Standing in the Southwest

We all have sacred places, locations that have a strong link to our emotions and memories, that register some kind of greater meaning within us. One of my most sacred and favorite places in the world is the high desert plateaus and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

I first came to this region in 2005 when I was working as a trip leader for guests on biking and hiking tours and taking delight in seeing their faces when they experienced this truly special place, unlike any other in the world. It was always the same story, everyone signed up for the trip mostly because of the draw of the Grand Canyon. The other areas we would visit were usually more of an afterthought, an asterisk next to the statement of having seen one of the natural wonders of the world, or as us trip leaders would jokingly refer to it, “the biggest ditch in the world.”

The result was always the same. People usually hadn’t heard much about Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park (not to mention Red Canyon, the Kaibab plateau, Cedar Breaks and some of the other places we passed through), but once they saw all of it, they almost always admitted that the Grand Canyon was just a part of a truly spectacular area, and the other national parks would often cement their presence in their memories stronger than the big ditch.

I spent a good part of three summers in this area, visiting these parks over and over again yet I never got bored of the dramatic cliffs, canyons and geological formations. So it was only natural that when I found out that my fiancé had never been to any of these places, we decided to make a road trip out there. In order to make the long drive a little less painful, and to continue to explore our own state of California, we decided to throw in Death Valley National Park too, for good measure.

I wasn’t sure how I would react to visiting these places again after an eight year hiatus, and more importantly, now in a very different physical situation, where I wouldn’t be able to do the hikes I had done so many times or share my favorite peaks and viewpoints with Brita. What would it be like to visit my sacred place but without the physical ability to experience it as I remember? Was I setting myself up for disaster?

The answer, probably not surprisingly, was mixed. On the one hand, it was extremely difficult to be in beautiful and memorable locations yet constantly feel limited by where I couldn’t go, what I couldn’t see or relive again. On the other hand, I was able to share these places with Brita, to experience seeing them through her eyes and taking joy from that process. Not to mention that simply being in these places, with or without hiking and climbing up to the tops of the mountains, was soothing for my soul. At the end of the day, seeing the late afternoon sun shine on the massive, red, sandstone cliffs of Zion confirmed to me that I had made the right decision to come back.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been practicing standing up by myself, unassisted, in a walker and while it’s certainly not as effortless, long-lasting or smooth as I’d like it to be, it’s a measurable improvement from before. It was only natural then that throughout our road trip we would pull the walker out of the car, and I would rise to my feet and at least get a slightly higher view than from the wheelchair. While it wasn’t a replacement for the inability to go on a hike, and while I still long to climb back up to those peaks and descend into those canyons, it at least made it a tiny bit less painful and a whole lot more memorable. This sacred place remains sacred to me, and nothing that has happened to me physically can take that away from me.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon









Zion National Park
Zion National Park

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15 thoughts on “Standing in the Southwest

  1. Arash that’s amazing. I’m so glad you got to go and show Brita this place. I still haven’t been! And seeing you standing, that’s huge. I’m so happy to see this remarkable improvement. Way to go amigo 🙂

    1. Standing there and sharing the whole region with Brita was awesome I admit. Now we just have to make it out to Ireland at some point… 😉 -AB

  2. How many told you that you would never be able to stand in your sacred space? And look at you! Standing. In your sacred space. With your beautiful fiance! I love it, and love what can happen when we don’t listen to the naysayers or the little voice in our head that says we can’t. Our bodies can do so much, we just have to convince our minds! I’m sending you good energy as you continue your path of recovery and rediscovery!

    1. Yes down with the naysayers! Both inside our bodies and out! You’re right that it’s important to recognize that I am indeed standing in my sacred place. I’m looking forward to more rediscovery. -AB

  3. Hello Arash,
    I was so happy to read about your return to your sacred places. Please drop me a private email so I can tell you a bit about my recovery from a broken neck, back, wrist etc. I am now out of the hospital and attending out patient rehab at TIRR in Houston. I will need to find something close to this to continue my recovery.

    I too need to return to those magical places.
    Warmly, Leslie

  4. Arash you are amazing. I just love your tenacity and spirit. I think the fact that you have hiked in these places is part of what drives you in the first place to continue so fiercely with your recovery process. It’s fantastic that you went back and took Brita along too. I completely understand what you mean by saying it was soothing just to be there, even if you couldn’t go for a hike… Enjoy your trip!

  5. I’m so happy for you Arash. This is a true testament to the hard work and effort you have put in to your recovery these past few years. I love how you are also enjoying it with the love of your life. That is so important too! You continue to inspire everyone who has the privilege to be a part of you, your journey, and your life! Hugs to you and that absolutely beautiful fiancee of yours!!

  6. Wonderful to see you out and about with Brita.
    You may not have been able to climb or hike the old places, but I’m sure your memory would have served you well with these amazing backdrops.

    1. Yes my memory was key. It would have been tougher if it was a new place that i wasn’t able to see at all. -AB

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