Hard Truth NarrativeNot too long ago and not too far away, I, Rebekah Rose Burgess, was a three-year-old who believed she could fly. I was a child who believed that if I leaped off the cliffs of Mount Rushmore I would be carried away by the wind. I was a toddler who believed that anything was possible for me, even defying gravity. I went charging toward the astounding abyss of the Grand Canyon, fancying nothing less than my levitation. Soaring from its rim into its glorious wonders, among its astonishing sights, I would return right back to my family, unharmed and triumphant. In my own way I’ve kept this dauntless and ambitious nature throughout my life, refusing to accept my limits.
Growing up as the daughter of a trail guide, my family hiked the Grand Canyon often. I have been there 14 times, and hiked to the Colorado River 12 times since I was one-year-old. Not once in those years was I afraid of those heights, or daunted by the sheer drop that lay only slightly to our left beside the narrow trail. I saw only the adventures it held. I saw the places I might explore, the things I might learn, the wonder I might behold, if I were free to wander, to Fly.
I did learn obedience, even if my flight never left me. I wouldn't try to spring off the edge into the wind, if only to honor my parents wishes. At the precipice of the Canyon I would duck under the railing and climb along the cliff’s edge. Weaving my way between the boulders. nothing seemed more desirable to me than finding an outcropped rock on which to sit upon. Admiring the breathtaking beauty and elegance, color and contrast, art and design of the Grand Canyon I was a bird if I imagined the ground gone. God’s Great Handiwork. From an outcropping, I felt as if I Was Flying. Until, reluctantly, I returned called back to the path by my parents. Back to logic and reason I was summoned. But, beyond the path I felt free. I could be a raven circling above a nest, or a mountain goat able to climb sheer cliffs, or a condor soaring high in the currents of hot dry air.
One hike I remember vividly. We left before sunrise, as we did every year, but this year was different, and oh so special. It would be my first year to trek the entire decent and hike the entire ascent without being carried upon my father’s shoulders. I was to go to The River without aid. Then, and only then, was I to receive the great honor and privilege of being sworn in as a Junior Park Ranger of Phantom Ranch. I would be the youngest ever to receive the great pink rattlesnake badge at the age of a mere seven-years-old. Nothing, not wind, not cold, not heat, not dehydration, not mountain lions, not pink rattlers, not even the scorpions, could deter my resolution.
We left before the sun was in the sky, watching as the heavens grew slowly lighter. We were already halfway to the plateaus when the sun first touched the rim of The Canyon. It illuminated the bright limestone in all its majesty, as we descended below the hermit shale. To admire the beauty of the sunrise and obtain a much merited rest, we found respite at Skeleton’s Point. Climbing upon the bone white tree, I watched as the sun’s rays slowly moved down the canyon walls before finally reaching our sanctuary, brightening the crimson soil. Soon after dawn, the we continued our decent, pursuing the shadows that rapidly descended the canyon walls.
I advanced forward balancing on the stones that lined the path next to the cliff. Springing from one rock to another, I never worried, never doubted, never considered the danger. In my heart I still believed I could fly. So when the stone slipped, when I was carried ever closer to the looming precipice by the cascade of stones, when the pebbles plummeted ahead of me off the cliff’s edge, when I stopped moving only a foot from my doom, I was shocked to find that, for the first time, I was afraid that I might not fly. For the first time I accepted that I would fall at the same speed as those pebbles. For the first time I doubted my ability to fly, to leap, to soar. That is where I stopped sliding. That is where I stopped believing that I would fly.
My Father pulled me back onto The Path. My Father saved me when I was too terrified to move. My Father dusted me off and kept me moving. And I keep going. Falling may have injured my pride. Falling may have shaken my certainty. Falling may have damaged my dreams. But it couldn't destroy them. It is one of the hardest truths I have been forced to accept: I can't do everything. I can't Fly, . . . yet.