Published on March 5th, 2018 | by The Local Staff


Oops…Providence Canyon and the Beauty of a Well-Placed Mistake: Sarah Lea Kirsch

“If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t really trying.” – Coleman Hawking

Providence Canyon. That’s how it started. A mistake…or mistakes I should say. A string of unguided, seemingly insignificant mistakes. Standing on the edge of the ravine, looking out over the “Little Grand Canyon” with my tribe, I was blown away that what appears to be an ancient natural wonder is actually a fairly modern, sprawling accident.

The people who settled this area in the early 1800’s were trying. They moved to give their families a better life. They were desperate to find a way to support themselves with little education. They chose this spot, cleared the land so it could be farmed, removed trees, began homesteads and hoped for the best. As they worked their fields and planted their crops, they had no reason to believe that the ground beneath their plows was being permanently altered. There it began. Rainwater collected. Rows turned to ditches, ditches to channels, and channels to trenches that continued to get deeper and deeper, until they were left to believe that what they started was a failure. They would have to move. Total wash.


I really pondered this, the idea of mistakes, while watching the gaggle of children we have between us. I thought about it while recounting the tear stained hair debacle of last week (complete with my daughter trying to GLUE her hair back with a glue stick…real life people). I thought about it during the 743 bathroom breaks. The protested lunch complete with picket lines and complaints about the overcast/chilly weather. Just give it 5 minutes. The search for the perfect walking stick…or bow staff…whichever happens to be called for at the moment. Pretty sure someone stepped in dog poop. Thank you, random citizen. We are trying over here.

The beauty in trying can rarely be seen immediately. After the settlers gave up, the trenches continued to deepen. The dark, iron heavy, red clay gave way and started to reveal something beautiful. Layers and layers of unstable sediment dating back hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of lifetimes were slowly exposed in all their splendor. Stark white clay and sand rubbing shoulders with stripes of yellow, pink, black and purple…there are somewhere around 40 uniquely different colors that have shown themselves. Impressive, deep ravines and tall, proud spires formed to give the landscape a breathtaking view that seems transplanted from the deserts in the west. This exquisite collection of a people’s mistakes, right there…in all its glory.

Standing in the stream on the canyon floor, assisting tiny humans in jumping from one muddy dirt clot to the next, something occurred to me (the weather is perfect now by the way…wait, no. I’m told it’s now too hot). Sometimes, like the canyon, it takes years of washing over and over to slowly expose the loveliness of a well-placed mistake. The daily choices, miss-steps, and failures can become our focus. But if you are TRYING, if you are truly taking a whack at this life…then you learn, you grow, and eventually grace and impossible magic peek through the mess.

Providence Canyon

8930 Canyon Road
Lumpkin, GA 31815

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