In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reflections -- An afternoon in November - RMNP

Sitting in the sun in a quiet spot on the banks of the creek that runs through Morraine Park in RMNP is a luxury. The bridge (in the photo) that carries hikers over that stream echoed few footsteps and fewer voices for most of the afternoon I spent absorbing and resting in nature's beauty--the tinkling stream, the colors of late fall grasses, the changing colors of the creek as the sun moved closer to the mountain peaks in the distance.

I was recently reminded that both a deep connection to nature and the opportunity to luxuriate and melt into a spot with special beauty is a gift that even those who live in this glorious mountain area often find themselves too busy to enjoy. As I find myself again working at a job (in my daughter's design business), I remember that getting out means making it a priority, and finding time to write means getting up earlier.

As winter decends, it's a different kind of beauty that we experience. But for my November immersion, each blade of grass, each rock, each water's ripple filled me with wonder. Which mountain pass had the water trickled through on its journey? How many hundreds or thousands (or more) years had it taken those rocks to become so smooth? Would the grass that grows next spring be a resurgence of the blades that surrounded me as I sat in their midst--or would they be the offspring?

Had the years softened my jagged edges? Had my journey given me more compassion? Would winter allow for deepening spirit and love that would shine in the darkness and flower in the spring? What does winter mean in a spiritual sense? These are but a few of many questions to ponder that occur at this writing. Let's find ways to take time to ponder as the days grow short--and to enjoy winter's beauty.
And yes, I wanted you to see some of what I saw. I took the distance, bridge and rock shots without moving from where I sat on the banks of the stream. I was so blessed!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nature's Paintbrush--Color Where I Find It

This past Friday afternoon I took a walk into a place that sustained and nourished me during a winter when I was writing and crying and crying and writing, when I had photos of my Tennessee friends and family scotch-taped next to my computer to keep me from feeling too alone in my winter rental in Estes Park. I didn't know anyone and hadn't yet connected with the wonderful centering prayer group there.

After hours of writing, I drove to the then Lumpy Ridge Trailhead on McGregor Ranch and walked, took stairs toward climbing walls and sat, and hiked part-way up the Gem Lake Trail. (At that point, I was afraid to go all the way alone!) I found "my pink rock" soon. I painted, drew, and photographed it in various lights, always looking for the time of day that the pink or coral was prominent. It represented survival--survival that produced beauty and strength. I needed its strength in those days! I could get closer to it than I was last Friday, sit on the climbing stairs nearest its base as if by being there, some of its strength would leak into me.

When I walked I looked for the colored lichen on the rocks, a habit from childhood when I sat on limestone rocks at Dad's farm (lots of rocks there) and tried to pry off lichen without tearing them up. On hikes with my first hiking companion in Estes Park, I marveled at huge boulders and their bright colors. When she seemed less enthusiastic than I was, I finally realized that she had wonderful boulders all around her home! I continued to find the colors and make watercolor sketches of them. And when the snow fell, those colors shined even brighter, cheering me when I felt as if nothing could. The winds blew and pushed me back, but I walked those paths anyway. And when I tired of walking, I found shelter behind one of the boulders and hung out with "my pink rock."

On Friday I didn't feel alone, and I wasn't sad, but it was good to be back, eat my lunch sitting on one of the boulders in the sun, and enjoy the changing colors of the tall "pink rock" as the afternoon sun moved toward the mountains. The trailhead has been moved and renamed, and the old trailhead is no longer on the way to Gem Lake. It was too late in the day for climbers so I was alone hanging out and was again cheered by the beauty of the rocks!
It occurred to me that the huge Boulder with streaks of coral or pink had been a way to connect to God's power and strength. I wouldn't have described it that way in 1999, but it seems obvious now. I had found solace and strength in huge boulders, cliffs and streams beginning during my college summers spent working in Yellowstone National Park. Tennessee's rocks, cliffs, and streams had been where I connected with the Divine. God had spoken to me through that pink rock in a way that I could feel. Praise be for the glories of the earth's creation!

Dead and Alive -- Are We Both?

So these should be photos of Halloween costumes, right? Or the last photos of political ads that we hope to never see again (all of them!).

I spent much of today with a group of prayer sisters listening to a talk that centered on death--since yesterday was the Day of the Dead, today All Saints Day, and tomorrow All Souls Day.

I also spent the weekend in Estes Park with forays into Rocky Mountain National Park, a place that feels like my spiritual home. The photos were taken there on successive days when I spent time alone walking and hanging out in "my park." The bleached tree limbs have a sculptural beauty--and they are long "dead." The two trees symbolize, to me, death and life--a rather stark death and life towering next to and around death.

From a spiritual journey way of looking at these pictures, the bleached limbs could represent our lives stripped of our masks, our false selves, with only our essence, our true selves remaining. There is a beauty there, a grace.

The other photo speaks to me of the little deaths that must occur along the path if we are to grow into the persons we were created to be. Sometimes we struggle to say goodbye to that old self, the one who had put so much stock in material things. We may look longingly as we grow deep roots in new soil. Storm clouds may blow around our new growth and make us wonder if we should have stayed where we were. It takes courage to move to the next place, and it may not look so inviting. It requires faith in the process of becoming, faith that who we are meant to be will provide satisfaction and joy (notice I did not suggest happiness!).

As the seasons move on, so do we--or we stagnate and die a different kind of death. We are becoming bare, our selves shining in our simplicity. The journey is not for the faint of heart.
The path may be rocky and steep. We let go of the old and move on, though we know not what lies ahead.