I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. cummings
This time, I’ll miss the mountains.
Every time we move, I mourn something. I missed my nutty family when we moved from Oklahoma. Leaving Rhode Island, I was bereft having to say goodbye to my beloved faith community. In Japan, I left behind a group of crazy, loyal friends and a beguiling culture.
We have been in Colorado for barely a year. I have made a few good friends but I will not miss the community…by no fault of its own. I just couldn't fully engage with it this time. The effort seemed too exhausting, too psychically precarious. Sometimes in this vagabond Navy life, I feel like the Greek figure of Sisyphus—struggling to roll the boulder up the mountain each day, finally reaching the summit at nightfall, only to then helplessly watch it tumble inexorably back down to the bottom, all the while sick with the knowledge of having to commence the task again in the morning…at the next duty station.
Of course, unlike Sisyphus, the business of rebuilding one’s life and friendships is not a punishment. I have something positive to show for my efforts in the end. In fact, the friendships I make on the way up the hill greatly alleviate my burden. I do not have to say goodbye to them. Facing the rock in the depressing glare of morning, I am content knowing that my friends are only a button click away in this modern day of Facebook, email, and cell phones. I still feel weary though—weary of lacking them in my daily life, weary of the “no” that seems to replace their physical presence. I miss them.
But, this time, I will mourn the mountains.
Our neighborhood lies on top of a small ridge, affording us a splendid view of the Front Range. In the winter, after dropping the girls at school, as I turn back west and crest the hill, the mountains suddenly appear across the entire horizon—starkly white, rigid and alert in the pale yellow light of morning. In the summer, as the long days come to an end, their outline gradually softens into a purple ombre, coolly contrasting with the fiery orange canvas behind their peaks.
The sight of the Rockies never ceases to amaze me. I oftentimes become cross when they are obscured by gray or hazy weather. I know they are right there but they seem suddenly unknowable, aloof. I can’t stand that.
This weekend, we drove into them for possibly the last visit for a long while. It has been a strange year, weather-wise. Rain turned to snow as we exited Eisenhower Tunnel--the first pass into the mountains from Denver. Most of the ski resorts are still up and running and are expected to be open until at least July 4th. The snow still remains in deep pockets around the trees just off the interstate near the passes. In the valleys, the rivers are swollen past their banks and raging into Class 5 rapids around their rocky bends. Red rafts full of courageous (perhaps, stupid) folk bob haphazardly down the currents like ducklings on crack. (I marvel at the rafters’ chutzpah—ain’t no way, no how I’m risking going head first into that arctic cement mixer.)
Up close, though, the mountains don’t seem the least bit dangerous or imposing as they sometimes do from a distance. Their slopes are decorated with dark swatches of Ponderosa pines, interspersed with patches of slender ivory trunks and the bright bamboo-green of the newly born Aspen leaves. It is still spring in the highlands but summer has finally arrived in the lower places. The valley floor has replaced its stained, stiff white carpet with a new soft grass and wildflower rug. From afar, the mountains communicate impassibility and strict privacy. But once inside, they invite you to put up your feet and get comfortable: Yes, you may stay. As long as you like.
Every time we drive up to Glenwood Springs, I fantasize about being a giant in a tall tale, taking a break in the summer sun, relaxing up against the range—my arm casually extended along the ridge, absent-mindedly brushing my hand across the bristly ridges, watching each tree spring back up. I oftentimes wonder if the sensation would be as pleasurable as when my dad used to slowly rub my small hand against his five-o-clock shadow. It tickled.
The mountains do that to you. Although they make you feel small, they inspire you to dream big.
At another crossroads in life, I guess that I am a little afraid of what may follow in the hustle and bustle of our new home in the big city. Without the view of the infinite from my back porch, will I get trapped by all of life’s finite duties? Will I get too busy and get tricked into living the “no”? Will I feel big but dream small?
Ultimately, I don’t know. Worrying about the boulder falling back down the mountainside probably doesn't make much sense. Perhaps, this view from the summit should just lead me to be thankful for this amazing day.