Contrary to most everyone’s expectations and advice, this being in Colorado has not been about resting. While I certainly needed to rest when I left Texas in July, and often do rest here, I must tell you that camping out in National Forest campgrounds, without electricity, sewer, wifi, cell phones, or other amenities besides water—which is available but has to be brought several times a day in jugs from a faucet some distance away from one’s tent or trailer—much about all that is not restful at all. Quite the contrary. I go to bed at night, quite often, exhausted, despite having had no real agenda all day. Getting back to nature turns out, always, to be more complicated than anticipated, for Nature herself is a wildly exuberant free-for-all so intricately entangled and inter-twined that anyone even partially aware of its complexity is made instantly breathless and humbled, even as the enchantment and allure of it grows.
I needed to get away. That much is true. Texas in the summer heat does literally make me ill; my doctor actually urges me each year to head for the hills. Given moments in any heated space, and it doesn’t take many moments, I find myself lying on the floor or the ground, near to passing out.
For that and other reasons having to do with overwhelming logistical logjams in my ordinary life in Texas, I needed to head out to the high country. Heeding the little magnet on my refrigerator at home that says “The mountains are calling and I must go,” I followed Christina out the door of Earthsprings, locking it behind me for a couple of months.
Christina did all the heavy lifting this time. I was physically unable to be much help. She has been extraordinarily able and giving, generous in her encouragement of me. She ignores my 80-year-old excuses, and gently asks me to continue to reach deep within myself to be all that I might yet want to be.
I want to be here, now, in this stimulating, if challenging, environment where we return year after year. Here we listen to the river, or swim in the lake. We look up each night at the bright and ancient stars through the steepled cathedral of towering spruce, fir, pine and other majestic trees that rise up on each side of the sheer slopes of the narrow valley in which we camp. We sit for hours, often in silence, sometimes murmuring about philosophy or spirituality or the retelling of some family story, beside a campfire that warms the night when temperatures drop into the 40’s, until our backsides get chilled and we retire to the little Casita travel trailer to sleep.
The Casita is tiny. We call ourselves submarine mates. How any two people can survive months in this little space and still be laughing friends requires a love of being outside most of the time, which we both have. But how we value the security and vital necessities the little trailer provides.
We also have other resources. Hammocks, for example, complete with mosquito netting when required. Our Clam, a six-sided tent in which we have set up two tables to hold our outdoor kitchen and another small table that may be used for dining, playing dominoes, doing art work, writing journal entries, studying maps of nearby “sites of interest” and other things, doubles our space. This year our outdoor seating arrangements even include two rocking camp chairs, mine with an extra cushion, additions that seem luxurious. The truck is packed so full of our “stuff” we bring along with us each summer that I am reminded of the British Arctic explorers in the 1800’s that brought along with them, not sufficient coal for the journey, but their sterling silver tableware, each man’s setting bearing his own family crest, brought out each day and polished to remind them of what they had been in the life they left behind before they were locked for months in the ice of the frozen land they came to explore and that most often led to their deaths.
There’s no ice here, for it is summer still, and Colorado is benevolent in summer. And the things Christina can pull out of the truck, aside from sterling silver, amaze me. She is like a magician, pulling some new helpful or delightful thing out of a hat, or out of the jumble of bags and boxes in the back of the truck. Being the good “scout” that she is, she comes prepared. Me, I just receive, enjoy, and give thanks.
With our Golden Age Pass from the National Parks, we can camp here on the shoe-string by which we dangle, year in and year out, summer and winter, and we feel so blessed.
So, daily, I am fully engaged, it turns out, not in resting, but in living, with eyes more wide open than usual, with an amateur artist’s view of things, seeing more detail, with more appreciation for how things are situated and composed and related, how colors and atmospheres inform or fade away as the sun moves or the clouds gather for the normal afternoon showers.
I go about with an eye, too, for ever-present dangers. Bears. Snakes. Rock slides. A big boulder, bigger than a house, rolled down a mountainside onto the county road we travel occasionally to go to town for supplies. The road was closed completely for about a week while workers blasted away at it unsuccessfully trying to remove it, until they finally rebuilt the road around it.
Other dangers can be more subtle. Every day I watch my feet, silently encouraging them not to slip or slide or trip or turn suddenly on some rock or root or the trailer doorstep or some unseen obstacle left outside after dark. Every day I pray that my enthusiasm and energy will last until I can take another “little rest to straighten my back for a few minutes” so that I can get up and more cheerfully wander out to enjoy and appreciate this time “away from it all,” though one might better say “plunged more deeply into it all.”
Restful it is not. Reinvigorating it is.
Here I remember that taking time to be silent brings spaciousness, and that quietness allows room for immensity to rush in, for inspiration to be noticed, for love to be recognized.
All this goes beyond mere rest. It is a return to source, to the inner terrain of my authentic self and soul and spirit. I rediscover, yet again, who I am.
Since we do not plan out our days but mostly meander through them, I can indulge myself in certain whimsical ways, just as I used to as a young person, before responsibilities stole away certain aspects of my freedom. I take walks by the river and stand for long periods of time gazing at a tree trunk or a particular cluster of wildflowers, or paying attention to a squirrel or a chipmunk or a hummingbird. I sleep when I want to. Christina disappears for periods of time, hanging in her hammock somewhere down river, writing in her journal, or dozing, and I have time to daydream, solitary and content.
I also take time to read. I read almost anything, like the book on writing I picked up from the free give-away shelf at the local library, a book that inspired me to get out my own pencil, while I too lie in my hammock, and I write, write, without agenda and without a self-censoring eye, to my heart’s content. I had forgotten how delightful this sort of writing can be for me. When I was young I wrote this way, devotee of Walt Whitman that I was, never having heard of a “bottom line” and totally unconcerned with “getting to the point.” My attention span was unlimited then, as I moved in and out of conscious awareness of the moment and of eternity. It seems that way now, too, here in this vast wilderness.
This and many other things are renewing for me and will, I trust, send me back to Texas in a few weeks, grateful and ready to resume my precious wonderful life there amongst the familiar trees and creek and animals and people that I love there too. Fall and winter and spring there will again be my joy, a time when, also, I won’t be rested. But I hope I will be more fully engaged, will be more present to the moment and its possibilities for love and life, then, as now.
Rich is my life and grateful is my heart.
San Juan Mountains, Southwestern Colorado, Summer 2019 by Glenda Taylor