It's not often that I go down from my mountains -- down far enough to see the whole picture. I skirt the foothills just enough to go to work, but otherwise stay tucked into my canyon, or go further up...and further in. Each time I go down though, I notice I am fitting in less, and less.
I suppose it's very much akin to the mountain people of generations past -- the explorers, mountain men, trappers, miners...the ones who journeyed high to get what their natures couldn't get them below -- in that each time they returned to the cities, they found themselves farther and farther removed. I've seen this happening in me. Once you go, once you take that step, you can’t come back unchanged -- experiences are tattoos on the soul of which you can never truly be rid. I guess I'm carrying on the legacy. I’ve got the ink. It's not so much that it's noticeable on the outside, except for on the rainy-plains days when I drive down and out with feet of snow on the roof of my car and people in the city wonder, where the heck did she come from? Rather, it's inside.
Altitude messes with your state of mind and with your blood. It marks you. A doctor recently asked me at what altitude I lived, because if I wasn’t living at over 7,000 ft., there would be something wrong. My red blood cell count was high for Denver, but to be expected in the mountains. There’s something extremely visceral about that – about being impacted by your environment to such an extent that doctors and their microscopes know exactly where you live, and can guess what kind of person you are, just from a drop of your blood. It makes me feel that I actually have the mountains in me.
The lay of this land makes you feel removed, isolated, but yet very much protected -- like a womb. And like a child in a crib, my home gets as close to the canyon's sides as it can. To replicate the pressure, and remember the enveloping warmth. Sure, there are practical reasons why the canyon houses are built nestled up on the sides -- roads and floods, for example -- but the impractical is that she is nourishing and growing her own, attached to her insides, and I much prefer that reason.
Yet still, I am removed. No TV. No phone. No expansive view, even. I cannot see the sun rise, nor set. But still I know it is there and that it does. My home beds on the canyon’s sides and the view out my windows is that, the side of a mountain. Oh yes, there are the canyon houses with grand views, but those are inhabited by people who only want to see and be seen, and who pay inordinate sums for heating and insurance. Some I suppose, would find my view suffocating, although I find it much more to my liking than breathing down my neighbors neck and having the sides of their house for my view. Plus then, I would need curtains...and I cannot live with curtains. So to some, this small, viewless home with little in the way of modern amenities may sound like a lovely vacation, but surely not for every day use -- dress-down clothes; yet this is my place, my dot on the map, the point to which I’m calibrated to go back to every night -- and like a homing pigeon, I do.
|Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand-Jatte, by Georges Seurat.|
And so last week, I found myself driving I-225 south, looking west, seeing the mountains as a range – stepping back across the art museum room, letting my eyes adjust. I used to see them every day like this. But now as part of them, I lose sight -- those closest to us elude us, Maclean once wrote. I live with and in them, and yet the entirety of their being escapes me, daily.
Coherent, and even beautiful scenes from a distance, are often chaos up close. They've been organized, by someone, but yet often it seems as if they've been done so purposely to confuse -- or maybe, to force us to step back, think, and re-evaluate what the heck we're doing and what exactly is going on. It makes me think about all the 14,000 ft. peaks I've climbed, with all their false summits. Walking up the mountain's side, you can't see its top...and then, when you think you do, you reach it and also reach the stomach-sinking realization that it is false. The mountain is toying with you, pilgrim, playing with your mind -- but all the while it's leading you on. You can't turn back now, because there is something, waiting, still ahead -- and even if it is only another false summit, still, it is part of the picture.....you just can't see it yet.