A Grain of Sand

A contemplative piece about finding joy and gratitude through time outdoors.

By on June 9, 2022 | Comments

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a rock? Standing calm and patient as seasons rocket by. Winter seeming to last a few hours and the bright wildflowers of summer nothing but a burst of color in your periphery?

I often feel that moving outside is the only way I can slow down time or rather enjoy each moment to its fullest.

The blooming fairy slipper orchids making their short spring appearance along the trail.

A solitary robin calling out through the aspen trees.

The light filtering through the pine trees.

The call of an elk from a distant hillside.

Waterfalls gushing out of the mountains as the last of the snow melts.

The hummingbirds flitting nervously through the bushes, diving their way to the ground at incredible speeds.

Two mountain goats grazing along the open slope like slow-moving, fluffy white rocks.

Today, as I left for a run, I was in a funk. I was feeling down for no reason in particular and wasn’t entirely sure if wanted to get out at all. My emotions ebbed slightly as I moved, but I couldn’t quite shake them.

On the last climb, I stopped a couple of times and just sat there. I was dreaming of the distant ridgelines. In those moments of pause, I whispered the mantra my dad always tells me to repeat, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

And suddenly, as I jogged down the last couple miles of singletrack I finally felt present and content in what I was doing. While I was backpacking out in the mountains recently, I listened to an audiobook by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability.” In one of the chapters, she mentions that it had been found that the people who experience the most joy in life are the ones who daily express gratitude. Some words of wisdom when you’re feeling stuck.

Life is indeed short. Our lives are nothing but a blip in the time span of the rocks we run over. And if we can’t find joy and gratitude at least some of the time, I think it’s worth asking, why not? I thought about this often while hiking the length of the Grand Canyon. As humans, we stress about and overthink damn near everything, but we are really nothing more than a grain of sand, as the late conservationist Katie Lee says in her book “All My Rivers are Gone.”

“To be on razor’s edge — to know you can die, to see how insignificant you are in relation to time, space, nature, beauty, history, our planet — is to be firmly put in your place. A grain of sand. That’s all you are.”

Call for Comments

Do you have a mantra to help you find joy and outrun negative feelings?

Reflections on the Colorado River

Reflections on the Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon. Photo: Hannah Green

Hannah Green
Hannah Green wanders long distances by foot and takes photos along the way. When not outside, you can likely find her at the nearby coffee shop. Find more on Instagram and at Hannah Green Art.