For years, I could see the Indian Peaks from the deck of the little cabin. My life was oriented east-west. The sun rose at my back and set in front of me. And the mountains to the west—always the west along the Front Range of […]
These past weeks have been a rush of busy-ness. Fall on the mountain always feels fleeting, with glorious pockets of gold aspens one week and new snow the next. Each year, I’m surprised at the suddenness in the change of season. There’s an urgency in the air as I try to take in one last dinner on the deck, one last long hike in the high country, all the while getting and stacking wood and pulling pots in when the nights—and days—grow too cold.
I have only to look at the fact that I haven’t written a blog to know my days have burned like a barn on fire with deadlines and midterms, an extra night class I taught for four weeks, a story I’ve been revising and the dozen or so movies I’ve been screening weekly, along with the laundry list of “Things To Do” I carry with me on folded pieces of paper and posted on sticky notes on my desk top. I’ll confess I revel in getting things done, in marking each item off: I find way too much satisfaction in my nimble ability to juggle more than the average human, in my rockstar ability to go and go and go.
But this habit of mine always ends badly. I’m too tired and too busy for Greg and my friends. Inevitably, I wake up one morning cranky and exhausted, mystified that despite yoga and meditation and walks with the dog, I feel so out of sorts. Until I start looking at all the stuff I’ve been doing and the ways I’ve neatly isolated myself in a hell of my own making.
I wish I could learn to play and lounge as aggressively as I rip through the tasks of each day.
Enter the first snow storm of the season. After a week of daily dustings on the mountain, last Sunday dawned with half a foot of snow on the ground and more falling. Greg, taking one for the team, drove to Nederland, the nearest metropolis to our mountain house, to buy the Sunday New York Times, while I made breakfast and a fire. Then we spent the rest of the morning on the couch with cups of coffee, reading and listening to Beethoven. The afternoon was just as idly spent as we hunkered beneath a thick down comforter and watched Harry Potter and King Lear and The Romanovs.
It was just what I needed.
More frequently than I care to admit, I must remind myself that my one goal is to live deeply. Mountain girl me should know by now that fast isn’t the speed of happiness. The Sunday snow, as weather does, gave me permission to stop. To rest. And to reconnect.
Living deeply means remembering to take my cue from the natural world and to listen to it. D.H. Lawrence once lamented that humans “are bleeding at the roots [,…] cut off from the earth and sun and stars.” It’s our disconnection from the seasons, from the earth, from each other that causes misery and dis-ease, that causes us to run faster toward the things that won’t ever make us happy.
We must learn to press pause.
As I write, I can see the newly bare aspens outside my window and 30-foot fir trees that extend well above the window frame. I imagine their roots in the earth and then I imagine mine. The thought gives me a long moment of peace.
August in the mountains and I can feel summer begin to ebb. At the prairie house, I‘d be staring down the barrel of at least two more months of way-too-hot-for-me weather, while nearly 4000 feet higher this morning’s temperature registered in the upper 40s. Already […]
A month after Greg and I hauled our household 38.4 miles south and west, we are still settling in. Our couches are stuck somewhere in California and we have been walking around boxes and paint cans for weeks. Our living room serves a staging ground for unpacking and sorting, and also as the dog’s other, bigger bedroom. It’s been a month of figuring out where things will go and non-stop organizing—Doing it right, I say, as I methodically label jars of rolled oats and granola, cornmeal, three kinds of sugar and six kinds of flour for the pantry. We’ve ordered so much shelving and storage stuff, the Post Mistress in Rollinsville and UPS and Fed Ex drivers already know us by name. For the first time, even our junk drawer is getting an organizer.
I’m not sure what has gotten in to me. Although I aspire to be tidy, I am tragically messy by nature—a disaster in the kitchen by any chef’s reasonable standard and a harried house-cleaner. Too often, I run out of time and leave a pile of clothes or stacks of books and papers in my wake. My closets look like war-zones, the cupboards are a mess. But something about owning a house has me plowing new fields. In the past, whenever I walked into the squeaky clean house, I got the same goose-pimply, reverent feeling I once had in church. If only, I’d think.
Happily saddled for the first time with many rooms of my own, a persistent voice urges me to invest. So it’s been days on end of methodically folding and shelving, labeling and storing, dividing and stacking. Perhaps this is what it means to put down roots. Yesterday, Greg spent an hour planting three perennials, digging out rock and aspen roots, making room for one Snow-in-Summer I’ve carried with me since my days at the High Lake cabin. Both of us understand, I think, that our circumstances have changed. We’re courting a permanence neither of us has known.
It’s a little daunting. We alternately rejoice and freak out.
Greg openly worries about his “to-do” list while I harbor a darker dread. “The last time I was this happy in a house, the last time I felt—at last–I had enough room” I confessed to Greg last night, “it burned to the ground.”
And there it is. My response to loving something deeply is the creeping fear I will lose it. I had it with Elvis for a good part of his life, and Greg when we first met. And now the house. I can’t believe our spectacular fortune to have found a nearly perfect home—one with land and huge decks, a woodstove and gas range, not to mention—wait for it—a walk-in closet–for a price that is passing as a more than reasonable given the Front Range’s out of control housing market. Don’t count on it too much, that niggling voice whispers, you could lose it. My logic? How could we possibly have found paradise?
For most of my life, instability has been something like a second skin. I’ve danced with it so long, I’m not sure how to give it up.
And then I think about the laundry table and hanging rack I’ve set up next to the washer and dryer—and how absurdly happy I feel in not having to fold clothes on top of the dryer. I think about my closet which has shelves for shoes and six separate bins for all my foldables and how everything in it has a place and a space. How it’s been tidy now for nearly three weeks.
When I think of these things, I can finally have some patience for how long it seems to get settled—because as each day passes, I travel a little farther from the part of me that is certain I will lose it all.
When I found out my beloved Husky Elvis had 3-6 months to live, I started a practice, after my morning meditation, of giving thanks for one more day with him. In this way, we lived the last 18 months of his life together. In marking each day with him, in being present, I was able at last to let go of the fear of losing him. And when it was his time, I let him go with a full and complete heart.
I’m not saying my current fear will pass overnight, but I am making a promise to myself as I type this to remember to have some gratitude for just this one day and for the place I’ve landed. To see what’s here instead of what isn’t. Today, after all, is all any of us really has.