Oak Creek Canyon

December 2, 2007
By Kara Bywater, Glendale, AZ

The soft breeze whistles through the air; the dried leaves tumble on the gravel trail, rolling over many more freshly-fallen leaves. The trees sigh as the wind brushes through the autumn colors. My family begins to hike the winding trail, anxious to see the view on our day off of work and school. The aroma of the moistening reds and gold travels through the settled Oak Creek Canyon as the gray clouds overhead create a relaxed atmosphere.

I marvel at how a place so large and filled with such wonder, can feel so silent, yet at the same time be filled with gentle sounds that calm my soul and set my mind at rest for what will seem like eternity. I watch as my family wanders around, taking in the beauty, and then we are all alone in our own thoughts and wonders, in our own ground and forest, in our own worlds.

A small trail breaks off from the main trail and an abandoned garden emerges into our view. Stepping curiously into the new habitat, my body freezes at the paradise I now behold. The coarse silt and soil of the trail fade as abundant greenery dominates the divine land. Intricate vines climb up and wind around the trunks of the enormous forest trees. They grow and wrap around one another, forming an archway high above my head, sustaining a broken wall. Vines full of life lick up the sides of shattering bricks and enfold the life-size rocks. Great stone steps lined with more vines, lead down to a trickling stream. As the water bubbles around the natural stepping stones, the pure water uncovers the precious pebbles underneath, which would otherwise go unnoticed. Grays and purples and blues glow in the reflection of the clear stream. As the tranquil water journeys on, red and yellow, and gold and orange leaves glide down from the heavenly trees. They effortlessly touch the surface, but are immediately grasped by the traveling stream and claimed by the unknown. Bordering the water, immense trees sustain the forest, protecting and constantly watching the placid life, granting the vines a direction in which to grow, providing the stream with leaves to carry, and sheltering their nestled occupants from any fierce weather that they would otherwise undertake.

The hushed wind wends its way through the branches and I can hear it whispering and speaking with the swaying trees. A spirited blue bird darts through overlapping branches, batting the wind with its wings and singing a sweet melody as it soars high above me, flying in pure freedom. I can hear the rustle of the leaves tumbling over the pebbled trail and shuffling off of the smooth deep green vines. Suddenly the wind ceases and the sound of the wandering stream becomes more potent and subtle sounds become more apparent. Then gradually, but with a small haste, the crisp Sedona wind rises again and the sounds are lost

The smell of the autumn leaves is the most welcoming of all the characteristics of the entire trail and canyon. No matter where I go, the scent will follow me. Whether I hike further down the trail to the river below, or I hike up to the colossal boulders along the canyon, or stay amongst the peace of the vines and by the side of the calming stream, the aroma of the muddy, moist leaves and the dry and gliding crisp leaves will be a constant companion. I can smell yesterday’s rain and tomorrow’s sprinkle. I can smell the putrefying leaves at the side of the trees and the moss-covered earth. All the smells combined, all the smells that are blown in the air, all the smells are Sedona’s autumn.

As I stand here among the peace and quiet, I realize how much of a part I am connected with the dripping forest. I recognize the moistness of the falling cool rain. The weather slowly falls to the earth, softly pattering on the leaves, trees, vines, and pebbles. It is not loud as some frightening storms can be, but rather a calm, murmur of crystalline droplets falling through the sky, wind, and air.

To be in such a place creates wonder and comfort. All of my daily troubles and worries diminish. I no longer think about my life back in the city or the work I will return to. Instead, the only thoughts that my mind welcomes are that of the beauty of nature and the innocence of the living forest. To be in such an amazing place is only to be at perfect peace.

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