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 them back in place. During that year I observed a tanker truck catch fire as it refiled a gas station across from our appartment. 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 Sunrise Service. 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.
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 mountain bike and hiking trails, geologic and historic wonders to tempt any amature or professional shutterbug.
Easter morning. The sky is clear. The promise of a beautiful day. 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 COVID-19 a contageous virus. No gathering or social events, and persons must maintain a social distance of 6 feet from other individuals. Easter is usually a time for Christians to break forth from their winter cloisters, joining with others in music, food and socializing. It is a hopeful celebration about resurrection, life beginning again.
For about fifteen years, I would gather with 300 early risers for Easter Sunrise celebrations on the Colorado National Monument. The ecumenical service was created a number of years prior drwaing 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 escarpment overlooking the vast canyon. Around 6am lowlanders began arriving by car, lights piercing the twilight, trailing up the serpentine park-road from the Valley below.
Worshippers gathered on the bleacher 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 garden sarcophagus as the women tearfully approached the burial site of Jesus.