In early 2007, I took a trip across the country. Started late at night to dodge Houston traffic, continued on through to New Mexico and to the Pacific the next day. Spent the evening of Super Bowl Sunday with some surfers on the beach listening to the game on a radio. Returning, I took my time and along the way stopped by the Grand Canyon.
Looking out from the South Rim, I stood and took in the grand spectacle before me. Far below the Colorado River flowed, carving still more land to make everything just a little deeper. I thought of the time and pressure it all took to wipe away the smooth canyon curves, the change that occurred minute to day to year to decade.
A redneck part deep in the back of my mind thought, "That's a big damn hole."
My babysitter, Mrs. Joyce, taught me about holes when I was five. She would play with us, getting down in the dirt with her worst spoons and dig little divots in the earth. She would squeeze her rough kind hand around the spoon and call the outcome "dirt grenades." She would let us throw them at each other, a pack of polite but active kids. And she talked about holes.
"You can always let a hole be cause if you try to fill it, you can't ever get it just right," Mrs. Joyce said over me as I tried to pack the dirt back tight.
"Look around. Kids been digging here for years," she said. The backyard of that little shotgun house had been the instrument of many small hands. It rolled and pitched with a gray landscape of a Great War battlefield, spots of grass around the edges and around the victory garden we could never play near.
The last few months I have been thinking about those holes, the Grand Canyon and all those in my babysitter's backyard. Time and water and wind and people made all those holes, smoothed them over, created the landscapes. People make other kinds of holes, too, though, in your heart and in your mind.
Heartbreak is a hell of a ditch digger. Either on purpose or accident, another person makes their way into your psyche and plants themselves. Again by intent or through simple blundering, they can erupt out and create deep impressions. Shallow or cavernous, holes in your heart build over the years and form themselves inside you.
Filling those holes is tough. You can do it, like I did with a dirty spoon, but like Mrs. Joyce said, "You can't ever get it just right." Holes change you, become a part of you. If you fill them wrong you forget why they were there or, worse, create mounds of dead memories that fester and bleed into everything you do.
Nobody has ever tried to fill the Grand Canyon, as far as I know. They, like I did back in 2007, come to stare out and wonder. For me, that's the best way. Reckon with the hole. See it for what it is, something created by time and change, hope and desire, dreams.
Good or bad, every heartbreak is a hole. You can waste time filling it, or you can realize what it is. A part of you. One more divot or canyon in the landscape that is you.
Sooner or later, you will admire the holes. You will be able to look out at yourself and see the beauty of your life.
While you wait, drive on. See the ocean and the sky. Listen to the Super Bowl with good company and remember you can't ever get it just right.