Contrasting Environments

NYCA week in the densely populated east coast. Commerce and anonymous humans dominate.

There are epic lines at the Starbucks, unlike any I’ve ever seen.

I reach for something to hold while on crowded buses and trains that have no empty seats. This is what it is like when 9 million people share a small island.

Restlessness builds inside me.

My feet ache to feel dirt beneath them, a trail stretching out in front of me, through a meadow filled with tall, yellow grass.

Climbing higher, until I am in a snow filled cirque, the outline of mountain ridges circling me,
bringing me home.

The emptiness of wilderness, where I can breathe and truly be alive.

A New Mix!

OnLaPlataIt hit me on August 18, when my former co-workers returned to school, that I really had retired from classroom teaching! While I do miss being part of a team, I am experiencing a light-headed happiness that comes from this new freedom. The later afternoon is often reserved for novel reading. I tend to work all morning, juggling my various projects. There are still many things to put into action, yet I remind myself that I don’t need to do it all in one day. I exercise every morning and look forward to brewing coffee upon my return. I am enjoying the little things in daily life that used to rush by according to the clock. I feel alive.

 

Moving On

elk-3197

Like the herd of elk I saw in the meadow as we arrived at our cabin, I am moving on. After 9 years of being a full-time Language Arts teacher, I am starting a new chapter. Inspired by a seminar I took at my husband’s last reunion at Yale, I have stopped, reassessed, and recognized that if I don’t pursue my dreams now, they may never materialize. It has not been an easy decision. Today, when I told my 7th grade students, who were looking forward to having me for 8th grade, many of them cried. I am passionate about writing, vocabulary, grammar, reading–all the things I teach. Yet, I have found my schedule increasingly draining. Each day, I expend a huge amount of energy just getting the students to stay focused for our 90 minute classes. It has taken me months of going back and forth, changing my mind constantly, to finally realize that fear of the unknown is not the right reason to stay.

The morning after we saw the elk, they were gone.

Wilderness Joy

high-lonesome-41A total of 7.5 miles, including an ascent of 2300′. I’ve been on 14 high-altitude hikes since early June. It is hard to believe I broke my ankle a year ago. I am grateful for my strength, discipline and for the wilderness areas set aside for us. It is this beauty and the immersion within it, that elevates my spirit. Another birthday looms, but I am learning that the numbers themselves are not what limit us.

Reflections

BwVersonI just finished reading In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin. A sentence near the end of the book resonated with me deeply. “…in the end the whole world is nothing more than what you remember and what you love, things fleeting and indefensible, light and beautiful, that were not supposed to last, echoing forever…” (Helprin, 702).

I have built a memorial to hold the ashes of my cat, Smooch. There was a spot she loved up at our cabin, in the tall grasses under the aspen trees. I dug out a circle and put half of her ashes in it. Then I made a white quartz border with the letter, “S” going through the middle, from top to bottom. I filled the negative space with dark rocks. I then built a rock path leading to the spot. That was two weeks ago. When I arrived this weekend, there was a penstemon blooming right next to the spot. The amazing detail is that it was not the florescent lavender or bright pink of the other penstemons on our land. It was a deep, almost black, purple. As silly as it may sound, I couldn’t help but feel it was in some way, acknowledgment of her presence.

In the Natural World

Having finished scoring all of the final exams and getting grades posted, this first hike of summer was especially sweet. The dirt road to the trail head was blocked by fallen pines. As we walked up the road, we were stunned to discover hundreds of uprooted trees, many with trunks two feet in diameter. It must be the result of the 100 mph winds we had earlier in the spring. Nonetheless, we made it to the lake. It was amazing to see tiny alpine forget-me-nots already in bloom.There was a brief window of bright sky before the thunder rumbled in and the graupel turned the landscape white. What is it about the scent of pine and rain that makes everything feel so alive? This is the beginning of my return to the world without walls.

Life saving

Today I saved a small bug. It was clinging to the tiles of the shower stall, trying not to drown in the beads of water. By the time I took my final rinse, it was on the floor. Using a plastic cup and a dry rectangle, I transported him to the vanity counter. He looked dead. I left him there and gradually, I saw the twitch of a leg. Then he rolled into an upright position. It was too cold to put him outside. I delivered him to the basement and left him on top of the filing cabinet. He played dead, but when I returned to check, he had crawled off.

I am not sure why I cried when he was on the shower floor. It looked like it was too late, the force of the water had knocked him down. Nor, did I fully understand, why I felt a sense of joy when I later checked, and knew he was still alive.

I do know that when I saw him, crumpled on the vanity, for a brief moment, I felt like him. His later recovery brought me hope.

Holy Cross Wilderness

swamp-laurel-367The 24 mile drive takes 1 1/2 hours. That’s because half of the distance is on a rough 4-wheel drive road. There are only a few other cars at the trail head. Most parties have backpacked in and are hiking out as we ascend. Smooth white rocks curve out of the earth. Wildflowers are plentiful, especially the swamp laurel. When we get to the uppermost lake, there are only a father and son fishing. It feels like paradise.

Water

whale-creekIt is our third hike this month. The four wheel drive road to the trail head has worsened. We scrape bottom a couple times, inspecting for damage, but it appears there is none. The dryness shows in the flowers, many of which have the wilt of August, yet the vibrant magenta of the Parry’s Primrose remains. The wind is intense. When we reach the lake, we are almost blown over twice, so decide to descend a bit for our picnic lunch. We retreat to the protection of the krumholtz. Later, as we hike down, I notice the urgency of the white water in the creek as it tumbles over the black rock. The saturated blue sky looks like it was painted and tucked behind the ridge by a stagecraft designer. Even with the wind, we enjoy our time outside, that special fragrance I associate with the woods of Colorado. How blessed we are to have empty space to wander.