Palo Duro Canyon

Near Canyon, Texas

My early years were spent in Canyon, Texas where my father accepted the job of Librarian at West Texas State University. We lived in four houses that year and built a new family home. My brother and I were just learning to play together. One day an amazing dental accident occurred in which it appeared he had irreparably damaged his front teeth, but upon returning from the dentist, he broke free of tending arms and bounded across the room, stumpted his toe and accidentally fell slamming the damaged incisors back in place.

During that same year I observed a tanker truck catch fire as it refilled a gas station across from our second storey appartment. I froze against the large window pane UK watching the quickly unfolding drama as the driver bravely dove into the flaming vehicle and drove it to a vacant lot then jumped free seconds before explosion. It was a full year for our family.

Another experience frozen into memory’s retina is Easter Sunrise Service. Canyon recieved its name due to its proximity to the Palo Duro Canyon. The history of early Panhandle settlement by homesteading immigrants in our displacement of native american peoples unfolded along its red caprock and escarpments reaching some one hundred twenty miles.

Easter mornings began as our parents awakened and bundeled us for a chilly Sunrise Service on the rim of the Palo Duro Canyon. The trip of thirty minutes was mostly dark adding to the excitement. Services were observed from an amphitheatre on the west rim of the canyon. We sat in silence until the first rays of the Easter sun broke the distant easten horizon then the singing began. The colorful view that emerged from the darkness has never left my aging memory.

Wedding Canyon – Colorado National Monument

Grand Junction, CO

Now late in life I live near another canyon of wonder. Just south of Grand Junction is the Colorado National Monument displaying miles of escarpment along the western Colorado River. It is one of the best kept secrets of Colorado mountain majesty. It is the north end of a range called the Uncompahgre (not to be confused with the Summit County peak of the same name) stretching from Grand Junction south to Telluride. The park is alive with wildlife, mountain bike and hiking trails, geologic and historic wonders to tempt any amature or professional geologist, naturalist or shutterbug.

For about fifteen years, my responsibilities as a pastor involved annually gathering with some 300 early risers for Easter Sunrise celebrations on the Colorado National Monument. The ecumenical service was created a number of years prior drawing together two United Methodist Congregations (Redlands & Fruita churches), and, presently, drew worshipers from all over the Grand Valley. Some hearty adventurous souls would camp nearby the night before keeping vigil in the early April chill. First to arrive, they could be seen gazing quietly into the abyss on the still dark rocky western escarpment overlooking the vast panoply of canyons that charmed the imagination. Around six AM lowlanders began arriving by car, lights piercing the twilight, trailing up the serpentine park-road from the Valley below.

We are confined to our home, the governor of Colorado has issued a Shelter in Place order.

This Easter morning, the sky is clear. The promise of a beautiful day unfolds with coffee and biscotti, bundling only in the minds eye. We are confined to our home, the governor of Colorado has issued a Shelter in Place order. It is the first such order in historical memory. It was issued to hault the unslaught of the deadly COVID-19 a contagious virus now spreading at will throughout the world. No gathering or social events, and persons must maintain a social distance of 6 feet from other individuals. Returning tourist and merchant vessel and foreign flights are quarantined. Uncertainty broods as future treat seems imminent. Easter is usually a welcome outcoming, after the cold winter, for friends and families to break forth from their cloisters, to join with others in music, food and socializing. It is a hopeful celebration, in the Christian tradition, about resurrection, and new life resurrected from old remains. For all it seems to be a time of beginning again.

Worshippers gathered on the naturally bleachered cliff sides overlooking Wedding Canyon. The sight was magnificent, as the sun, ever so slowly, peaked cascading light over distant mountains and mesas revealing the paleolithic sandstone towers and canyons before us. Perched, piering eastward, one could almost imagine the dawn breaking over the the legendary garden sarcophagus as the women tearfully approached the burial site of Jesus.