Ever since my childhood, I had always imagined the US as a country with big sweeping vistas of the Wild West. This perception mainly came from movie shots of the Monument Valley, the Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon. It was only much later in life I got to visit these locations on my bicycle trip from Argentina to Alaska (2016–2019).
On my first day at the Grand Canyon, I noticed a young lady sitting all by herself at the edge of a rock and looking into the distance.
Her name was Clementine. She had been walking the 800 miles long Arizona trail from Mexico to Utah in the memory of her sister Megan who had committed suicide a year before due to depression. Instead of staying home and grieving, Clementine decided to walk the Arizona Trail and go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to scatter the cremated ashes of Megan over the Colorado River.
“Arizona is the place I associate with her joy. Grand Canyon was her favourite place. She made an 18-day rafting trip down the Colorado River in the canyon. In recounting the memories of last year, I wanted to be at a place where I am thinking of Megan, where she was joyful, a place that knew her love, light, and not just the darkness,” she said.
We sat there in silence for a while. The sun played a game of light and shadows from the clouds, displaying layers and layers of buttes and temples. The top part of the sky was black, and golden beams of light broke through dark clouds like rays of hope.
It was as if nature was reflecting what Clementine had just said.
Before leaving, Clementine gave me a small amount of the ashes of her cremated sister, which I carried further up North on my bicycle trip. When I crossed the Colorado River a few days later, I slowly brought my hand into the water. The ashes made circles in a tiny whirlpool around my hand and then drifted away, beginning their long journey down to the canyon.