45: Love on the Edge of the Grand Canyon

45: Love on the Edge of the Grand Canyon

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Love on the Edge of the Grand Canyon

I was seven when Jane Chaddock Davenport reached ninety. She was my great grandmother, a beautiful woman with large violet eyes, exquisitely groomed white hair, and magnificent hands, veined and transparent, which she enhanced with antique rings. She gave me one, an oblong purple amethyst set in heavy gold, which I love more as I get older. She wore brocade dresses with lace petticoats. The shoes on her little feet always matched her satin hair bands.

She liked to talk to me. I loved to listen. She told me many things, once about a love affair she had years earlier “on the edge of the Grand Canyon.” She explained that she was much younger then — only seventy-four.

“On the very edge,” she repeated in her crystal-clear, yet moss-soft voice. “It was very romantic. I looked straight down the canyon walls — a thousand miles below. We were passionate then and unafraid, being young.”

At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about. I only imagined my exquisite and delicate great-grandmother in passionate embrace with a mysterious stranger on the very rim of the Grand Canyon, while a sunset of glorious oranges and golds spread across a darkening vastness. Holding hands, they dangled their feet over the edge, rapt in beauty. Then, when there was only black and silver and silence all around, they made love.

Many years later, my husband Alex and I were on our honeymoon, driving across the West. Late one afternoon, we found ourselves at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, and we decided to stay the night.

We followed the signs to the central complex, where a new hotel blazed in the center of what seemed to be a parking lot. Newly arriving travelers, all with reservations, crowded the lobby. The harried man at the desk was sorry, but there were no more rooms.

“I know that hotels always have an extra room for an emergency,” Alex insisted. “Say a VIP arrives unexpectedly. Give us that room and we’ll pay for it.” Alex was in no mood to drive any farther.

“Sir, we would give you a proper room if we had one. But we have only one room left, one we never rent anymore. It is in the Old Inn, and people don’t like it, so we don’t bother to show it.”

“Sounds perfect,” Alex said.

A bellboy called ahead and then, gathering our bags, led us to the Old Inn. We followed him through its lovely old lobby and then down the corridors to the back of the building. We finally arrived at our room, its dimensions worthy of the Grand Canyon. The bedroom was the size of a ballroom, and the bathroom was as big as your run-of-the-mill living room. The tub itself was about seven feet long and four deep.

Everything was ready for us by the time we got there: large towels in the bathroom, bed turned down, curtains pulled. A fire had been lit and was burning cheerfully. The room was large but had a cozy feel to it: natural wood, green-and-white chintz and an antique silver mirror over the dressing table.

“Nothing wrong with this,” I said.

The bellboy silently accepted his tip, put another log on the fire and left us.

I decided to take a hot tub. It took some time to fill, but soon the heat was loosening the tensions of the day. After a while, I remembered the sunset.

The window was right beside the tub. I only had to pull back the curtain and look out: sky orange and gold, shot through with giant splashes of green and purple. A star. A half-moon, green in the golden air. I looked over to the far side of the Grandest Canyon of them all. The edge was still visible. My eyes climbed slowly down to a silver ribbon, running in the already black canyon bottom. I got up on my knees to see better and gasped.

Grabbing a thick towel, I tumbled out of the bath and ran into the bedroom. Our bed was set right against an enormous window. I jumped on it and threw open the curtains. Sure enough, the bed, too, was right over the canyon.

I knew immediately that this had been my great-grandmother’s room all those years ago.

Speechless, I beckoned Alex. The pull of the dreadful height got to us. We lay on our stomachs to look. There was no rim on this side — nothing between us and the bottom. Only an awesome down. “Down a thousand miles,” as my great-grandmother had described.

Alex looked at me and I looked at him.

That evening, we left the curtain open, and looked out and then down, straight down, as great-grandmother Jane and her lover had done, on the very edge of the Grand Canyon.

~Jane Winslow Eliot
Chicken Soul for the Traveler’s Soul

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