It’s been a very mild winter here so far. Although we had a few flurries in the last couple of weeks, the big snows seem to be running late this year. These last few days, the air has been perfectly clear as the low winter sun accentuates every little detail in the landscape before fading into pink and lavender at the day’s end. Everything is hushed. Even the sounds of cars on the road may be an hour or two apart during the day and completely absent at night when the clear sky, free of light pollution, offers spectacular views into the stellar neighborhood.
On Thanksgiving morning I headed out to the nearest store, some 18 miles away, for last-minute groceries for our now-traditional feast. Bessie the dog came along for the ride. After shopping, we will detour through the foothills of the Aquarius to check on the bare aspens and large ponderosa pines.
The little towns we drive through glow in the bright morning light. Chimneys exhale ephemeral puffs of pine scented smoke and nobody is outside other than one man hanging Christmas decorations. He waves. I wave back. Along the way, we pass a couple of cars on the road. The drivers wave, too. I wave back.
The air is crisp and the views last for many miles in each direction, from the rolling volcanic plateaus and red sandstone cliffs, out to distant mountains on the horizon. Everything is still and pure, motionless yet alive.
On the way back from the store we take a small side-road known locally as the Big Rocks Road after the large boulder field it skirts. This is a favorite hangout for local teenagers. An old Ford pickup is making its way towards us slowly. The driver waves. I wave back. I know of a local family who lost a son to a crash on this little road. I realize that what to me is a scenic little detour will forever be a grim reminder of a fateful day to some. I know what it’s like to assign such deeper meanings to places. I have more than a few of my own. I have known people who spent their lives moving around to wherever the jobs take them, or remain in places they feel little for, just because they are familiar or convenient. I feel fortunate in that, for me, going home is synonymous with going to my favorite and most meaningful place; not just a place of residence, but a place of reverence.
We veer onto a dirt road cutting through the large boulders. Open areas among the rocks show remnants of campfires. I wonder how many local residents have fond memories of growing up camping here or stealing their first taste of some forbidden fruit as kids in this quiet and sheltering place and at a time when their futures held the magic of uncharted waters and the world was full of opportunity. I feel fortunate to be here, to have pulled myself out of the current after two decades of being carried by the habit-forming flow of a buttoned-down career. And my future again holds the magic of uncharted waters, and my world is again full of opportunity. Oh, to have life feel as it did as a kid but with the experience of an adult.
Indeed, the hardest and most rewarding thing is to move beyond the past and to not worry too much about the future. The sun is shining, the world is beautiful, and life is good. It’s time to make hay.
We stop on the high rim of a small canyon. Below, a small creek flows among pines and birches. Small icicles can be seen in the cascades and the ground is covered in small rock flakes – remnants of tool making by ancient dwellers. Bessie and I hike down into the canyon, listening to the music of the flowing water and the chirping of squirrels. Before long, Bessie is carried away, her nose to the ground, following an invisible track, entranced in a world of smells, a parallel reality to my own.
We climb out of the canyon and drive a bit higher up the slope. The ground here is covered in snow from the last storm, and we stop by a small lake that had largely frozen over. Bessie wastes no time lunging playfully into the white powder.
There are times for work, and there are times for life; times to make hay while the sun shines, and times to marvel at the world in the sunshine. Neither are wasted times. They are the yin and yang of getting the most out of life. And sometimes living well is just sitting on a weathered old log on a blissfully quiet and sunny winter day, watching a happy dog playing in the snow.
After a couple of hours of play, Bessie and I head home with the groceries. Sarah is already hard at work, turning locally-grown potatoes and a giant squash from our garden into culinary delights, and the house smells like spices and cinnamon.
I took some pictures but made no images. There was no need to.