not idiots

We are a subspecies of river runners, more akin to lizards than to fish.

They say that you’re an idiot if you’re hot on the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon shows all the signs of blistering heat; limited, shrub-like vegetation with thorns to discourage any would be grazers, rocks in desert hues of reds, oranges, purples and greys, dry stream beds and a stark absence of green. The water flowing down the canyon comes out of the bottom of Lake Powell at an icy 42 degrees year round, a perfect way to cool down at any moment. I think that’s what “they” mean. That in the scorching sun of the summer, you’d be an idiot to not cool down in the river, to douse your clothes, splash your friends and seek solace in the shady side canyons. But for us, another story is told.

We are a subspecies of river runners, more akin to lizards than to fish. Like all river runners, we follow the blue line. But we are sun worshippers. To the untrained eye, our actions seem bizarre. The sun must peek out for only a moment for all activity to cease. In eerie synchronization, all 13 of us rotate our faces to achieve maximum photon catching. Silence settles, and we more closely resemble a fleet of solar panels than members of the human race. We cringe and steer away from any and all splashy waves. Widespread disappointment strikes when one of our fellows takes the full force of a wave with their drysuit only halfway on. While that other species of river runners, the kind that visit this place in the summer, must soak their clothes before bed to stay cool we have a different ritual. As darkness descends at the ungodly hour of 5PM, we carefully adorn layer upon layer of fleece and down. We embrace each other often, both to show affection and to promote blood flow. We legitimately consider digging a hole in the sand and filling it with hand warmers, a dry hot tub if you will. When the weather turns, we crowd into a canvas tent. Hidden from the canyon walls, we are transported, we could be anywhere. But we are still together, and therefore we are exactly where we need to be. As the wood stove we’ve floated to our camp heats the small space, we are the warmest we’ve been in days. Slowly we strip down to a single layer of polyester. But we still aren’t hot, so therefore we aren’t idiots.

Author: Morgan Comey