Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thurs, June 30, 2011: Hartford

My sister has worked in downtown Hartford for one year, and it seems so strange to me that my little sister works in the big city! Kaylee and I met up with her for lunch today, and we were directed to a delicious little deli by my sister's boss. On the way there, we found these amazing doors (on Pratt Street, I think). They were HUGE!!!!
When I was looking up directions to my sister's workplace, I noticed an area on the map called "Ancient Burial Grounds". I asked my father if this was some sort of Native American burial area, and he said a good number of famous colonists were buried there. Apparently now "ancient" means 400 years old? Anyways, they were fairly close to where we got lunch, so we sat on a bench under the quiet trees, surrounded by the remains of "ancient" statesmen and their ladies and children.

We had several homeless men approach us and offer to give us a tour of the graveyard, and several girls maybe about 10 or 11 offer a tour as well. Each time we said no, and each time we would wander around for a minute or two in peace looking at the headstones before we were approached by another homeless man or girl offering to give us a tour....
Hartford is definitely much different than Denver, and I could feel the differences while I was there though I'm not sure if I could articulate them all. Denver seems much cleaner and safer. But Hartford has so much more character. Here is the Old Statehouse, in the middle of a busy intersection:
The statehouse was completed in 1796. I don't think that 200 year old buildings even exist in Colorado.

The city of Hartford is about 400 years old and is one of the oldest cities in the US. Then again, the Native Americans settled the area long before we ever showed up, and who knows how old their cities and towns were?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weds, June 29, 2011: Shelburne Falls

My mother was encouraged by her work to take the day off today to spend with me. We started off the day with an always amazing breakfast from Mrs. Murphy's Donuts, my absolute favorite donut store of all time! If you live anywhere near Southwick, Massachusetts you should really go there!

One of my favorite small New England towns is Shelburne Falls, off the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts. We headed that way, and our first stop was the Glacial Potholes, which were formed by glaciers long ago.
My mother warned me that the potholes might not be open (when we were kids, there was a stairway leading down to the rocks and you could play and swim around them). Whether or not they were open wasn't even a concern when we saw that the gates that usually hold back the river were open and the river was spilling through full-force. We couldn't even see the potholes through the churning water.
The water came through with such force that big clouds of mist drifted away from the river. I don't think we've ever seen the river so full that the gates were open, and we stood for a while just watching the water.

There is an old trolley bridge in Shelburne Falls that was turned into a Bridge of Flowers. Depending on the moment, the Bridge of Flowers is either a peaceful haven or a crazy crowded packed tiny space that I can't wait to get away from. We brought my dog along and she wasn't allowed on the bridge, so I strolled down it first while my mother waited at the end with my dog. Fortunately for me, my stroll was peaceful and relatively person-free.


While I waited for my mother to visit the bridge, I stared at this store: McCusker's. McCusker's is a delicious natural foods store from back before natural food stores were trendy. They have a delicious deli/restaurant section and I hoped we would eat lunch there!
The Bridge of Flowers:
Yum - my mother had the same idea and we got delicious sandwiches at McCusker's. I was more intrigued, however, by the lemonade that she bought for us. It was sweetened with maple syrup, which I think is such an interesting idea! It was unique and so delicious!
There is a trolley museum just a short walk outside of the downtown area, which we discovered is only open on Mondays. We were interested in this little old rusty train, and I loved the patterns of the rust along its sides.

Kaylee says, "Watch your step!".

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sat, June 25 and Sun, June 26: Colorado to Connecticut

Day 1: Saturday, June 25, 2011
Denver, CO to Terre Haute, IN

The cats were already awake and staring out the living room window when I got up (the earliest I've been up all summer...!). Kaylee stuck her nose in everybody's business, received a swipe on the nose from Chloe hard enough that it made her yelp, and ran around the house generally getting in everybody's way while I got ready and B helped me pack the car.

Kansas was decked out in its typical summer glory, with green fields so lush that I wished I was an emaciated caterpillar so I could devour them all. The trip passed by uneventfully and peacefully, and I enjoyed having the road mostly to myself so I could enjoy the beautiful prairie scenery.

Mid-Missouri provided me with the gorgeous beginnings of an expansive, soft sunset:
When I was most of the way through Missouri, I became aware of these massive, mountainous clouds developing in front of me, becoming larger and expanding and twisting before my eyes. It was like watching a dance in slow motion, with purpose and movement and incredible beauty. I wanted so badly to stop and photograph those incredible clouds, with their fascinating shapes and patterns, but was in the middle of the highway and honestly was probably too close to even fit the clouds into the frame. One area of clouds in particular caught my attention, with an area that created a sort of diagonal spiral. The clouds reached so high into the atmosphere that they plateaued out at the top and reminded me of an anvil.

I was so fascinated by the clouds that I forgot to think about what might be beyond those violently beautiful shapes and forms. As I slipped beneath them, I waited for the torrential downpours to begin... but no rain came. Instead, as I approached St. Lewis, I found myself with front row seats to one of the most spectacular lightning shows I have ever seen in my life. I was literally immersed in the lightning for at least 30 minutes, throughout my entire trip through the city. As a child, I learned to start counting when I saw lightning (one mississippi, two mississippi....) and stop when I heard the thunder, in order to determine the distance of a strike. Many lightning strikes were about a mile away (I made it up to 5 mississippi), but several were much, much closer.

FLASH. Lightning.

I opened my mouth to count: "Wuh...."

KABOOM!!!! The thunder was so immediate and intense that it made the hairs on my arms stand up, and I could feel the vibrations of the air roaring through my car.

The lightning and thunder were EVERYWHERE, and I could see their reflections on the bodies of other cars passing by. The air was absolutely electric and my heart was pounding out of control.

I loved it.

The torrential downpour waited until about halfway through Illinois, which I appreciated as I was able to admire the beautiful Mississippi, lit by the electric sky, devoured to the North by a thick wall of impenetrable fog unpierced even by the lightning.

I was unable to take pictures of any of it, half because I was driving and couldn't spare a hand, and half because the animal who is me was too terrified to consider stopping somewhere and subjecting herself to this insanely raging storm any longer than necessary.

I do not usually borrow pictures from other people, but this one is so perfect that I couldn't resist.
(from http://www.stormhighway.com/blog2011/june2611a.shtml, a really great website by a storm chaser and photographer).

My parents said that the storm was so bad it actually made the local news here in Connecticut.

I was afraid that the earth was trying to wash me off of her in Illinois, as rain water blasted me with the concentrated force of a garden hose nozzle. Despite my efforts to reassure her, Kaylee is no fool and knew I was stressed out. She kept resting her head near me: on my seat, on the divider between the two front seats, looking to me for comfort and offering to give me the same. I was unwilling to drive in that storm with one hand, but rested my elbow lightly on her head and she seemed ok with that.

Day 2: Sunday, June 26, 2011
Terre Haute, IN to Granby, CT

The first half of Sunday was a rainy, gray mess. Thankfully it was just slow rain, and I no longer felt like the earth was trying to rid herself of my presence.

Living in Colorado, most days are sunny and perfect. Experiencing a gray, rainy day was strange, and I realized something: I miss days whose fortunes are shaped by weather. Rainy, gray days are perfect for curling up with a book or a movie and taking it easy. In Colorado, I have the feeling that I should be taking advantage of being outside every moment of every day because the weather is so beautiful. Unfortunately, I think that takes people away from time to brood, go to the misty gray or dark lightless places within ourselves, to think about difficult things, and become a deeper person. When everything is light and happy outside all of the time, I think people just don't want to go to those places inside of themselves because it's such an uncomfortable contrast with the environment outside. I think that going to those places inside of ourselves, though, is what gives us the potential to become deep and interesting people. Those are the places that help form our drives and desires, our fears and the triumphs of things we have overcome.

Since moving to Colorado, I have felt that the earth there feels too hard and unyielding for people to grow roots. Colorado isn't the kind of place that gives off a feeling of "stay here". I have always wondered if this is why I don't feel that I connect with many people in Colorado, because maybe this feeling gives the land a kind of "surface-y" or "shallow" feeling. Now I wonder, however, if it's because as a New Englander I am well acquainted with the shadowy and misty places inside of myself and am comfortable with them. I wonder if I only feel connection to people and places who are equally comfortable with their shadows and mists.

I spent some time thinking about some things that my friend Becky said to me a while ago. She talked a bit about stereotypes of relationships that our society perpetuates and how those stereotypes are unfortunate because they cause us to form expectations of relationships that are unrealistic and simply not true. While traveling, my mind spun off from her point to think about some of my favorite Disney characters growing up: Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine. Independent, intelligent, adventurous young women whose adventures (or misadventures) end up landing them Prince Charming. What I wondered is, what happens to them after they get their man? I find it difficult to believe that any woman's wanderlust and curiosity would be magically sated because of some guy. (And any woman whose wanderlust and curiosity is so shallow that it could be magically sated by some guy isn't really a very interesting woman. :) ). I have admiration for my friends who remain intelligent, interesting women after marrying and having children, and I thank them in my heart for being wonderful role models for the next generation of girls.

Ohio granted me a reprieve in the weather which thankfully lasted all the way to Connecticut. I pulled in a bit after midnight and laughed at my ridiculous dog, who did her crazy swooshing whole body wag as soon as she saw my mother (whom she adores).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weds, June 22, 2011: Mt. Evans Birthday

I headed up to Mt. Evans for my birthday, after deciding that spending the day on top of the world was a great way to celebrate being alive!

There is a buffalo overlook on I-70 near Lookout Mountain, and I was able to see the buffalo herd peacefully relaxing in their lush green field.
My favorite route to Mt. Evans is Rt. 103 by way of Evergreen, because it winds me through forests and cliffs before depositing me at the entrance to the mountain. One of my favorite fields in Colorado is there, and I was surprised to see it absolutely covered in yellow and purple flowers. I stopped for a bit and spent some time marinating in its beauty.
Echo Lake looked crisp and clear with the snowy peaks of mountains surrounding it on two sides.

Speaking of snowy peaks... I learned that the road up the mountain was only open to Summit Lake. I was disappointed, but it had been so long since I was outside above treeline that I took the trip anyways. I have never spent time at Summit Lake so it still sounded like a fun adventure!

Mt. Evans has a large population of Bristlecone Pines, which are some of the oldest living organisms on earth. I love that their twisted and bare forms are so perfectly evolved for living in harsh mountain environments.
From up above, Echo Lake looks so, so small. One of my favorite things about being on top of a mountain is the great perspective that can be gained in seeing how small the world really is.
I love this landscape for its dramatic barrenness.
I wish there had been a car driving by this snow bank to give perspective! The bank was at least 1 1/2 times the height of my car!
I wish I knew the name of this little lake. It has such a nice view. :)
Way in the distance, I was able to see all the way to Pike's Peak.
And finally, arrived at Summit Lake. There were wildflowers growing right next to melting snowbanks.
The powerful beauty of the lake and the snow-covered mountains surrounding it filled me with awe.
Across from Summit Lake is this alpine field that fills with small pools of crystal clear water.
A group of nuns was standing by the lake when I arrived, and left after a time. I wondered if they found spiritual connection with the place as I did, or if they didn't really think about things like that. I often wonder if religious individuals revere the earth.
The lake.... I just sat and sat on a rock on the shore, the water absolutely still and silent except for a few fish who broke the surface.
The water of the small pools across from Summit Lake had some beautiful colors, and I'm not sure if it was from algae, minerals in the soil, or something else. I loved watching the reflections of clouds in the pools, blending with the melting patches of snow on the ground.
Reflections in water... I have missed them. I love ripples and the tiny rainbows that they create. I love the distortion of the way we see things through water, forcing us to question what is right in front of our eyes. I wish that life required us to question ourselves more often, to reflect on what we think we are seeing and entertain the possibility that perhaps our vision is distorted.
To me, this is one of the #1 skills that is missing from our schools, and in my experience many adults don't attempt to develop self-questioning skills or model this practice for their children. When we question ourselves, we might be WRONG, which is such a terrible thing in our society. I wish it was something we were better at accepting, because we are all wrong sometimes, many times, for our whole lives! Being wrong shows us that we need to grow, adapt, develop new skills or a new perspective. Being wrong, accepting that and learning from it, is one of the greatest gifts we can receive to help us grow.

A beautiful iridescence appeared on a wispy cloud above the lake.
The sun was warm and the wind cold, and the two mixed together imperfectly to throw flashes of hot and cold in mottled disharmony all over the surface of my skin. It made me feel wonderfully alive to have a patch of alpine cold air and a patch of hot summer sun air existing right next to each other on my skin without an inch of compromise in between.

As I drove back to Denver, a yellow smoggy haze stagnated over the civilization of the Front Range. I was reluctant to descent back down into the cloud that I rarely even notice when I'm inside of it. While up on the mountain though, I have enough distance to become fully aware: the gift of perspective.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tues, June 21, 2011: Lair O' The Bear

I have driven past Lair O' The Bear park many times during my adventures around the state, but have never visited. From the road above the park, glimpses of people hiking beside the stream can be seen through the trees, and I decided that's where Kaylee and I should spend our hot summer solstice day.

Colorado is SO GREEN right now!
I correctly identified this wild geranium, thanks to the medicinal plants class I took at the Golden Community Center two years ago. (Have I mentioned lately how much I miss living in Golden?)
All of the waterways are very, very full and fast right now due to the fact that the tallest mountains are still covered in snow. Apparently they had a crazy winter up there!
Kaylee went for her first swim in a less turbulent area, and seemed rather pleased with herself afterwards.

In Connecticut, my parents lived in a fairly rural area, and we were able to see signs of nature around us all of the time. Here in Colorado, I have to constantly seek out nature, and it was interesting to me how much seeing this beaver-chewed stump struck me. A sign of something wild, living in the wild, performing its survival activities... I really, really miss living closer to nature.
We stopped for a bit in this peaceful little area, and the picture just doesn't do it justice. The colors and textures of the light filtering through the leaves and dancing off of the water was breath-taking, and I felt that at least a handful of midsummer fairies were there with us, reveling in the beautiful view.
This plant's flower resembles poison hemlock, but the leaves are too big. I still haven't figured out what it is.
The views around us were so peaceful, of soft green rolling foothills. Even when we weren't right next to the stream, the sound of the rushing water was always with us.
Toward the end of the hike, we became immersed in this wonderfully sweet-smelling air. Above us, arching over the trail, were these trees absolutely covered in grape-like clusters of soft pink flowers.
Wow... they were so beautiful that I took my time walking through this last part of the hike. I walked with my eyes fixed upwards, admiring the contrast between the pink blossoms, vibrant green leaves, and deep blue sky.
Those trees were my favorite part of the hike.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thurs, June 16, 2011: Happy Dance!

I have been doing a happy dance inside of my body all day, because today is the last session of the class my district has required me to attend. I've learned a lot in the past year, but I just can't wait to have my time back all to myself!

In about a week, I'm heading out to Connecticut and am so looking forward to the feeling of flying across the country in my car, endless fields flying by my windows, endless forests of trees flickering by, plains and hills, sunrises and sunsets, passing strange cities and small towns in which strangers are living their lives.... Driving cross-country paints my imagination with so many wonderful visions and thoughts to ponder. And to top it off, driving cross-country in the summer is so much easier than in the winter; it stays light so late that I am left driving in only a couple of hours of darkness.

I think there are two things I can't wait for the most: stars, and the ocean. I miss being able to walk out into my parents' backyard, surrounded by vast darkness, and look up into a black sea freckled with stars. I would dive into that sea in my mind whenever I had the chance of a moment outside at night. I would like to dive into that sea again. And the ocean... I always miss her. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fri, June 10, 2011: Elk Meadow Park

The classes that my school district is requiring new employees to take are almost complete, and I have only one week left - 4 classes - until I am gloriously free! I think that the source of my lack of inspiration thus far this summer has been these 2 weeks of classes, and it's as if a giant wall looms at the end of next Thursday in my mind. It's as if my summer doesn't exist until I push through that wall.

Thankfully, at the end of classes this Wednesday, the wall suddenly became translucent and I was able to imagine a summer beyond these classes. The wall is beginning to crumble as I am filled with excitement for the full summer that still stretches out before me, almost within reach.

The beginning of the end for the wall has become the beginning of my summer, and I felt spirited enough yesterday to head up to Elk Meadow Park in Evergreen with Kaylee for a small hike in the foothills.

I have visited this park several times before, and it was the first place in Colorado where I felt comfortable just sitting outdoors and losing myself in the flow of nature for a time. I love the vibrant meadow that laps up against the toes of the hills, and the rich colors of the flowers washing through the grass.
The meadow is bordered on one side by a major road through the town, and on another by homes. Normally this would bother me, but I think the sense of civilization is one of the reasons that I feel so safe at this park. For some reason, it just feels like home to me, and that feeling has been extremely hard to find for me in Colorado.
I feel like I have been hiding under a rock for the past several weeks, and now that I have come out I can see that all of a sudden summer has arrived in all of her colorful glory.
I found myself noticing tiny things, my eyes caught again and again by the brilliant splashes of color painted by small wildflowers throughout the landscape.
I found myself wanting to take the time to revel in the beauty around me, to smell the earth and trees and flowers, to feel the sun on my skin and the cool breeze blowing around me.
It has been a long, long time since I have felt so in tune to the world around me, and just sitting here writing this I am smiling over how wonderful it felt, and how wonderful it still feels. I have hope that these classes have been one of the major sources of the funk I have been in. It seems as if life is working with me to chip away at the things that have been making me feel trapped and helpless. As the pieces join the other pieces that are collecting on the ground, a weight is lifted from me. I can see once again where I want to be and what I want to be doing, and I am excited to make it all happen.