My stomach spun like a top at my first glance. I inhaled deeply, all the way to my toes, and forced my eyes open again. There. There it was, in all its immutable, ageless, and very deep glory, the Grand Canyon.
My husband, equally enthralled but not a bit bothered by the height, was already moving quickly from rock to rock, taking a frenzy of pictures.
I remembered back to two days ago when we'd stopped in the Davis Mountains in West Texas for the first leg of our vacation. The sense of accomplishment I felt at having scaled two peaks was still throbbing in me; not for the physical feat of it, but for quashing my raging and robust dislike of being anywhere high. I took courage in that as we set off on the trail at the South Rim of the canyon.
The crisp, rich air made even breathing feel luxuriously decadent. Although we moved quickly on a trail without a guardrail, with only a couple of feet of dirt and sometimes trees separating us from the steepest drop off I've ever seen, I kept my mind off the height by focusing on the dazzling views as well as the melange of people we passed on the trail. English was sparsely scattered in the languages we heard. French, Japanese, German, Portuguese, and others were delectable listening treats.
We stopped at picturesque points on the trail, both for photos and appreciation.
"Be careful," I called to my husband, forcing my voice to stay nonchalant as he ventured out much too close to the edge of one of these rocky outlooks for my comfort.
"It's OK, Hon, I'm fine," he called back. "This is beyond words- just amazing!"
I took photos of him and of the undulating cliffs and of the tiny Colorado River visible from the safety of my vantage point just beyond the trail. Something small to my left bobbed in my peripheral vision as it moved past me to an area where there was an immediate drop off just past the trail. I turned to look and saw a small boy, no more than three, with a new scooter he was trying to push with one foot and steer with both hands while wobbling dangerously close to the drop off.
My breath caught in my throat as I moved quickly off the trail in his durection and worked to stay calm. No other adults seemed to be near and I didn't want to leave him to try and find who he belonged to.
"Hi there! That's a really neat scooter you have there, " I told him brightly as I crouched to get closer without startling him. He stopped for a moment in his jagged journey off the path.
"Mine. It's mine. I big boy!" He puffed himself taller.
I held out my hand to him, as there was no more than six inches now between him and the edge.
"Can you help me get up? I would love to see that scooter, " I encouraged, as I stretched my hand closer and wiggled my toes to get a better angle if I needed to lunge for him.
"I strong. I got big muscles," he said as he stretched out his chubby hand to me. I quit breathing as I clasped his small hand in mind. "Come back here on the trail and let's take a look at the scooter of yours," I said, my voice suddenly high pitched and having to suppress an urge to sob in relief.
Just then, a woman with two girls under ten following her came around the bend in the trail ahead of us.
"Jeremiah! Jeremiah! What have I told you?" She covered the yards between us quickly and grabbed his hand from mine. "Stranger danger! You NEVER go with a stranger, " she angrily enunciated as she glared at me.
Although I was still emotionally wrought by how close we'd come to tragedy, I straightened up and said, "Ma'am, he was past the trail there, trying to steer his scooter and he was just inches from the edge when I got him to give me his hand." And proving stronger than my will power, tears started to stream down my face. "He almost...he was this close..."
She looked at me carefully, her eyes squinting. She looked down at him, grabbed the scooter with one hand and in one motion pulled his arm to match her long strides away from me.
She took one last look at me and snorted. "Humph!" They moved quickly back down the trail the way she had come.
Um. You're welcome.