Exactly 750 miles I run out of veggie oil and have to
switch to diesel as I look for a place to pull over and pump oil from a reserve
tank into my main tank. It’s pretty desolate out here and the sun is just
coming up – not the ideal time to drain the batteries with a small pump but by
the time I find an empty lot next to a gas station, the sun is blazing.
A couple of tractor trailers have tried to run me off the
road this morning. One was really angry and swerved over into my lane before fuming
back into his lane. I only caught a glimpse of an old white man, teeth gritted,
both hands locked onto the wheel, staring straight ahead. I avoided him.
Another truck was passing me going uphill. He too was
white but much younger and seems to be gripping the wheel, leaning forward.
Maybe he was drifting off to sleep, I don’t know. I do know there was a cliff
on one side of me and he aimed for my lane and kept coming. I blew my horn for
a good 45 seconds until he slowly drifted back to his side.
Yet another truck, this one driven by a white woman with
a white male passenger, hovered at my back and then my side for several
minutes. She tooted the horn when they passed me, both of them grinning widely
and pumping fists into the air!
But mostly I’ve been ignored. Even when I stopped to pump
oil – which took at least 30 minutes – several cars came and left, either
ignoring me or showing me blank faces until a young brown couple with Florida
plates waved enthusiastically, smiling as they drove slowly by.
I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon since Tessie was 18
and I was taking her cross country on her way to college. One of my favorite
pictures I have of my daughter is her doing a high cheerleading jump over the
Grand Canyon as the backdrop. We’d camped at the Grand Canyon several times
during her childhood but I haven’t been back since.
There are long lines leading to the entry gate but I
choose the fastest and get in FREE – because I have the senior pass, the best
thing about this country and making it to 62 years old!
While in line, only three or four people react to my truck - all positive!
I find my camp site, get on my bike and race to the amphitheater where the ranger is scheduled to give a talk on condors. I love
condors and often go to the Pinnacles to camp and maybe get a glimpse of their
what 14 foot wing span?
I’m so polite, I listen carefully along with the other
people hanging onto his every word. He’s a young, tall, skinny white boy who
injects humor and clever anecdotes in an attempt to captivate the shallow tourist crowd. He
states two things that are inaccurate - no, blaring misinformation - but I don’t interrupt him –
which I should have – but make note to confront him privately.
GRRRRRR – after I talk with him, I think about why I
didn’t do it in front of the whole audience. Now all those people will walk
away, once again, with white u.s.ofa. hegemony reinforced in their beings.
The first thing he said, after tracing the history of the
condor from the last ice age, through the 12,000 years of life proceeding, up
until 1880 when a tremendous event occurred: humans arrived. WHAT????
He meant, and I informed him, white people ‘arrived’,
non-native people invaded. He flushed a little pink and said, of course, and
stammered about how he didn’t mean, wasn’t saying, but didn’t want to say, offend, anger, okay
right, he finally admitted, white people came.
The other lie he told people was about the culture of
these new humans that ascended on condor territory: he claims it is the culture of lack of
knowledge and not realizing what the impact of shooting condors would have on
the population of these ancient birds.
When I confronted him, saying it’s a culture alright but
a culture that is disconnected from the sacredness and value of all life, a culture of greed and exploitation, he
tried to talk about Thoreau and other existentialists, manifest destiny, and
the like, saying until the early 20’s there was no preservation or conservation
movement. To my raised eyebrows and insistence on the culture that destroys
life for profit and greed, he finally grudgingly admitted sure then said but the Indians weren’t perfect
either, they killed condors for feathers for rituals.
I looked at him and said he couldn’t possibly think that
was nearly the same or similar. He turned a darker shade of red and agreed, of
course, it’s not the same. He concluded saying he would change his presentation
to be more clear about these truths. I hope he really will and again, I’m
overwhelmed with regret I didn’t confront him during his speech.
I walk alongside the rim, gasping at the immense beauty,
wondering again how such incredible magnificent splendor can exist while the
dominant people of this land are not deeply touched to bow down and live in awe
I decide to go to another ranger presentation, this one
of the geology of the canyon, thinking this is probably a safer one to go to.
This ranger is another white man but much older with the protruding belly and
awkward arthritic gait of someone who doesn’t take good care of his body. He is
entertaining and informative, and says nothing that perpetuates white
superiority or myths but imparts info about the glorious rocks, sands, and
Colorado River that over that past million years has created grandeur.
I then continue hiking along the rim to the large
visitor’s center to see what else I can learn about this place. My heart is
broken to know that in the 60’s, the power company built a dam against this mighty
river and have permanently altered the terrain, environment, life of the Grand