Hiking the Grand Canyon

My brother-in-law was an incredible person.  He was a great husband, great father to his seven children, and a great example.  He was always optimistic and hard working.  He also had Parkinson’s disease.  We watched as the disease took over his life, his ability to move, even his ability to speak, and finally took away his life.

But despite the effects of the disease my brother-in-law kept on going and doing as much as he could as long as he could.  And he often did things I would have said were impossible for him.

Ten years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Ted and my sister hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back  to the top.  Ted was not a great walker at the time.  I remember him walking with my husband, who has his own physical problems.  The two would stop and Ted would lean on my hubbie for support so that he could rub out the cramps in his feet.  Then my husband would stop and lean on Ted to maintain his  balance.  What a pair.

So, when my sister told me what they had done I was dumbfounded.  How?  How had they done it?  How had Ted hiked the Grand Canyon?  I wasn’t sure I could hike down and make it back out myself and I was fifteen years younger than Ted and perfectly healthy.

When I asked Ted how he had done it he said, “I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.”  One step at a time. That’s the only way to keep going.”  And he kept going to the end.

Well, time has passed and we are all older than we were.  But I think of Ted putting one foot in front of the other all the way down and back up to the top of the Canyon.  I remember him when I am faced with an insurmountable task or project.

I thought about him as I wrote my last book, Monster Slayer’s Son set near the Grand Canyon on the Navajo Reservation.  For me writing is like the start of a journey.  I’m full of energy–I run down the canyon, writing words, sentences, paragraphs, jumping over spaces that I can fill in later, laying out the story, filling out a character, deciding on a direction at the forks in the trail.  And finally I get to the bottom.

Then comes the editing.  Editing is time consuming, it’s no fun.  It takes concentration and it makes a better, finished story.  But for me editing is the climb back up.  And I have to do it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other page after page, over and over again.

In my mad dash  I make countless errors: errors in spelling and punctuation, errors in the timeline, errors in characters’ names and relationships.  The only way to make the story coherent is to plod through the words, check back and forth and correct the inconsistencies.  And when I get impatient and decide it’s good enough, when I publish before I’ve reached the top of the canyon where I can stand back on the rim and take in the view of where I’ve been and how I made it back to the top my readers let me know.

When I read other e-pub authors and notice glaring editing errors I realize those errors are distracting.  To me they scream amateur, and sometimes they are enough that I put the story down.

So I remind myself: Coming up–editing, editing, editing–one foot in front of the other.  Everything is possible!!

And still I trip up on the trail.  But boy, do I enjoy the run!!

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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