Centennial Stories

February 26, 2016 Posted by: George Jacobi

An old man splits his last sixteen-inch oak log with one clean stroke. Wiping his axe with a rag, he stomps through the snow to his back porch, tucking his face and neck as far into his parka as he can. As usual, winter wind off Lake Superior is screaming across the U. P. like a runaway train. In his thoughts, though, he is still twenty-three years old and the wind he feels is warm, blowing up from the Colorado River far below. It smells like cactus flowers and dry red dust, and carries two ravens effortlessly above the rim of the Grand Canyon. Summer feels like it will last forever. Here it never feels like that even in July, he thinks, and decides on a road trip. While we still can, he'll tell his wife, remembering that long hot uphill hike with pride, as if it was just yesterday.

Deep in the flashing neon center of Tokyo, a girl tightly squeezes her mother's hand as they cross a busy street. Giant signs advertise the works of man in all directions, in all colors. It's a tumult of visual sensation. Somewhere the sun has fallen below the horizon, so the sky is turning a rich violet, displaying the neon at its gaudiest. Here, though, there is no horizon in sight. She hopes this summer's trip to the western United States will offer her more open space. An adventurous child, she wants to stand on the edge of something for a change. To watch the sun set far across an empty desert, and watch the relentless evening shadow march across the sandstone spires and mesas of the Grand Canyon, like that of a giant prehistoric bird.

Somewhere in the city, a harried New Yorker in a trendy wool suit is getting buffeted by sounds. Squeals from subway car wheels have given way to horns, traffic roar, and endless construction cacophony. His head feels like that of a boxer who's been hit already. The noise comes from far above to directly below his feet, up through the grates in the sidewalk. Surrounded, trapped inside a gray cement boombox, he directs his brain to think ahead - to the airplane, then the rental car, then the lodge. At last to the next morning, where he will walk out on the overlook at Bright Angel Point, soft wren calls the only accompaniment. Up long before most visitors are awake, he'll hear the silence swelling up symphonically from the sedimentary rocks far below, up into the empty sky above the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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