Mountain memory

Lost Lake, somewhere in Colorado

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The first time I hiked in the mountains, I needed a break, so I laid on my back in an alpine meadow next to a melting snow cap. I was struck by the closeness of the sky, how it rushed toward my bare face, how the silence buzzed in my ears, how I could almost grab a handful of cloud and lick it like a tuft of cotton candy, how the dripping water formed shimmering ribbons coaxed away by gravity, gathering volume and speed, toward life below.

 

(I stole this from myself. I wrote it as a comment on another blog. Is that breaking some blogger bylaw?)

I want the window seat, but I'll settle for Google Earth

farmland

www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/rareplants/whyare/images/farmland_lg.jpg

I love the window seat. Whether it’s on a bus, car or airplane, I have to have the window seat.

Whether I’m 3 feet or 30,000 feet from the ground, I love to peer out at the world.

Know why? On a clear day, the world seems so still and manageable, especially  from above.*

Everything is reduced to form and function. Details are omitted. Histories obscured. A farm is a farm. A field is a field. A road stretches from one compass point to the next. A river meanders on its path to the ocean. 

On our flight to Arizona, we are blessed with a cloudless view nearly the whole distance. The heartland of America looks like a big patchwork quilt of greens, ambers and browns. Roads are childlike scribbles scratched across a sheet of paper stretching from East to West, writing the story of our country’s development. Perhaps because I was hungry, the mighty Rocky Mountains become row upon row of chocolate chunks topped with powdered sugar. I want to reach down with my index finger and run it through that sparkling frosting.

Google Earth

Google Earth

As I look at the world below in miniature, I realize the  how connected everyone and everything really is. I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately and have had trouble wrapping my mind around it. It’s so obvious when you see the effort put into creating cities and road systems. The shape and size of a farm reflects not only the farmer’s labor but also the output that supports all us consumers. What one person does on his patch of earth does affect neighbors near and far.

Google Earth image of my home

Google Earth image of my home

It’s all perspective. Some days I want to gain altitude, grab a corner of the complicated quilt that is my life and shake it with all my strength. What is good and right will stick. What is bad will project out of my sight and reach.

I’ll try to remember all this when I can’t see beyond my walls.

Oh, and downloading Google Earth helps, too.

Google Earth image of family land

Google Earth image of family land

 

*All bets are off when flying around or through a storm system.

Long-distance relationship

view

I was flashed today.

It happened as I pulled back the curtains on my hotel room window. I was startled to find  a set of  voluptuous mountains popping out of the horizon. I stared, speechless. The rocky mounds flanked by swaying palms shimmied like some kind of hula dancer performing a show only I could understand.

Yesterday, outside the hotel I found a gathering of well-muscled, phallic cacti strutting around in the rock gardens. I could almost swear one of them whispered something dirty to me.

I’m nine years into a marriage. But I get weak in the knees when warm sun begins to massage my winterized flesh and achy blue sky winks at me wherever I turn. How can a girl stay faithful to her northern roots?

These trips out west, they’re almost like porn.

This latest tryst finds me pulling back the covers on a part-time lover named Arizona. He moves around a lot, changes his name. Sometimes he’s New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Always though, when we reunite, I melt into his broad shoulders, inhale his sage-scented coat of many colors and whisper promises of “someday.”

The torch was lighted in my childhood on a road trip to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and Devil’s Tower Monument in Wyoming. Throughout my youth, my family covered many miles of road stretching to all points on the compass. But it was the western sojourn that lodged itself in my psyche. Thirty some years later, the grip has not loosened.

It begs the question: Why haven’t I left Michigan? Can’t I divorce this Great Lakes relationship and run away with my Western lover?

The answer is always the same: The time is not yet right. I’ve had offers. I’ve had chances. But, I’m needed here — for now. I’m slowly preparing for my departure, saying my good-byes, biding my time.

Until then, I get my thrills any way I can.

leaves

High times

On one of our many visits to Colorado we went to a theme park took the roller coaster road from Independence Pass to Aspen. It is considered one of the highest paved roads in North America. We flatlanders had been in the mountains only for a few days so the initial shock of altitude change had worn off, we thought, but I guess it takes much longer to fully acclimate to the environment.

This picture was taken at Highway 82 overlook, a breathtaking stopover at 12,095 feet above sea level. In my travel journal I describe the air as thin and cold. I observe that we are on tundra, above the tree line.  The views are dizzying and exhilirating. I realize the little squiggle below is really the road we took to get here.

The drive to Aspen is nothing but a series of hair-pin turns and switchbacks through the peaks and valleys of the central rockies. It was the equivalent feeling of stepping off the Tilt-A-Whirl at the local carnival — after you’ve unwisely ingested a hot dog with everything.

This picture was taken in 2004. I could have sat on that bench all afternoon, soaking up the sun, feeling the wind whip my hair, and inviting the utter peace and serenity of the landscape to infuse my soul.

It’s a feeling I can only get in places of nature’s extremities. The surf crashing on the rocks at the seaside or on a snow-covered peak in the mountains. I’m not a religious person, but these moments are the closest thing to feeling a God, a higher power, a presence greater than myself.

Why I can’t get that feeling in a Michigan cornfield I don’t know.