Milky Way serenade in the Grand Canyon
Since this website’s inception earlier in the year, I have been repeatedly asked: “Why nuanaarpuq?” and “What does it mean?” and “How do I pronounce it?” and “Couldn’t you have picked an easier domain name?”
To which I reply: It’s my favorite word; it means “take extravagant pleasure in the joy of living”; nu-an-are-puk; and no. Here’s why:
I have always believed in the power of the written word. Combined with photography, I find these two mediums to be unequaled in their capacity to educate and inspire. I began this website because I wanted to share insight into places I have traveled, outdoor adventures I have experienced, and people I have met in hopes that it might spark a curiosity in readers to embark on similar journeys of their own making. What to call this website was never in question. Since first hearing this word and learning of its meaning when I was a teenager, nuanaarpuq has shaped the course of my life. Even when employed in a 9-5 office job, even while living far from Colorado and the mountains of my youth, “take extravagant pleasure in the joy of living” has been my life ethos.
I am not the only one.
Two weeks ago, when I emerged from a 16-day river trip through the Grand Canyon, I opened my inbox to find an email from a woman I had never met writing to say she found my website when googling the word nuanaarpuq. She told me how she had lost a family member in a car accident last year; he was a senior in college who loved the outdoors. After his death, the family discovered a passage that had been given to him and clearly meant a great deal. It reads as follows:
“THE FINAL CHALLENGE
Take risks and try new things.
Become more self sufficient.
Fix old things.
Travel and learn from others.
Have a positive attitude.
Be open minded.
FOLLOW YOUR GUT
Be intrinsically motivated.
Pursue your true passions.
Don’t just conform.
Set goals, work hard, dream.
Make your mark.
KEEP SIGHT OF WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT
Value all people.
Value experiences over things.
Take extravagant pleasure in being alive.”
This passage, she proceeded to write, has motivated their family. They spread the spirit of nuanaarpuq wherever they go now, and in this way, his memory is carried with them always.
As is befitting of uncannily timed coincidences in life, I read this email at the exact moment when every word in that passage felt relevant and applicable to my life. I was riding shotgun in a van filled with the friends who had comprised my river family for the previous 16 days. We were driving away from the take-out at Pearce Ferry, saying goodbye to the world we had created for ourselves at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was a bittersweet moment, for sure, leaving some of life’s simplest pleasures—long and unhurried conversations with old friends, cooking meals for one another, laughing late into the night, sleeping under the stars, slowly and thoughtfully exploring a land of ineffable beauty on foot and by raft—and recognizing that singular period in time had passed. But it was also a beautiful moment in which this great, wide world suddenly seemed incredibly small, and I felt a strong pull of kinship for those who share my love of an obscure Inuit word.
“Continue to spread the message of nuanaarpuq,” my new friend wrote. I promised her I would.