Sunday, May 15, 2011

From Colorado, a year and a new quest later

(Disclaimer : I wrote this mid-May, but didn't post it because I couldn't add photos. [So many beautiful places! But the Internet connection is too slow.] I'll continue to try to post images; for now, the evolution of ideas is what matters.)

Yes, a year. More than a year.

After the last post, I left Kansas and moved to southwestern Wyoming, where I wandered happily around the windswept ridges and plains, rediscovering the sense of freedom and wildness that wide open spaces afford. Maybe it was the fact that I no longer had to follow the same trail over and over and over again, loop loop loop, or maybe it was that there's so much public land there open for exploration, or maybe it's just that shrub-steppes, with their scraggly sage and wind-tattered skies, speak to me, sing to me in some way that other landscapes don’t. Oh, Wyoming.
Last summer slipped by too quickly, dream-like, rich with (now, admittedly, somewhat roseated) sunrises and thunderstorms, walks and hikes, camping and climbing trips to Idaho and Utah. Following a brief residency at Petrified Forest (a sort of recalibration of my geographic self. Pilot Rock!) and a spin through several deserts and forests, canyons and mountains, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado -- many miles on my poor little car and memories planted in my traveler’s mind, -- I returned to the shrub-steppe of southwestern Wyoming and settled in for those long, lonely days of autumn.

Then winter -- winter! I reawoke for winter, for the clean, austere whiteness of winter. White, so many shades of white. So many shadows, so many stars sharp at dawn. So many sounds, so many storms, wind, wind, wind, wind, [cold; freezing; alive].

That was the year. A year of walking, climbing, driving, skiing, waiting for winter to bloom into spring. A year of listening to the wind howl. (And oh, how the Wyoming wind howls. Haunted.)

A year spent not writing a blog.

So why now?

Well, I’ve left Wyoming. Moved south -- to western Colorado. After a full month, I'm still trying not to regret it. There are many factors, complex, intermingling: I was getting too comfortable, too complacent, yet at the same time feared that such beauty couldn't last; the snow would melt; the truth be uncovered,...good god, I don't know what possessed me to leave, my peripatetic self, running away...

There are some places -- Utah's red rock, with its panoply of fins and canyons, arches and spires; southeast Alaska's rainforest, with its moss-softened cedars and spruce, oyster-spitting shores -- that you just love, immediately and deeply, inexplicably, viscerally. There are others -- New Hampshire's White Mountains, with their granite outcrops and ivied halls; St. Petersburg, with its canals and museums, palaces and parks -- that you can learn to love, or at least like.

Then there are those that you try try try, perhaps too hard, to appreciate -- sorry, San Franscisco; sorry, Konza -- and just can’t. Cannot. Can not. Even though you really want to or ought to, you just can not, do not, will not.

So, now, Colorado, with its deep dark canyon and tangles of serviceberry-scrub oak (brown), its blue grouse and resident black bear (audacious), its music festivals (expensive) and farmers markets (not yet begun), its trucks and SUVs (loaded with ski- and bike-racks), its ubiquitous snow-capped peaks -- what kind of place are you?

I don’t know yet. That’s why I’m blogging again.

It’s a little like Tolstoy’s happy families vs. unhappy families conundrum: I loved Wyoming (when it wasn’t blizzarding), so could only write: “[Sorry, Ed Abbey,] this is the most beautiful place on earth. It’s even more beautiful this week than it was last week, more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Beautiful, wild, beautiful, free, beautiful, [bitterly cold and windy,] beautiful, beautiful...” Blah blah blah. Pure feeling, pure sensation, pure beauty; not much thought in that.

But now -- now that I’m in a place that should be beautiful (a National Park, for goodness sake) and that should be wild (Congress designated it as such, more than a decade ago), I feel lost, bored, uninspired. The place feels barren, trammeled.


And what, if anything, can I do about it? Another experiment -- (how) can I learn to love a place?

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