Fall is fleeting up here at 9300′.
It blows in overnight, flexing its artistic vein as it paints the hillsides in shades of gold and red and fiery orange.
It drops gilded carpets of Aspen leaves on forest paths as though laying down a golden carpet fit for mountain royalty.
I like to pretend that I myself, am the aforementioned royal visitor. I stroll between seasons on a long Aspen leaf lined carpet into my kingdom of statuesque trees, waving to my Mountain sentinels as I go.
I wrap myself in Mother Nature’s earthy perfume and memorize the tune bellowed from deep within the woods–the hum of the bees, the whisper of the wind, the trickle of water, and the cracking of wood as my woodland neighbors wander invisibly among the swaying trees.
It had to have been one or two in the morning, but I lay wide awake in the tent; alert enough that it felt as if day were about to break.
The night air had dropped to the low 30s and frost covered the rain fly creating little ice crystals that glittered and danced under the full moon.
I lay there, nestled deep within the downy depths of my sleeping bag with only my nose and cheeks exposed to the cool mountain air, and I listened.
Our campsite, sheltered in the midst of stoic Lodgepole pine trees on the banks of a high alpine lake, was high enough up a long, boulder filled, dirt road that traffic noises were obsolete. The night was windless and the air was still and cold, chilly enough that the atmosphere around the tent seemed to be frozen in time.
I listened and I listened. I and realized that for the first time in as long as I could remember, there was nothing outside of my own thoughts and my own slow breaths to listen to.
The whirl of the winch, the spin of the handle.
The sound of the waves rushing past, rapping the hull like a rhythmic drum verse; a pulse as we ride up the mountainous swell and surf down the other side, deep into its trough.
Whoosh. Arms and hands a smear of gray as they spin around and around pulling in the ease on the sheet.
“It’s me! I’m coming down, I’m coming down.”
A flap of the chute, a snap really, as it settles back into position. Full and bright. A parachute tugging its charge down a watery path.
The early morning sun is starting to wake. She stretches her glittery rays up above her head tickling the high clouds and winking a soulful “good morning!” to the rolling waters of Lake Michigan.
The sailors pause a moment, faces angled to the east, embracing the golden warmth of the rays, drinking in the colors of the birth of a new morning.
A moment later, the chute, indignant that it be ignored in the face of a new day, signals its displeasure with a loud snap as it folds into itself.
Startled, the sailors return their attention to the roiling waters, the wind, the sway of their vessel.
When I was a little girl, I liked to pretend that I was a cowgirl.
I would spend hours getting lost in daydreams of wrangling cattle and of strapping on my chaps and spurs and riding off into the sunset on my lively steed.
I so badly wanted to live the life of adventure that was so often the main vein running through the stories that recounted the days of the wild west.
Stories of heroic cowpoke protagonists, of miners living high atop the Rocky Mountains, of straight shooters and showdowns.
And though I don’t partake in any high noon showdowns or spend much time around horses, I like to think that I am living out my childhood dreams of cowgirl adventures via elk jerky and apple picnics at the top of high mountain summits. Through wandering drives up old access roads in search of snow in July. Through the twangy stories told during a private blue grass show on a deck overlooking Telluride and the San Juans. Through evenings spent on a wobbly, spider-ridden kayak watching fireworks cascade over Lake Dillon. Through hidden campsites that provide an unobstructed view of the stars and the sun rising up above Cataract Falls. Through the eyes of an eight year old as she learns the ins and outs of the world around her. And through the joy felt when close friends and family come together for an evening of ongoing laughter over charred ribs and corn on the cob dripping with melted butter.
“Numbers can be humbling.”
He’s a wise man, my Dad. The kind of man who always looks a challenge right in the eye, daring it to take one step closer lest he run right through it, never glancing back.
And in a world built on numbers, he could not be closer to the truth.
Budget numbers, staffing numbers, dollar amounts, bank accounts, bids on subcontractors, miles per hour, height/ weight, years gone by, minutes past.
I sometimes find myself getting swept up in the hard numbers that are the bones behind our businesses and our livelihoods and I forget to slow down to count the numbers in the things that mean the most.
Things like the millions of memories made laughing with the people we care about most. The minutes and hours, days and years spent loving those around us. The awe-inspiring height of the peaks that make up the Colorado Rockies and icy depths of the Great Lakes. The numerous colors in the morning sunrise and the first few sips of hot coffee in the morning or a refreshing glass of wine in the evening.
Humbling? Yep, I dig that.
No matter the distance, no matter the length of time that passes between each reunion, no matter how often you chat or you write, these relationships pick up right where they left off.
My VBGFs [very best girlfriends] are like that. These gals know when I am preoccupied by something before even I know I am preoccupied by something and they can read my mind upon the passing of the briefest of sideways glances.
They know my taste in men, in chocolate, in clothes, in activities, and in wine. They know how I live and how I learn and that I get freaked out by change, and that I like to pretend that I am hard-ass and that nothing bothers me, but in reality I am huge ninny when it comes to feeling sick, or sad, or scared, and that sometimes I just need a hug and someone to tell me that it’s all going to work out.
There’s no judgment, no drama, no ill-will, just a strong circle of love, of support, and of kindness.
Our reunions begin with squeals of glee and end with laughter in the memories we’ve made and excitement for the next time we get to spend a few unencumbered days basking in each other’s company.
I am so lucky to call them mine.