Through these Aspen Trees, I Summit Discovery
September 17, 2018
On this fall day last September I recorded my thoughts while driving to Silverton, Colorado to summit the Ice Lake Trail. This was nearing the end of my road trip east to the Rocky Mountains from the balmy cliffs on the west coast, a journey home but uniquely anew.
While driving towards the mountain town Ouray in eastern Colorado, a.k.a “Little Switzerland,” known for its steep peaks and heavy snowfall, I watched the road spin on before me, where my teenage legs once trekked some ten years ago.
I was anxious coming to a place so familiar to my skin and soul, because this place holds memories suppressed. Some are made of mistakes, self-indulgence, and slip-ups, and some so recklessly uninhibited to fantasy that I begin to feel old now as I count my steps with more method than ever before.
I can feel my tired soul as I brush against the splintering skin of the Aspen trees; a sense of my younger self walking wildly through scattered gold-coined leaves reflecting swollen clouds above. One shrinks against this mighty landscape, a reminder of our human existence that seems fleeting when looking up, up, and out at land that was painted eons ago.
I have seen much of mother earths artwork these past few weeks. Her proud creations erected in granite mountains and limestone cliffs and soft red rocks in the desert. I have seen her foggy rainbows over highways, hot springs at the basin of wild rivers, cracked earth where a meteorite hit, and 12,000 foot peaks pushing the sky away. Each step through her dunes, I have asked for guidance, and she has affirmed my journey through nature’s most decorative dances.
I see now that we are a single relic of a single tree from this vast earth. I am humbled by the the smallness of being one part of something so grand. I am honored to re-visit old friends who supported my youth with fervent humor and critique and unfiltered love. There are those lovers who have remained friends and bosses who became allies, and I feel them all now via the magic of earth’s offerings.
Looking up at the peculiarities and intricacies of a landscape that has braved the iciest and driest seasons in the state, I recognize my own will to fight to be seen. These days, I fiercely seek genuine human interactions and this steep landscape continues to teach me how to relax behind eager eyes. To let the conversations develop organically, without pressuring the dynamics and forcing questions on innocent bystanders.
The journalistic side of me wants to forge connections and find common ground, but this trip is teaching me to relax into my encounters; to let commonality find its own way to deeper connection. To witness the simplicity of existing in the same space with someone; sipping a cold brew on a rooftop over Main Street or gulping a micro brew at the local deli. These are moments where I should soften within my own anxious bones and listen more closely to the idiosyncrasies of new friends and old ones. Perhaps it boils down to less talking and more observing. To begin loosening expectations from both people and place.
Walking through the Aspen trees towards the icy lakes above, it is so much easier to be enlightened in this location. The stimulation of eagles chatter and broken branches beneath boots, brings me towards total presence.
Can I practice this serene observation with the people I have the deepest history with?
Can I swallow pride and stop proving myself as something other than who I am today?
Is there a modality of walking meditation that eliminates insecurity and builds confidence in our transitory states?
I am laughing into the space above. Between horizon and sun, where electric blue blasts my irises.
The drive through winding pavement towards Ouray shifts my focus from inner observation to outward appreciation. The trees change at every turn towards elevation, from fiery brunt orange at the tips to a mossy green at their base. Granite swells and curves around this two-lane highway with no guard rails where a free fall teases below. I weave and cut through ravines between intimidating peaks on a road I am revisiting at 28. This was the path I used to drive to get home to Boulder, to visit friends, to traverse to other hidden mountain towns, and explore canyons off the beaten path.
I drive now towards a woman who wants to be seen and equally heard, but I am learning to reveal her with a quieter reverie. Ditching ego at every turn, where these mountainous bones hold up the road as I glance towards past and present, leading the way to a freshly paved perspective.