselves.
Deep within the sandstone hills and far below the canyon ceiling were incredible sights that my poor vocabulary could never explain. Rich colors, elaborate etchings from timeless wind and water, playful shadows that changed with the time of day and the clouds in the sky — it was remarkable, breathtaking and surprising. The richness of what lay within the canyon walls stood in stark contrast to the exterior and the surroundings.
My daughter caught some great images that I’m attaching as well. I’ve seen some images of this area before that I always thought were computer-generated, but now I’ve been there and stood in that place to view and experience with my own eyes.
Something I also found myself reflecting on was the role our guide played in terms of revealing the beauty and substance of what lay within those walls. She gave us context and background information. She showed us what others had enjoyed about the experience previously. She told us about The Bear, The Dragon’s Eye and George Washington as well as other formations that had captivated the imaginations of travelers before us. She also showed us the dangers that could come during the monsoon season of July, August and September when rains could flood the canyon and she even showed us logs that the flood waters had left as reminders of the brute force of nature. She let us wander both physically and mentally and I truly wondered as I wandered. More questions came from each new and exciting turn. They were questions that started with how, why, what if and so many other points of inquiry. Sometimes she guided our thinking and sometimes she just made sure she didn’t impede it.
This experience left a deep impression on me, and although my family and friends encourage me to “take a vacation,” even while here I can’t stop thinking about the parallels with the students we serve that will soon arrive in our hallways and classrooms. How many of them will come with rough, foreboding exteriors that seem off-putting and uninviting, some by chance but also some by choice? How many of them long for the patience of an educator to find the remarkable beauty inside? How many want someone to navigate the danger to discover the bold imagery they can offer the world? How many are looking for a skillful guide to facilitate learning and discovery?
Honestly, to me, the answer to the last question is “ALL.” I really don’t think we will have students show up the first week of school eager to fail and disappoint. None will choose to repel connections and assistance, but seasons of dryness and despair have created crusty, hard and seemingly impenetrable shells.
I am excited to see our students back. For those who say they aren’t looking forward to seeing students again, I understand how draining the job can be, but I respectfully ask they reflect upon their calling. Schools exist for students, not adults. The adventure can seem bleak, lonely and discouraging at times, but how marvelous it is to help students discover the beauty within or provide them the opportunity for their colors to brighten the lives of those around them. I am thankful that there are places in our world that connect us emotionally, physically and spiritually to our calling and our passion. I am thankful there are educators and caring adults like you that are ready and eager to connect with young people. I am thankful for my vacation, but I’m ready to go!
I hope this school year, you do it for them! All of them!