Friday, December 28, 2012

Weds, Dec. 26, 2012: Gray Day in Newport

I am back in Connecticut with my family for the holidays.  Coming back felt strange this year, and I think for the first time it didn't feel like I was coming home.  Home for me feels like where my pets are, which means back in Colorado.  I am a believer in the idea that your friends are the family that you choose, but I would take that one step further and add that your pets are too.  Kaylee, Pea, and Severus are there for me every day, to cuddle and pet and play with.  They offer me gentle acceptance and support in the best ways they know how.  Kaylee reminds me every second of every day that life is a delicious gift to be enjoyed zealously and without hesitation.  Pea and Severus raise their tails in friendly greeting when I am near, meow their "hello"s, and grace me with a nap on my lap when I'm lucky.  My friends are my Colorado family, but my pets are like an extension of my soul, in the trenches with me as I navigate through this life.  Those furry little creatures have become my Home. 

It has become a yearly tradition, I think, for my family to take me to Newport, Rhode Island while I'm in town.  I love this beautiful little town, with its gray December skies, narrow streets, and mossy old buildings.  Modern touches like cars and power lines are just so bizarrely out of place here that I want to erase them all away.  I wish these streets could be filled with horse-drawn carriages, a sea of people in brightly colored suits and gowns flowing up and down the tightly woven grid of passages between the stately old homes.  Anything short of this feels like an intrusion to me.
The sea...
I missed your incessant murmuring, the way you push me away and lure me toward you all at the same time, the softness of your sand and the bite of your December wind.

This bridge... I have been fascinated by it from the first time I saw it.  Since I was a passenger, I got to soak up the view.

Sometimes I wish I could be a passenger more often.  Being able to soak up the view while someone else takes care of the driving is pretty awesome sometimes. :)  It's all about balance I suppose - opportunities to drive, and chances to just sit back and watch the world roll by.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sat, Dec. 8, 2012: My Favorite Rocks 'Round Colorado Springs

I had a friend come in from out of town to visit me, and guess where we went?  I'll give you a hint, and Kaylee's going to help me:
That's right, Paint Mines Interpretive Park, one of my all-time favorite Colorado places.  (For other Paint Mines visits, see here, here, and here!)  I guess it's just really fun for me to show guests a place in Colorado that is unknown even to a lot of people who live in the state.

Also, I just really adore the Paint Mines. 

It was supposed to snow that day, but the weather ended up being the opposite of what was predicted.  Colorado tends to do that. :)  We stopped by Garden of the Gods on the way home, another of my favorite pieces of Colorado Springs magic.

It was fun having someone around to whom I could show off my beautiful state.  It was good for me, too, to have an excuse to get out and see some sights, since I seem to have difficulty doing that lately.  I'd like to get myself back to a place inside of me where an excuse is not necessary, but for now, an excuse to get out will do just fine. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fri, Nov. 23, 2012: All Along the Clock Tower

I headed off a while back to watch my friend Ami sing with a caroling group along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.  Thinking it would be freezing cold, I bundled myself and Kaylee up before heading out.  It was Kaylee's first time ever in any big city, and I wanted her to enjoy herself rather than freeze her feet off.

It was pleasant, mild, and somehow peaceful in the middle of the city.  The music was soothing, and Kaylee elicited "ooh!"s and "aah!"s, and accepted the attention and affections of many strangers very well.

Ami and her group continued walking up toward one end of the street, so Kaylee and I checked out a craft market, then meandered down toward the quiet end of the mall. 
This clock tower... I adore it.  It's one of my favorite landmarks in the city.

At the ice skating rink, people sang along with the carolers, the singing voices and chatting voices all blending together to create... not a song, but a harmony of sounds.  It felt good to be a part of that experience, singing and talking voices all around me, and my perfectly behaved angel puppy sitting beside me.  I tend to think of myself as more of a country girl, but sometimes I do love the city.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weds, Nov. 21, 2012: Kindness, Again

I took myself out for a late breakfast-for-lunch at one of my favorite little breakfast places in Golden (Blue Sky Cafe, yum!) for the first day of my Thanksgiving break.  I wanted to treat myself, to give thanks to myself for how far I've come over the past year.

As I munched happily away at one of my favorite breakfasts, I was surrounded by only a few other patrons: some young families and several older couples.  Toward the end of my meal, my waitress stopped by my table, gestured toward my check, and asked, “Can I see that for a minute?”  

I responded, “Yes”, thinking nothing of it, until I was ready to leave and she still hadn’t returned my check.  When she stopped by again to ask if I was finished, I asked if I they had my check up front for me to pay.

She looked down at me with that deadpan face of hers (I’ve had her as a waitress at this place several times before) and informed me that my check had already been taken care of.

I just stared at her, not comprehending, and said, “What?”  The waitress repeated herself and I just sat and stared at her again before stumbling over my oh-so-eloquent response of, “Oh… um… okay… well…!”  I left the restaurant in a weird sort of daze and sat in my car for a few minutes to collect myself.  

Once I got over the weirdness and embraced the awesome of what just happened to me, I realized I wished I had asked the waitress to thank that person for me, or that I had at least stood up and just said, “Thanks” in general to the restaurant.  So, from my car, I conjured up the warmest Thank You that my heart could possibly feel, encapsulating the amazement and gratitude and wonder that I felt over a random stranger offering me this kindness, and sent it out to the idea of that person in the universe.   

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful to be alive.  I am grateful for my friends and family, and friends who are like family, whose presence in my life warms me and makes me feel connected.  I am grateful for the multitude of beautiful places I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to visit this year – of special awesomeness were watching the sunrise at the Grand Canyon, seeing alligators in Louisiana, and playing in the ocean with Kaylee!

Most of all, though, I am thankful for the little things, the everyday things, and the small treats like the kindness that a random stranger offered me that afternoon.  Not only did that person unquestionably make my day amazing, but I was reminded that it’s pleasure in the little things that often make our days worth living.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mon, Oct. 29, 2012: Cave of the Winds, Part 2

We headed off to Garden of the Gods for a picnic lunch and some time outside.  Jen stopped at a little place with some large red rocks that fell quickly away to rolling scrubby hills, with Pike's Peak lording over the view in the background. 
Colorado Springs really is one of the most beautiful places out here!
We saw this funny bird, who kept eyeing our food but would fly away and hide whenever somebody else came through.  I thought it was a Lark Bunting, having been told in the past that they were blue, but when I looked them up after returning home I found that was untrue.  Now I think it was a Mountain Bluebird, maybe?  In any event, he or she was beautiful and bright, comically watching us from the end of a gently swaying pine branch as we ate.
Panorama, from Pike's Peak to the main rocks of Garden of the Gods:
I know Pike's Peak is a gigantic and imposing piece of nature, but he looks so peaceful to me, protecting this little city.
We spent some time just wandering around, aimlessly and worry free, enjoying the beautiful earth.

This white rock formation is in the main are of Garden of the Gods.  I love the fantastic shapes of the scrubby oaks as the branches kink up toward the sky.
Life has been somewhat difficult to handle lately.  It was refreshing, though, to spend a day of peace and exploration with my friend and her kids.  They brought lots of smiles to my face, as did the beautiful earth who shared her presence with us that day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mon, Oct. 29, 2012: Cave of the Winds, Part 1

My friend Jen mentioned that she wanted to take her children to Cave of the Winds for a family outing.  I was on break that week, so I tagged along!  I hadn't visited Cave of the Winds yet, and after my experiences at Carlsbad Caverns (here and here), I have fallen in love with caves. :)

The cave was located high up in the walls of a canyon.  I often think that we have made special places in nature so easily accessible that it detracts some from the wonder and amazement that fill us with awe at finding such a place.  It was so easy for us to drive right up that paved road and walk into the visitor's center, which is perched right at the edge of the cave entrance.  

Back when the cave was discovered, though, it was by two young men who were hiking in the canyon and noticed the strange sound of the wind, amplified and howling as it moved through the entrances to the cave.  I imagine them, determined and excited as they scaled these walls, seeking out the source of the wind's voice. 

The foothills, here, roll upwards to the right, increasing in size until they reach Pike's Peak.  The view from the visitor's center, while easy to obtain, was still beautiful and breathtaking as the dry, rocky land tumbled quickly down into the narrow canyon.
A tiny piece of Colorado Springs, the biggest city of the Front Range that is actually nestled into the foothills. This city looks the way I imagined Denver would before I moved out here.  In reality, Denver's footprint is firmly pressed into the prairie and is separated from the mountains.  In Colorado Springs, the foothills and homes of the city melt together at the edges.
The interior of the cave was beautiful, cool, and somehow peaceful despite the presence of so many others on the tour.

This ladder was pointed out to us as a means for navigating through the cave a long time ago, before all of the connected passages had been discovered.

This stalactite was really neat: can you see the darkened number 7 hanging from the darkened ceiling?  It stood out against the illuminated background of other formations and was awesome!  The tour guide gave the formation a different name, since it actually grew sideways rather than just straight down... but I don't remember what he said. :)

As we were leaving, I noticed this sign pointing to the entrance to the cave:
Good to know!

I am still surprised by how much I have grown to love caves, given my discomfort in small spaces that are not easily escaped.  Their energy just feels so peaceful to me, and it's humbling to see the rock formations and imagine how long it took for them to look as they do.

I left the cave happy and relaxed, and we headed off for a picnic.  But that is another post. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sat, Oct. 13, 2012: Kindness

Last Saturday, I headed off early to dog training class with Kaylee, so we could play fetch in the park and get some of her infinite energy out before obedience time arrived.  A friend had contacted me and invited me to visit that afternoon, so I was feeling pretty great about the day.  Friendship is a powerful thing, and having a friend randomly contact me and invite me to hang out was a wonderful feeling.

At our dog training class, someone was kind enough to point out to me that I had a flat tire.  Like, extremely flat.  There was a tire place close by so I drove there, dismayed by having an unexpected expense this month and a kink in my plans for the day.

The assistant manager informed me that I needed 3 new tires.  I flat out told him there was no way that would happen that day.  He looked at me and was thoughtful for a minute, then asked, "Will you let me make you safe?"

I stared at him, and I'm pretty sure my mouth was moving along with the thoughts that raced through my mind, though I didn't make a sound.  After sufficient lip exercise, I replied, "Well, how much is it going to cost me?", not sure what the process of making me safe entailed.

"Just let me make you safe, ok?" he repeated.

I stammered, in my typical ungraceful form, "Ah....I... I don't know what to say right now.  I don't understand what you mean."

He just smiled at me.  "I'd like you to say yes, and let me make you safe."

I'm sure I smiled with the awkwardness of one whose face is already engaged in the incredulous expression of eyebrow raising and forehead wrinkling.  "Um... okaay...."  I'm pretty sure I trailed off and just stared at him with that weird expression.  He asked me to go sit down while they took care of my car, so I complied, my head still trying to figure out exactly what it was I had agreed to.

I was approached by another man a short while later, who informed me that my car was ready and I was all set.  He handed me my receipt and gestured toward Philippe's open door.  My mouth set to working again in time with the thoughts racing through my mind.  "...Wait what?  I didn't even pay for anything yet."

The man looked at the receipt and shrugged.  "It looks like he decided to put a used tire on it for you, and there's no charge for the service."  I just stood there and stared up at him, confused.  "Here you go.  Have a good one."  He handed me the receipt and headed back into the store.

My eyes were fixed on the receipt as I slid into my car and closed the door behind me.  There it was, a $0 price tag for my new-old tire, my car made safe despite my budgetary constraints.  I drove away in a bit of a daze, trying to comprehend the strangeness of my random flat tire and the even more random new-old replacement, and the fact that it only cost me less than an hour's worth of waiting.

The Universe, often you make no sense to me.  But I must say, it did feel pretty wonderful to be selected for this act of kindness.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fri, Oct. 5, 2012: Warm Snow

On Friday morning, I woke up and went about my usual morning routine.  When it came time to take Kaylee out, I cracked the door and felt frigid winter air pouring into my apartment. Two days before, it was about 90 out, but in typical Colorado fashion, the weather did a complete 180 on a dime.  I bundled up and headed out...

...into snow.  It had snowed overnight, and about an inch of snow lay over the entire dark, silent world.  One of my favorite things about my apartment complex is that the outside lights are giant clear globes perches atop solid looking black metal poles.  They look to me like giant Glinda bubble lanterns, and seeing them often makes me smile.

That morning, the world was heavy with darkness and made silent by snow.  A cap of thick white was perched atop each Glinda bubble, illuminated from below by light that poured out across the blanketed lawn and reached up to set the undersides of leaves and branches aglow.  The complete silence made space in the air for that beautiful light, and I loved it.

I do not consider myself to be a "winter person".  I much prefer the summer, when I am warm and can go on vacation.  But there is always something absolutely magical about snow: what it does to the light, the way that it utterly silences the Earth, the way that it transforms everything around it, the sound of each tiny frozen crystal landing atop the others.

It's funny how something like snow can make my heart feel so warm.

Sun, Sept. 23, 2012: South Valley Park

Several weeks ago, my friends and I headed down to South Valley Park for a short hike and a taste of the outdoors.  I love this little corner of the world, where the sprawling southern suburbs of Denver finally meet up with the foothills.  

I have lived here for 5 years now, but had no idea that these rock formations existed!  They are similar to those at the Garden of the Gods, but smaller and less like sentinels.   

One of my favorite random things about Colorado is the way that the colors in nature often harmonize so well.  It was extremely pleasing to me that the colors of the rocks perfectly matched some of the reddish brown hues of the grasses around them.
Toward the south there were a lot of houses, but looking to the north provided a view of wide grassy fields adorned with strange leaning red rocks.
They actually used the fields for hay, which I thought was awesome!  The hay bales were huge, and the air carried the faint sweet smell of hay harvested days before.
I still can't believe I never knew these rocks were here. :)

As we were on our way out, we spotted this doe making her way through the brush and grasses.
She didn't appear at all afraid of us and calmly wandered around close to the path, despite the fact that we had a dog and two young children in our pack.  It makes me feel humble when a wild animal allows me to exist closely beside it, and I was grateful to her for giving us all that experience.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sat, Sept 22, 2012: The Balloon Experiment, Second Attempt

I have always meant to come back to this idea, but it just never ended up happening over the past several years.  Today, however, I decided to change that.

I recently attended a workshop on manifestation, and actually won a free reading from the speaker.  One of the most important things that she taught me is that manifestation comes from a place of emotion, not some force of logic.  Her advice was to imagine how it would feel to have the thing that you want to manifest come to be, and focus on living within those positive feelings.

So this time I bought one balloon, and instead of telling the universe what I want, I shared the gratitude I feel when I imagine it coming to be.  I wound the paper up into a little scroll and tied it onto the string, then released the balloon into the deep blue sky.
It took off like a rocket.  As it turns out, gratitude is so much lighter a thing to carry than the weight of expectations. :)

I sat for a while, watching until the balloon was so far away that it disappeared from my vision.  The shoulders of the collegiate peaks rose silently along the horizon, their peaceful presence offering me silent support.
At Buena Vista, I turned North onto Route 24 and headed up toward Leadville.  The Arkansas River flowed right alongside me as I traveled.

Twin Lakes... words don't do them justice.  I arrived at around 3 or 4 pm, so the afternoon light was strong in the West.  Sunbeams streamed in through a hole in the clouds, casting dancing rays along the lake and mountains.

There were clumps of Asters growing in bushes along the shore, their bright yellow centers perfectly complimenting the brassy leaves of the aspens.

I continued up 24, wanting to see the small town of Minturn which I enjoy.  It's been so long since I traveled this road that I completely forgot how awesome it is. :)

Today, I felt like the entire front of my brain was active and alive in a way that it hasn't been for a long time.  I'm just sitting here typing this with a big goofy smile on my face, remembering the beauty of the day.  It's the first day of Autumn, a celebration of balance and the harvest.  In keeping with balance, there is a perfect half moon brightening the sky this evening.  As for the harvest... I feel like I've been tending to a lot within me for a long time now.  I've gone through some pretty intense life experiences these past few years that have worked to change the shape of who I am, I like to think for the better.  I feel like I'm finally ready for the harvest, to recognize and receive the benefits of all I have worked to become.  I think that we all deserve that. :)