Our Mothers are Clapping
“But there were still other and more vital practical influences at work” Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Like the height of the steps, how did the mules do it?
The saying should be strong as an ox AND a mule.
Climbing up and down the Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail. The mules, Claire and I on foot, not on the mules.
As we were going up the hill, an understatement, we got to Indian Gardens, a rest area with shelter, toilets, running water, trees, and picnic benches.
And there was a corral for the mules, a rest area for them too.
The mules’ day starts at the top with their riders/tourists and wranglers and they all head down the 7.5 mile trail to the river then 2 more miles by the river to Phantom Ranch.
There is a corral there and they spend the night and rest a day and head back up with new passengers. I think they “work” the mules 4 days of the week.
The Indian Garden rest stop was a welcome sight after 3 miles up.
I plopped on a bench, didn’t even take my backpack off yet.
Claire filled my water bottle, which she had carried.
I with my walking sticks in each hand didn’t have a hand for my bottle. With it in my pack, it was tedious to stop, take off my pack and get my water so she said I will carry it, one more pound for her climb.
The walking sticks were lifesavers like railings on stairs; place them up on a step and then step up. They sticks were lifesavers and Claire and our guide, David, were angels. That is why it is called the Bright Angel Trail for them. The namers of the trail way back when must have foreseen the Claire angels and the David angels in the future.
Claire is the childhood best friend/cousin I spent part of the summers with. We rode horses, ate tomatoes like apples, had talent shows for our parents at 5 cents each where we showed them how we could climb trees and hang upside down.
Our brothers, Buzz and Tommy (now called Lindsay and Tom and also in their 70s) did magic tricks. Our parents clapped and oohed and ahhed and were enthusiastic about our great shows.
I imagined our mothers clapping for us as we climbed the Bright Angel Trail, a big deal for both of us.
We were at home at each step, each switchback, and another switchback. Claire said look up, there is a rest house we are coming to soon. I said, I need to look at this next step and love this next step.
I had previously learned a walking meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk. Walk slowly and be in each place before moving on, saying to yourself, I have arrived, I am home.
Claire and I talked as we walked, Guide David behind us a bit, kindly giving us room to talk to each other on our own. We talked not just about being with the walking but being with any challenge and not hurrying to move away from it, in this case, being with her mother’s decline into dementia and that loss of our dear mother and aunt.
Being with my bad knees, being with our judgmentalness about how we thought other people should be. Laughing at ourselves.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
I will do it again and I will do it with camelbacks, that is, water bags with drinking straws that come from my backpack around to the front. I will have the walking sticks, I will weigh 20 pounds less so I won’t have that to carry, I will have done more hikes in North Carolina, and I might even have a couple of grandchildren with me.
I will definitely have Claire walking and singing, “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” to ourselves and the people who pass us. We did sing a lot and hymns we had learned from our mothers and one time as people walked past us singing, we told them the National Park Service had commissioned us to sing to the hikers on the trail, giving encouragement to continue.
We will do it again.
Our mothers will still be clapping.