Monday, February 18, 2008

Mon, Feb 18, 2008: Grand Lake and Thoughts from an Onion

((Present Day: I happen to think jumping off a cliff would be really fun... especially bathed in tropical sunlight, diving into a blindingly brilliant ocean, cutting into the warm water. I'm still bummed I missed the opportunity to go skydiving with a couple of friends who went shortly after I left Connecticut for Colorado. Someday...!))

I have come to realize that having a man in my life greatly disturbs my mental state. I'm pretty sure that this is entirely due to fear: fear that I will get hurt, fear that he will get bored and leave, fear that I'll be wasting my time with the wrong guy and miss the right one when he does come along.

Today I spent a lot of time comparing myself to an onion. I think that so many people are willing to take me at face value, which is a useless way to take me. Under that face is another layer, and another, and another, until eventually if one possesses great intelligence, patience, and caring, unearthing the core is possible. And inside the core sits a girl, looking up with hopeful eyes, wondering if you are the one to hug her and tell her everything will be ok, the one to accept and love her unconditionally, the one to protect and take care of her. I have some friends who have persisted with me enough to reach that level, and some romantic relationships, but when left to stare up at the face of the one who found her that girl has been left wanting. Is it our nature as human beings to take things as we see them on the surface? I think that I see very few people as they present themselves, but perhaps that's because I assume that everyone continues inward as deeply as I do.

Today I went on a drive to Grand Lake, which sits on the Granby edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. There were massive snow banks on either side of the road as I drove through the high plateau, and a strong persistent wind sent clouds of flakes drifting across my path.

When I reached the lake it was frozen solid and masked beneath a thick blanket of snow.

I can't wait to return in the summer, when the snow-capped mountains will be reflected in the still blue waters. Among all of the peace and beauty around me, today was a day for heavy thoughts and I felt much like the lake with its white snowy face to the world while its essence was kept to itself.

Since my arrival in Colorado, I feel like I've been walking around with a thousand adjectives pinned to my skin. "You're the epitome of professional", "you're an adventurous type", "you're so confident". It's a very intimidating task to feel forced into a category by a person, and inside of me a voice wants to scream out, "don't you know that everyone has opposites inside of them?!" Sure I'm adventurous but I'm also very cautious. I love feeling secure and having a home to come home to. Yes I'm professional, but sometimes there is laughter being held inside of me as a student tells me something I know I'm not supposed to laugh at. It's true that my confidence has been growing enormously and it's a change that I'm very pleased about, but it's been a long hard road and that girl who just wants to be taken care of is still very much alive in my core.

In my myspace profile, I have listed under the "who I'd like to meet" section: anyone who can see through me but not past me. Today, all I've been able to think about is what this means to me, and how meaningful it really is. Someone who can see the girl in the core, who is patient enough and cares enough to find her, and who doesn't pass her by just because she's difficult to pin down. In the end, all she wants to know is that she is loved, along with all of the layers above her.

On a completely different and funny note, yesterday I related my Oh My God Road adventures to someone who thinks that jumping off cliffs is a good idea, and got an eyebrow raise. Isn't it strange how people have such different perceptions of what is a good idea and what is not? At this time I have no desire to jump off a cliff, but driving on that road was a fantastic experience.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sat, Feb. 9, 2008: Pawnee National Grasslands

((I am often surprised by the circular nature of my life in Colorado, and find that I head to the same places or types of places around the same time of year. I have only seen these antelopeish creatures twice: once on Feb. 9th of 2008 in the road trip described below... and once when I headed down to Lake Pueblo on Feb. 14, 2009.))

* * * *

Things I learned from the prairies of northeastern Colorado:

You can see the mountains from a distance for a while, and it's surprising how short a distance you have to travel east before they diminish significantly.

There is a lot of yellow grass and blue sky. As in, so much that you feel about 2 inches tall and about to be engulfed in it, which isn't necessarly a bad feeling. To be swallowed by soft grass and bright colors would be beautiful.

Some farms have these strange power lines that come to a point over their barns. I was unable to determine the actual purpose of these, but did come up with some fantastic hypotheses, such as perhaps they are beaming signals to aliens, or perhaps it is a homing beacon for their cows.

Some residents plant a dense stand of pine or cottonwood trees around their houses, perhaps to make them look less conspicuous? I'm not sure they have been successful in that department. Perhaps they are supposed to serve as something to break the wind, but they're only planted one tree deep so I'm not thinking they are effectively serving that purpose either. Maybe they just like trees.

Some residents prefer not to plant trees.

In the prairie, there seem to be a lot of randomly sticking up structures. I wonder if we have a need to build upward to break the overwhelming depth of infinity in the grass and sky. But hey, if nothing else, at least they have cell phone service and giant maracas!

In the prairie, where there are trees there is usually water.

Some things go on for infinity.

There are many abandoned farms...

...and many beautiful farms.

Some trees are random pioneers, thriving without any visible water source,

while some trees cluster around water to form the prairie's version of a dense forest.

The sky is so massive that even enormous clouds are dwarfed.

I love the irony of this sign, on multiple levels. Note the boasting of "home of arbor day" while there are no trees visible anywhere in the background. Also note the oil pumping machine to the right of the sign (at least, I think that's what the machine is...). I wonder if people who live where there are no trees learn to appreciate them more than those of us who grew up with an abundance of them.

I learned some of the answers to the questions I always ask in airplanes while flying over the prairie: "why are there so many roads out there? where do they even go to? and who uses them, out in the middle of nowhere?" The answers being something like the following: because people need to travel from sprawling farm to sprawling farm, they lead to other random roads, and farmers, truckers, and random people like me use them.

There are strange animals in the prairies of northeastern Colorado that I have never seen before. In addition to these deer goat beings, there were massive flocks of birds monopolizing the road until I approached them. It was almost like driving in a snowstorm at some points, but instead of snowflakes the white flashes in front of my windshield were the underbellies of the birds.

There is a cloud formation that I have seen quite a bit of since moving out here called lenticular clouds. They often form near mountains due to the unique wind conditions that occur there. I remember reading about them back in Connecticut when I was young and being amazed by this special type of cloud that forms only in certain areas, and was delighted (and still am) to see them when I moved out here. In addition to describing the cloud formations, the book I learned about them from stated that people often mistake them for UFOs. Seriously... they are giant clouds! If you stare at them for a moment you can realize that they're not flying around. They are beautiful and unique and I still love seeing them.

There are some very loosely formed lenticular clouds in the bottom left of this picture. If you're curious, I'd suggest looking them up on the internet to see what some really solid ones look like. :)

While driving on route 71, I saw some windmills perched along pinkish bluffs to the east of me, and decided that I needed to find them. I dead-ended on the first two eastward roads I tried, but the third was the charm and it carried me right to them. They say that in prairies distances are deceiving which I think is somewhat true based on my limited experiences, but my windmill tour only took me an hour or two out of the way.

Standing among an infinity of windmills filled me with an amazing sense of awe.

I saw a good number of random metal structures waiting alongside the road. Who and what are they waiting for?

As I took this picture with the sky pressing down on me and the ground lifting me up, nothing but flat land stretching out from every direction for miles, I asked myself two questions: one, what am I doing here again? and two, do I even care? This is neat.

And of course, a beautiful prairie sunset:

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fri, Feb 8, 2008: Finally, a Road Trip! (Routes 67, 97, and 96)

*dramatic violin music*

Ah, how I've missed the feel of my tires on the road, of feeling the centrifugal force leaning into me as my car turns on these winding mountain passes. How wonderful the sound of rivers of melting snow running beneath my tires, of turning the heat up and rolling the windows down to revel in the crisp bite of fresh air....

Ok, enough. Turn that music off. No, seriously, turn it off.


Today I didn't have to work because of conferences during the week, so I took advantage of the free time and set off on a road trip. It's been too long! I decided that since I've spent a great deal of my explorations on fairly major roads, I would turn this time toward some smaller roads as my source of adventure. My pen bounded across the paper as I wrote the most complicated set of directions I have taken with me thus far on a drive, and as I clicked it shut and stared at the map on my computer screen one last time I crossed my fingers that this would be a fun day.

Breathtaking vistas were few and far between, though I did get one quick glance of the plains through the trees before disappearing into the foothills. As I took this picture, I unknowingly startled two mule deer, who in turn startled me back. I could hear their footsteps crunching on twigs and snow until the walls of my car shut them out.

This picture is somewhat random, but a lot of people out here have this style of post and lintel archway over their driveways. I think maybe it's supposed to make the house look like a ranch... or something....

As I drove along, I couldn't wipe the excited grin off my face, nor did I have reason to as I think I passed all of one car the entire trip. I hummed along to my ipod and ate up the world around me with wide eyes.

I generally don't share views of the road, preferring instead to share views from the road as if the road is an intrusion. But today, as I decended down a 15% grade on a 1.5-lane dirt road, I decided this road was worth sharing. Perhaps it's because it was the least pot hole filled back road I have ever driven on, perhaps it was the sunshine and deliciously fresh air, or perhaps it just offered the best views. In any case, here is a piece of the road:

The road turned to dirt, and my grin widened. My first mountain dirt road! The South Platte River pulled up alongside me, and we drove together through a strange maze of enormous smooth boulders.

Here is a picture of the dirt road:

It was insanely fun winding through the hills on an icy, wet dirt road with the river peeking out through a thickly cracked ice crust. As I got out from time to time to take pictures, the voice of the river and a breeze in the hills was the only thing I could hear.

In addition to the enormous boulders, there were some interesting spikey rock formations alongside the river. They almost reminded me of the rocks in the Garden of the Gods, but their surfaces were far more rough.

The road brought me to a cluster of about 10-15 very small houses in various stages of decay. Whether this is due to poverty or abandonment I don't know, though several of them had fairly shiny cars sitting up on blocks in the yards with their tires off. One shack boasted a giant treehouse that was bigger than the main house on the ground. This house in particular looked like it was in really rough shape...

I left the falling down houses behind, wondering if any of the residents have children and if so, how do the children get to school?, and the sunny beautiful dirt road found me again. As I rounded a corner, I was surprised to come across another abandoned building, this one bigger than all the other houses put together. I was saddened and a little spooked, until I took a closer look at it:

An old hotel along the river!! There was a sign by the front door stating that there is nothing kept inside the building, and asking for respect as the property is being restored for its historical value. Who, I wondered, would have ever stayed there? It was miles and miles away from anything.

The sunny dirt road eventually spilled me out onto a paved road, and we parted ways. With the mud and ice gone, my mind concentrated less on my driving and more on my inner thoughts which consisted of processing the effects of fear on my life path and, of course, soul mates. I used to be very afraid of making wrong decisions and messing up my life, but I have come to realize that sometimes not making a decision at all, or hesitating out of fear to carry out a decision, are barriers just as powerful as lack of action.

Some people say that every person has several soul mates on this earth, increasing the likelihood that we will run into at least one of them in our lifetimes. If this is so, where are mine? Have they already been scooped up into other relationships, or wandered down a life path that takes them away from me? I find the latter hard to believe, because if one person is walking away then inevitably there should be someone else walking toward me to maintain balance.

After throwing off the weight of expectations that kept me shackled in Connecticut, I have indulged my every whim in Colorado. I don't think I have ever spent so much time listening to my intuition in my life, but it still scares me. It scares me because it tells me that I love to travel, and I feel most alive when I am discovering and digesting new places and experiences. I have two opposing forces working inside of me: a sense that if I stay put, I can work and get money to be able to live, and a sense that there is a flower inside of me that only blooms when I am having fantastically new travel adventures. Right now I mostly just wish that someone would hand me a million dollars and tell me to have at it.

The last smile of my road trip was given to this view of Denver, across Sloan's Lake: