A Slow Creep in Thin Air

American Basin, at Cinnamon Pass

American Basin, at Cinnamon Pass

6/11/13

Someone very wise said it first:  “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” 

Downhill, Cinnamon Pass

If we’re acquainted, you’ve heard me say on more than one occasion that I’m lucky to live where I do.  I am much more likely to run out of years than I am to run out of beautiful adventures within reach.  

Test Drive

Test Drive

It took the most of two full days to travel and photograph a scant sixty miles straight up and straight down on Colorado’s Alpine Loop.  The switchbacks and drop-offs on this route between Lake City and Ouray are notable.  The path to summit is one-lane and two-directional, requiring vigilance and foresight, plus a keen ability to back a vehicle onto the only available ledge that is broad enough to allow travel in both directions.  

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

I would not consider myself a thrill-seeker, but in two days of travel on the Loop, abundant thrills found me.  I saw a moose in the willows of Wager Gulch, a clan of marmots playing at the top of Engineer Pass and a developing wildflower show in American Basin.  I heard wind hissing through the remnants of a mining camp and felt the shallow press of breath in a short hike above tree line.  And I learned to lean into the jolts and bumps of the road, just as if I were on horseback.  

Spotted Meadow

Spotted Meadow

We took a detour up Schaeffer’s Gulch, alternating stops to heave boulders to fill in deep road ruts with other stops to roll away boulders blocking the path.  This side trip was halted at tree line, where snow still covered the road on a north-facing slope.  At elevation, the June sun is near and will soon transform the drift.  But for now, it caused a turnabout.

Summit #2

Summit #2

In the end, the only casualty of this high, slow creep of an adventure was a torn-up arm earned in a spill I took as I explored one of the ghost camps.  Saved the camera, but bashed the arm.  Far worth it, for the experience.

Ghost of a Honky Tonk

Ghost of a Honky Tonk

Also earned, I must say, was the great satisfaction of knowing I hadn’t allowed fear to completely distract from the pleasure of my journey :-)

Mitch the Marmot

Mitch the Marmot

I hope you enjoyed the ride.  

Tenacity
Tenacity

Great Big Beautiful Clouds

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5/28/2013

My father took red roses to my mother’s grave today. I went with him to buy the roses—plastic, long-stemmed copies of the real thing. Artificial baby’s breath round out the bouquet, which he put in the marble vase where her ashes lie.

Whatever remains of my grandmother and grandfather since they died, years ago, now lie near my mother’s grave. These are my father’s parents, not hers, and my father’s name is already etched in the tombstone he will share with my mother.

To be truthful, I doubt that my mother needs the comfort of proximity to her in-laws now.  I like to think that she is unencumbered by protocol and customary expectations in her new form. She lives wherever and however she wants and she is energetic and youthful and pain-free. She is not lying below the ground.

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Cemeteries are for the living. Spirits long gone do not live below earth except in the form of rooted oaks and baby acorns or the iris clump that started from bulb taken from my great-grandmother’s garden. They lie in the wisp of white cloud against sapphire blue skies, dipping and swirling to touch the mountain top. They can be heard in wind moving through the pines and in birdsong that plays before the rest of the world awakes.

That hummingbird I hear just now may be my mother. I can imagine her flitting around, saying hello with a trill of noise and a flash of velvety green that I see from the corner of my eye.

Or she might be riding on one of those great, big beautiful clouds.

No matter which, I know she’s there.

  

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I took these pictures of clouds on a visit to the ghost town of Caribou, Colorado.  

There is more about Caribou in my post on Through the Lens of We.

And if you missed out, I hope you will check out the photography and thoughts at some of my other posts there: 

No Matter Which Way

True Blue

Of Sunshine and Leaves

The Future Lives in a Cloud

How Things Began

 

The Crux of It

Sunniest Flower

Sunniest Flower

5/12/2013

I have a friend who longs to be understood by her grown sons. And so, she is writing a memoir.

She believes that her sons know nothing of her essence. She says they know her simply as Mom, as their father’s wife, as the daughter of the grandparents they once had. They do not know who she was when she was 18 and married to a man they never knew. They cannot know how she looked when she won the barrel race with her horse Gunner when she was 15. They do not remember when she wore her long hair in an up-do and it was blonde. And they think of her life’s work as bookkeeping, though it has been poetry all along.

The story she is writing is poetic and purposeful and full of messy beauty. From what I have read so far, it is much more than a rehashing of years.

As I read my friend’s story, I began to imagine the story my mother might have written—had she been of the mind to tell it. Not liking undue attention and not inclined to spend much time thinking of herself, she did not write a memoir.

I can only speculate how my mom’s story might read. Beyond the basic, indisputable facts, what she would write about herself might be quite different from what I know. I am, after all, not privy to what lie deep within my mother as she journeyed this Earth. I can only guess what she might have wished for when she was 16 and what it was that she might have changed at 80. I do not know what she feared most.

Truth is, I know her stories better than I know her story. I know she ate a spoiled Bologna sandwich on her honeymoon and spent most of the trip to Colorado with food poisoning. I know some about her life on the farm and growing up poor in rural Kansas. I know some about what she did and did not like about her jobs that helped send four kids to college. I know how she looked sitting on the bed next to her mother, brushing what white hair remained on my grandmother’s head at age 100.

Maybe we children are not meant to know all there is to know about our mothers. Maybe in addition to babies, mothers give birth to a part of their self that reaches inside and picks out what beats loudest, folds it up neat and square and tucks it away for safekeeping. Maybe moms peek in to admire that essence, like they peek in at night to watch their sleeping babies. They touch the soft skin of their babies now grown, they smell the green grass they rolled through in childhood, they taste the mashed potatoes of the family gatherings and they see each added page of the photo album of life. Maybe a mother’s essence is protected from the worst of life’s lessons and not immune to the change of experience. And though it may be hidden from the light of day, it remains.

Did I really know my mother’s essence?

In the way known by all who had the good fortune to have had a loving mother in the center of their childhood universe, yes. While I might not be able to state everything that was important to her or each disappointment or happiness she lived, I know for a fact that she gave her children comfort and safety, kindness and caring, love and security.

I could write lots of stories of what my mom did and rehash her years in all their messy beauty.

But what I would rather remember, and honor, is not what she did, but how she made me feel.

That was, and is, the best part of her essence.