God in Las Vegas

They don’t call it America the Beautiful for nothing. God, this country is beautiful. I visited Las Vegas two weeks ago.

Wasn’t too interested in the usual things people go to Vegas for. To me, casinos are like Chuck E. Cheese for sedentary grown ups.  Not that I don’t like being sedentary. Not that I don’t like Chuck E. Cheese, but on the few times I’ve taken my kids there, I’ve left with a massive headache and a lot less money in my pocket. I’m not too interested in The Strip, because I have a problem knowing what to do when I’m overstimulated — too many lights, sounds, people. (That’s why I prefer Central Park to Times Square in NYC.)

I am into nature. I find God in nature. I find beauty in trees.

I am an unashamed tree hugger. I will hug a tree every chance I get. You can ask my kids. I make them hug trees too. I say out loud,  “Thank you, old tree, for being here.”  In Vegas, I didn’t hug a tree, but I discovered a canyon.

With only a couple of hours before I had to catch the plane back to NYC, I asked the front desk clerk what sight I should take in. “Red Rock Canyon,”  she said without hesitation. I never got to thank her.

It was other-worldly beautiful. The snow the night before made the whole thing look like a moonscape. The red of the rock. The white of the snow. The gauzy grey clouds. The ocean-blue sky.

Every turn on the 13-mile scenic drive caused a gasp in wonder. “Purple mountains majesty.” Indeed. 

When I left the scenic drive, and was back on the highway, I noticed so many cars pulled over on the shoulder. The drivers were all standing beside their cars, looking up at the canyon walls, the snow, the sky.

I bet just about everyone who saw the canyon that day pulled over to photograph it on their phones or pocket cameras. I did.

To me, the sights of the natural world around Vegas are so much more compelling than the lights of the Strip. Maybe the tourism board doesn’t promote the natural world near Vegas because the visit doesn’t add to the region’s economy the way casinos do.

Yet the sight of Red Rock Canyon covered in snow stimulated me in a deep spiritual way. In a way no manmade luxury hotel could ever do.

I twittered that afternoon that seeing the Red Rock Canyon covered in snow made me believe in God. Someone replied, asking me then if Ansel Adams was an atheist? I don’t know. All I know is that trees, rocks, clouds, and natural beauty inspire awe.

That afternoon reminded me that I am small and the world is big. For me, that’s a God moment.

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