Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Weds, June 19, 2013: White Ranch Wildflowers... My Tradition!

I think that this park is one of my very favorite places in Colorado, and taking a wildflower hike here is one of my favorite summer traditions.  I like it even more than Crested Butte (don't tell, I know that's scandalous to say!) because of the sheer variety in the types of plants I observe.  Don't get me wrong, Crested Butte is beautiful, but White Ranch just touches something in my heart. (see here, here, and here!) 
It's funny to think of having traditions out here, in this strange rocky state that resists me putting down roots, but it seems I have managed to create some regardless.  I have my usual big road trip times: fall break, winter break, the long weekend in February, spring break, and the summer of course!  I have certain places that I frequent during certain times of the year: south to New Mexico or Utah when it's cold, north into Wyoming during the warm months.  It seems that perhaps I have somehow managed to root myself here, without even realizing I was doing it.

The process of growing roots here has demanded a great deal of inner strength from me, more than I ever imagined.  It broke me, for a time, and I wasn't sure if I would ever get back up from that.  I often talk about the energy or feelings I get from the places that I visit.  The energy of Colorado has been difficult for me to define, maybe because it's so completely alien from anything I experienced before.  Or, perhaps, it's a case of being so immersed in it that I never had the perspective to be able to regard it from a distance, like being blinded by the trees and unable to recognize the forest.  Maybe it's a bit of both.

I have come to feel that the energy of Colorado unapologetically moves you to where you need to be inside of yourself.  It relentlessly pushes you through layers of issues and hang-ups and baggage, demanding that you shed the extra weight or be dragged down into parched depths of oppressive rock.  Colorado does not tolerate muddiness and demands clarity: the crystal clarity of mountain streams and alpine lakes, cold and pure and simple.

That's not to say that Colorado is cruel.  If I felt like that were the case, I would have never stayed here this long.  I do think that the energy here is extremely caring and rich, in the way that a mother bird nudging her baby out of the nest is caring.  She recognizes that it is "time" and demands that the baby uses its skills to grow.  In this way, she helps her young one to mature, to be brave, to learn, and to become independent.  This richness of experience (because Colorado is very much an experiential teacher) has been the basis of my writings here for the past 6 years, though I'm not sure I was ever able to perceive its purpose as clearly as I am at this time.

For all of the harshness and pain, for all of the times that I felt like I might just drift away from this rocky place, for all of the times that I missed feeling my energetic "roots" sunk deep into the earth, there have been countless good times, and beautiful friendships, and experiences that I would not trade for anything.

Colorado, you are a demanding teacher.  But the gifts you have given me are worth every bit of pain and every ounce of energy I have poured into you.    

It's always been funny to me that such intricate, delicate wildflowers flourish in this strange high desert environment.  Why don't they grow this well in Connecticut, where the soil is rich with nutrients and frequent rains?

If something about Colorado is able to support a columbine...
... then it can certainly support me too. 

I stopped for a while to watch this beautiful little butterfly:
It still amazes me to see desert plants in the middle of a forested walk.
Prickly pear cactus:

High desert forest... I love how exotic it feels to me, even after 6 years.
The prairie, north toward Boulder, holds a lot more water than the Denver area. 

Thistle in the process of blossoming... one of my favorite sights.

I love this funny fuzzy flower!

Colorado... I wasn't sure about you for a long, long time.  You wrecked me pretty hard, asking me to keep up with the progress you wanted me to make inside of myself.  In a way, you made me into a phoenix, reborn stronger than I was before, but I have never been very drawn to fire symbolism.  Instead, I think you made me into a wildflower: miraculously able to thrive, to send down roots into dry sandy soil and bloom into vibrant existence with my face always tilted upwards to drink in the sunlight.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tues, June 18, 2013: Rocky Roxborough

There are few parks near Denver that I have not visited, but for some reason Roxborough State Park is one of them.  I headed there with my friend Jen and her children, excited to reconnect with my friend and visit a new place!
Walking through the oak trees made me think of the arching oaks in Big Sur, and I imagined that the softly rumbling ocean was just out of sight through the trees, off to my left.
Instead of the ocean, though, I found myself in the middle of a sea of green, the grasses of the foothills brushing against my legs as we waded through the valley.
It was strange being immersed in this world again, the alien high-desert that is Colorado.

Compared to the rich emerald greens of Connecticut, I always find myself noticing other colors of green in Colorado.  Yes, there are emerald greens here too, but we also have yellow greens, and olive greens, and orange greens, and brown greens, and the subtle variations on the color create fun games for my eyes.
I loved the rocks here, and the deep blue skies, and the massive white clouds that thickened above us as the day progressed.
 Most of all, though, I loved sharing this experience with my friend and her kids.  Being able to spend time with someone I care about transcends all landscapes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tues, June 11 and Weds, June 12: Return to Colorado

Tuesday, June 11: Sherman, NY to Bonner Springs, KS
It was strange, waking up early and about 8 hours closer to Colorado than my usual starting place.  It was also strange, as it usually is, realizing that I would be leaving the lush trees and water and insects and that rich smell of decaying earth behind me as I progressed across the country.  I headed out before my friend was even awake and set off into the foggy, rainy hills of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

By mid-Ohio, the sun had worked its way through the clouds, and the world was a bright canvas of emerald greens splashed with wildflowers.  I sailed past my usual midway point in Indiana and waved, enjoying the luxury of being able to continue my journey farther west, knowing that I would thank myself the next day.  I finally grew tired a bit into Kansas, so Kaylee and I curled up for the night in a nice comfy motel bed.

Wednesday, June 12: Bonner Springs, KS to Denver, CO
One of my favorite things about driving cross-country is noticing how the earth changes around me.  It's almost imperceptible as it's happening, but I end up in a completely different landscape by the end of the day.  There is a bridge that crosses the Missouri River somewhere nearish Columbia, Missouri, and when I travel east that's where it strikes me that the rocks are suddenly gray.  Traveling west, I always notice the rocks becoming a light tan somewhere in eastern Kansas.

The greens of Kansas were heavily tinted with orange and yellow, the rich colors of the summer prairie that lead us easterners to comment on how "brown" it is.  I have come to love those colors and their warmth, and see them for the greens that they are.

I arrived in Denver sometime in the late afternoon, to a world hazy with the smoke and ash of several raging forest fires.  The worst, and closest, was the Black Forest fire, which I think was responsible for the tiny pieces of white ash that rained down onto my car.  The sunlight was surreal, dispersed and suppressed, like a weak twilight in the middle of the day.  It was weird to think that two days ago, I woke up in the land of ponds and rain and insects, and ended up in this place covered with tempting pine tree kindling for lightening to lick.

I wandered around my apartment for a while just staring at everything, trying to get reacquainted with this place I have come to call my home.  Kaylee, unaffected by the fact that we were away for almost 3 weeks, gave the cats a "hello" sniff, then settled down on her dog bed.  I took a cue from her and settled myself down on my couch.  It felt good to be home.      

((As an aside... phew!  What a crazy ride these past couple of weeks have been!  I'm going to try to catch up here before I have to return to work in just about a week.  I have a lot to share. :) )).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mon, June 10, 2013: Lake Erie and Brushwood... It's Been a Long Time

An old friend from years ago invited me to stay at Brushwood for the evening to visit on my way back to Colorado.  This is the amazing campground where I lived for 2 summers back in my early 20's (it seems so long ago!).  I had powerful experiences there and think of it often, though I haven't visited since I left 10 years ago.

So, returning after 10 years seemed fitting, especially if it allowed me to reunite with an old friend. :)

I drove through the rain all morning, the rolling hills of New York state weaving up and down through wisps of low clouds.  It was so strange traveling those roads after so long, some of the first roads that lead me to some of my first huge life adventures as a young adult.  My friend had to work for most of the afternoon, so after I arrived I hopped right back into my car and took some meandering back roads I remembered north to Lake Erie.
It was hard to see where the sky ended and the lake began....
I remember thinking this must be the prairie when I first traveled out here.
Now, it looked so lush and green and hilly to me, and I smiled at the memory and at how our perceptions can change so drastically.  I passed neat little farms and vineyards and thick stands of forest between the fields, and felt grateful for the opportunity to revisit these random places that had been scattered around in my memories.

I loved this massive maple tree....
And this beautiful abandoned barn, perched at the edge of a field rich with yellow blossoms....

I returned and wandered around the property, visiting my old campsite (it was so weird to remember that I actually lived there, nestled among those trees!) and some of the notable sites in the woods.  My favorite site was the Runestead, a small clearing surrounded by beautiful old beech trees.  I looked up into the bright green leaves, and raindrops kissed my cheeks and lips and eyelids, and settled on my hair and skin, and all I could do was grin up at the sight of those dense, flat layers of beautiful leaves outlined against the gentle gray sky.

The campground felt shockingly familiar, which was so unexpected after my 10 year estrangement.  I didn't expect it to feel that way at all, but my feet almost instinctively picked their way over the old familiar roots in the paths and around the mud puddles.  The smells, the sounds, and even the feeling of the air... and the energy there... it all felt like Home, and my heart felt comforted.

My friend found a small cabin for me to use while I was there, which was again unexpected as I thought I'd be camping in the rain.  Staying in a cabin was a huge upgrade!

The crickets and bullfrogs from the nearby pond sang me to sleep, until the rain woke me up at around 2 or 3 am, relentlessly drumming on the metal roof above me.  I miss living outside and being able to be that intimate with the elements on a daily basis.  And I miss living that simply, in the company of good friends and good energy, good food and campfires, bare feet and dragonflies, and dancing, and snuggling down into my sleeping bag while the cool night air folded around me.  I hope someday that I can experience that again.  I think it's good for the soul. :)