Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sun, Nov. 22, 2009: The Balloon Experiment, First Attempt

I headed down to Buena Vista with a dozen balloons packed against the ceiling of the backseat of my car, a plastic bag full of carefully printed messages, and a sore wrist from a touch-up of my new tattoo. I had it in mind to release the balloons with messages safely sealed in Ziploc bags tied to their strings, expecting the wind to carry my words to my unsuspecting fellow Americans, who would in turn email me and tell me how far my balloon was able to travel.

The first snag in my plan was discovered when I got out of my car (at my favorite rest stop overlooking the Collegiate Peaks), twelve balloons in hand, and the freezing cold wind began to twist the strings into a thick, tight braid. By this point, I had already attached the messages in baggies to the balloon strings, so it wasn't a simple matter of pulling a balloon free from the tangle. No, I had to stand there and carefully extract them from each other one string at a time, while the icy wind continued to braid them tighter and further right in my hands.

I focused my efforts on freeing a cheerful pink balloon and managed to work its string free without too much trouble. Victory!, I thought, and let the balloon go. My eyes were prepared to follow it into the sky, but were surprised to see it settle itself just above the soft sand of the parking lot. Honestly, all I could do at this point was laugh. Apparently the notes and baggies were too heavy for the balloons, so none of them were going to fly. As I realized this, a large purple balloon was whipped by a particularly pointy gust of wind and cheerfully popped right in my face.

I rolled my eyes at the whole affair and stomped to my car, from which I extracted my scissors. A single snip bit through the balloon strings, releasing them from their unreasonably heavy burdens. A quick comb of my fingers through the strings and they were free, and a gentle relaxing of the muscles of my hands set them into the air, dancing merrily through the frosty air currents that whipped down from the mountains. Though I was frustrated that my flawless master plan ended up being rather full of holes, I smiled at their bright, happy round shapes dancing higher and higher into the atmosphere.

At the very least, I told myself, I was able to enjoy another beautiful sunset over the mountains...
...though this time, the mountains weren't my favorite part about the sunset. The clouds were.
The pictures don't do justice to the delicate edges of hot pink and orange that adorned the cottony gray masses. You should have been there. I was, and the balloons were, and as I gazed around me I wondered what the view looked like from their perspective. I gave a dozen balloons the journey of a lifetime, and can only hope they are enjoying themselves.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weds, Nov. 18, 2009: Waves and Days

The snow that transformed my little town into a deliciously tempting valley of down feathers is holding its own in areas of shadow, despite the best efforts of the sun and the moderately warm air that has moved in to the area. Time for me lately feels like standing at the intersection of 3 currents along the ocean shore: feeling the sway of the water as it rushes around me first on one side, then on another, then from behind me, then on one side again, then.... All of this rushing and pushing and pulling against my skin, into my muscles, into my heart and soul who know the dance of the ocean because they dance it through my veins and into my cells. And my body answers the song so readily that I begin swaying from the inside, and I realize that I don't even feel the waves anymore.

Tiny Christmas lights illuminate the main streets of my town, spilling their soft color across the mushy snow below them and sharply reflected in the ice that coats pieces of the roads. It looks like Christmas, feels like spring, and my brain still thinks it's July. There are so many overlapping calendars in the universe: swirling around my body, pushing here and pulling there, and I sway with the flow of all of them because none of them is calling me with a voice louder or stronger than the others. It's distracting to listen to it all and my brain becomes compartmentalized into tiny pieces, each little one devoting itself to a different voice. And I just want to scream. Scream with the thunder and violence of waves throwing themselves headfirst into the sand. Because then I'd know which voice was mine. And it's the only one worth listening to.

Yesterday, I asked some of my students if they celebrate Christmas. They did, and we began talking about the different family traditions that we celebrate. He shared this story: "When I lived in Mexico, we would write a big long list of everything we wanted, and my mom would get balloons and put the lists on them and let them go." All I could picture was a strong red balloon flying over the Collegiate Peaks to the prairie in Nebraska.

I remember back to a time when it was that easy to put everything that I wanted on a list and know that those things would come into my life. When the student related this memory to me, I felt chills all the way to my heart because it brought up memories of those magical moments we have when we are children: when we really believe that someone is going to swoop down from the sky and grant us our wishes. For a moment, I was given the beautiful gift of childhood belief that all I have to do is wish for something and it will come to me. I was able to feel that feeling, which I haven't felt in years, and I realized what it feels like to manifest joy. Now I wish I could figure out how to let that feeling be a reality for me once again.

This morning, I woke up in the faint gray pre-dawn light of my bedroom to see the shadowed forms of my cat's paws as they interrupted the glow from my curtained window. Her inverted body, my limbs, the bed, the blankets, and the pillow beside me were all dark shadows, merged and tangled into one solid form. I love stealing tiny moments of awareness while the world is still asleep, while nothing is sharp and moving, nothing is pressing. It's the luxury of simple awareness that I embraced as I traced the outlines of her little feet with my eyes, took in the shape of the light as it leaked through my blinds, and cuddled in the delicious warm softness of my blankets. It's amazing to look at the world when it's not looking back.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sun, Nov. 8, 2009: Return to Beak Peak

A friend suggested going for a local hike this weekend, so I mentioned Bear Peak up near Boulder. We were gifted with a beautiful, warm, sunny day as we headed out on our adventure.

I have strong memories of the difficulty of the trail I took earlier in the summer (Fern Canyon Trail), so we decided to go the longer but less steep route up the mountain (I think it was called the West Ridge trail?).

On the way, I spotted a little bird's nest in the bushes just off the path. I rarely see birds' nests in Colorado, so this was a big treat for me. :)
The trail wound us up through what seemed like a little mini canyon with a small stream running through it. In this picture, if you were to look just beyond the red rocks on the ground you would be looking down towards the stream.
Earlier this summer, I felt that the trails up to Bear Peak were a sort of damp random haven in the middle of Colorado. I wrote about it in this entry. While the ferns were all dead for the season this time around, and I didn't see any toadstools, we did find several patches of brilliant emerald green moss. Its bright velvety softness stood out even more against a background of plants bedding down for their winter rest.
The trail wound us slowly and gently upwards to the peak, and the trees began stepping aside to reveal beautiful views of the prairie and mountains. This picture is looking towards Boulder.
Though we hiked a ways distance-wise, we surmised from the glimpses of what we guessed was Bear Peak that we still had a good vertical distance to climb. We stopped for lunch in a little meadow clearing, and the warmth of the sun pouring over my face and back felt so amazing. The sun reminded me that I am a piece of nature as it relaxed my muscles and molded my being to fit the space around me. I was thinking that my friend would want to stop or turn around at this point, because the peak still looked so far away, but we decided we'd made it this far so we should continue.

The hike turned uphill shortly after that and became difficult, but not as steep as the Fern Canyon Trail. The path was sunny and warm, and we were relieved to find ourselves at the top of the mountain. This picture shows Long's Peak over to the right hand side.
Once we had our fill of the view at the top, we looked for the Fern Canyon Trail to take us back down the mountain. We followed a trail of footprints through the snow... and realized that the trail actually took us back down through the snow. We hadn't encountered much snow on our way up the other trail, so this was pretty intimidating for me. This view of Long's Peak was taken just before I worked up the nerve to start my controlled slide down the mountain.
It was *intense*. I haven't been as scared and awake and alive in a long time as I was while I navigated my way down a sheer, rocky peak via a narrow little snow trail. Literally, had I fallen too quickly or too far, or thrown my body weight the wrong way, I would have slipped and tumbled off the mountain. A little ways down, we entered the trees once again and I felt instantly relieved - I greatly prefer wiping out and crashing into a tree over wiping out and falling off a mountain. The trail remained extremely steep and slippery, and I fell over several times. The best of these was the one where I ended up caught on a tree with my legs over my head, after just telling my friend that my way was the safer way down a particular hill. :)

Relief flooded me when we finally reached lower ground where the trail was all dirt and sometimes mud, but never snow. My body and brain were exhausted from the stressful hike down, but I felt wonderful and, more importantly, fully awake and alive.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sat, Oct. 7, 2009: I'd Like to Make Myself Believe That Planet Earth Turns Slowly

I don't really write about music on here, but I have to say that lately I'm completely engrossed in the music of Owl City. He reminds me of The Postal Service, who I also adore. Sometimes I make instant musical connections with groups whose music becomes a transformational, cleansing, penetrating experience for me. Coldplay is one of those groups, as are Regina Spektor, Feist, Kings of Convenience, and Imogen Heap. Owl City is my newest one, partly because of his beautiful lyrics, which sometimes speak my truth so clearly that I feel exposed knowing that someone else can so clearly express something inside of me that I can't put words to.

For a while, a few months ago, I was having dreams in which my exes paraded through my head and interacted with me, usually a different one each night. When it was happening then, I would wake up and tell them to just go away. "I don't want to think about you anymore, you're in the past so please just go away and leave me alone". When it was happening, I told my friend about it and she expressed her opinion that my soul is working to resolve things in my past so that I can move forward without any unfinished business. Although this sounded lovely, it was frustrating to me having my exes invade my dreams every night so I continued asking them to go away, and they did.

Recently, I asked myself to open up to this experience again and told my soul that if dreaming about my exes will bring me to a place of joy, then I would like it to continue happening. Two days ago, I dreamed about one ex, and last night I dreamed about another. It tends to be the same few people running through my head: the first guy I ever dated seriously, the guy who I dated in graduate school, and the guy who I dated most recently last winter. I'm not sure if my dreams are trying to tell or teach me something, or if they're just figments of my brain trying to process memories.

In the dream two nights ago, I was dating the guy from last winter again and was upset that he had plans with his ex. He canceled the plans and tried to make it up to me by giving me a gift, but I noticed that she was there the whole time over his shoulder, though she didn't interact with either of us. He was smiling and trying to be kind to me, but I was mad at him for having her over his shoulder. The dream I had last night featured the first guy who I ever dated seriously, back in college. In my dream, he came to Colorado and expected me to let him stay with me because he didn't have anywhere to stay. He started being very controlling and manipulative, but luckily I had 2 roommates in this dream (who were 2 of my friends in real life) as well as a tall, blond boyfriend. :) The roommates and my boyfriend hid me from him and protected me, and I was able to tell him that I didn't appreciate him trying to weasel his way into my life and he was no longer welcome in my home. I think that being strong and standing up for myself were skills I lacked back when I dated him, so wish that I could have been that way in real life. I also wonder if this dream is reminding me to forgive him.

Last night, my friends asked me if I was waiting for the perfect guy - kind of in the tone of "What are you waiting for?". I was actually a little put off that someone who knows me would think I'm so clueless as to believe that there is a "perfect" person out there - and even if there was, he certainly wouldn't want to date me because I'm nowhere near perfect. :) I don't want a perfect guy. He sounds boring. But I do want to find a guy who wants to love and respect me, who will travel with me, who is intelligent and patient and nice to look at, who is kind and spiritual and forgiving. Those are things that would make him "perfect" for me. As for his negative traits... well duh, everyone has them. There wouldn't be much purpose to our lives if we didn't have something to work on while we're here. As long as he's willing to love me for all of my shortcomings, I would give him my heart in return. Especially if he will sit in the sand by the ocean with me, walk across the world with me, let me warm up my cold feet on his legs, and make me breakfast on Saturday mornings. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sun, Nov. 1, 2009: Blue Mesa Reservoir and the West Elk Mountains

At some point on Saturday, I realized that I was going to be returning to work soon and hadn't done any solo traveling for my entire break. I broke out a map that morning and pondered the possibilities open to me. I wanted to visit Durango, but it seemed so far... and I didn't want to head somewhere I've been many times... so I settled on the Blue Mesa Reservoir, just west of Gunnison. I haven't traveled on Rt. 50 since my trip back from Big Sur this past April, and my only other time spent on the road was on my trip to Telluride my first autumn in Colorado.

Though it's absolutely beautiful in that area of the state, I think I tend to avoid it during road trips because it's so far away. On Sunday I just decided to go for it and packed my stuff for a day on the road!

The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and 50's, and as I traveled into mountains and blue sky I felt all of the troubles and worries and sadness just melt away from my body. My favorite rest stop on 285 just outside of Fairplay presented me with its typical flawless view of the Collegiate Peaks: I forgot that Rt. 50 takes you up Monarch Pass and was relieved to find it open. The mountains around me were already covered in snow, but the road was clear and safe enough for me to spend lots of time looking around! (the snow melts off the roads so quickly out here!). This now abandoned mine was built alongside the pass.
A piece of a view from Monarch Pass:
The road took me over low barren hills, the white mountain peaks of Monarch Pass receding into the distance, and presented me with the gift of the Blue Mesa Reservoir:
Oooh... water! This looks to me to be one of the biggest bodies of water in Colorado. (I just looked it up, it *is* the biggest body of water in Colorado!). It's fairly narrow but pretty long. One would think that an area with so much water would promote some tree growth, but the low sandy hills wore only the barest covering of sagebrush.
I headed up a random dirt road leading off from Rt. 50 and into the Sapinero Wilderness, following a sign that pointed to Rainbow Lake.
Colors and shapes in Sapinero Wilderness:
I decided at some point while bumping along this dirt road that I wanted to eat dinner. Not really a good idea, just in case you were ever thinking of doing the same. I ended up wearing like half of my sandwich! :P At one point while driving, I looked back and was shocked by the view:
I had been going up and up into those barren hills without even realizing it, and the result was that the San Juans poked out above the horizon. At some point near this view, I passed 2 trucks full of men wearing hunting gear and realized that perhaps "Wilderness" means "hunting ground". Hmm... time to turn around. (I never did make it to Rainbow Lake!).

And when I did, I returned to the beautiful water. This formation is called the Dillon Pinnacles:
Blue, so blue!
I took Rt. 92 around the north rim of the Black Canyon of Gunnison, thinking that it would lead me directly to Rt. 133 and up to Carbondale. I was mistaken. It wound me around hills and stretched out around the arms of the canyon, leading to a very fun ride that I fully enjoyed! It also took me up, which I didn't anticipate but fully appreciated, since the height opened the horizon again and out popped the jagged San Juan peaks for my viewing pleasure. Here is the canyon with the San Juans in the distance:
Sunset colors on a hill along Rt. 92 (incidentally, there were TONS of aspens here. It would make for a great fall drive!).
I wound in and out of curves and trees, and was finally presented with the first sight I've seen in a long time that literally took my breath away: the West Elk Mountains, bathed in purple sunset light.
The sight of them lured me forward, and fairly quickly I came to an open view of their forms:
This is my new favorite picture. :) West Elk Mountains, near Crawford, CO.
The sunset was a beautiful soft apricot melting down to the horizon.
The little town of Crawford was amazing - small, but with a good number of houses scattered around the hills, with the mountains dominating the eastern sky behind it all. As I drove through the town, I noticed many small ponds, streams, and reservoirs, and wondered where this random watery mountain paradise came from. It was hands-down one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

The apricot twilight was short-lived, and I headed up Rt. 133 in the dark - with the exception of the strong silvery light pouring down from the full moon. Throughout the course of my drive (which included another unexpected mountain pass, McClure Pass, which was thankfully also open), the horizon around me was filled with snowy mountain peaks illuminated into radiant brightness by the moon. It's amazing how much can be seen with light from a full moon shining off of snow. As the moonlit mountains passed, I wished I could stop time and live in a brilliant frozen moment for just a little while.

Even the deep, vivid beauty of the day couldn't quite cut through the heart of the sadness that is a cloud around my heart. It's still there, but I don't want it to be there. I almost feel like I've reverted to the way I felt when I first moved out here, though I don't have any particular reason to feel that much pain. I'm still working through how to let it rain on my heart and drift lightly away.

Tues, Oct. 27, 2009: Simple Prairie

I love the prairie for its simplicity, its uncompromising expanses, its clean lines and pure colors.
Driving in the prairie reminds me to cut away the layers of mental garbage that smother the manifestation of my soul on a daily basis.
Lost in the heart of a sea of hard earth and waving grass, I am reminded of the immensity of the world.
I am reminded to find beauty in small shapes interrupting long, straight lines.
The prairie surprised me when I downloaded the pictures from my Gunnison journey and found these forgotten scenes preceding snapshots of snowy mountains, water, and deep canyons.
How could I forget? I am mystified... but somehow it seems appropriate that the prairie came back to me today.