Refuge in Mystery

The Inner Gorge, from Dutton Point

I’m not a very peaceful man, from the inside-out. Most of us aren’t. Peace shouldn’t depend on a place, and yet, one of the only places I experience peace is at Grand Canyon. To me, the Canyon remains a place of mystery, suspense and solitude. Much of my writing, fiction and nonfiction alike, takes place here. It’s no different with The Crippy, a novel of fantasy, science fiction, mystery and suspense.

Like me, the main characters in The Crippy take refuge from the larger world here. Mitch Cantsee, who comes here to hide out and to protect his 8-year-old charge, Samsara, finds a hiding place here. Despite its harshness, I believe that anyone can find safety within the mile high walls below this rim. In the 12-stage journey of the hero popularized by Joseph Campbell, the hero suffers through tests, finds allies to help her along the way, and encounters enemies.

As Mitch and Sam trek down the corridor trails toward places like Clear Creek and Bright Angel Campground, they find all three here. But who is a true friend and who is the ultimate enemy? As they almost lose their lives, they find out.

Miles out from the North Rim, along the southern ledge of a vast plateau, the view at the top of this post shows the Inner Gorge where Sam and Mitch must encounter death; an approach to the innermost cave, Campbell might call it, where heroes taste death. It’s an entry into an underworld, literal and figurative. A mile below where this picture was taken, the tortured schist rock provides a Hades of sorts, metamorphic, dark, yet burning with desert and the ghosts of many who’ve perished in this dangerous world.

If you read The Crippy, you’ll see that Mitch is an unworthy hero, an antihero who must be purified, just like the rock in the lowest strata of the Inner Gorge was transformed in the crucible of depth and heat before it ascended to the surface world. A geologic metaphor for death, metamorphism tests and changes rock as the stone buckles under enormous temperature and pressure deep inside the earth. When I journey here, into the heat and sluice and shadowless contours of an unmerciful beauty, I often feel poured into the same mold. In The Crippy, you may experience this catharsis.

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