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Friday, July 26, 2013

"Freedom Dreaming" and "Sanctuary," Straddling that not necessarily mutually exclusive barbed wire fence, and Romanticize versus Intellectualize

If there is such a thing as being conditioned by climate and geography, and I think there is, it is the West that has conditioned me. It has the forms and lights and colors that I respond to in nature and in art." Wallace Stegner

It bears repeating, "...the forms and lights and colors that I respond to in nature and art." No wonder some people don't "get it," or me, for that matter. Thanks for expressing my feelings so simply, Wally. 

Let me dumb it down for the smarty pants out there. I guess what I love and appreciate most about summering in Lovely Ouray, as well as the multifarious places we choose as destinations away from there, is "the forms and lights and colors" Mr. Stegner speaks of. Add to that they are right now forming and lighting and coloring right out my Imax Windows. 

But sitting and staring out windows never accomplishes much, especially when there is a little boy inside saying, "I wonder what's way up there?" It's that tug of curiosity that soon has me pulling on boots, pack and hat, and setting off on a trail...self-propelling through unique, diverse topographies (forms). Whether walking, hiking, peddling, or paddling, I'm rewarded with physiological "fruits" that, to be frank, one-ups any recreational drug from college days and most of today's IPA's. Well, almost. What serendipitous, albeit sophomoric, irony...that the high I longed for was out west; the "Colorado Rocky Mountain High" that John Denver rode into the ground (and to the bank) virtually nonstop throughout the 70's. God bless 'em, you just can't help but sing along.

I mean, gee; let's not over-intellectualize this, people. We are curiosity driven human beings (well, most of us) with energy to burn (except in the south east where it's too hot and humid to leave the AC). So we climb mountains—first and foremost, because they are there...no matter WTF William James or his overzealous serviles say. We go to mountains to escape our masses, who are there trying to escape their masses, which is why eastern slope mountains don't work as well; just too many megalopolites lapping at foothills, crowding into parks and wilderness, and ruining your reason to be there. I blame John Denver. 

I derive ethereal joy from self-propelling through western Colorado's solitary and pristine eye-candy, with its cool climate and pine scent massaging my senses. Wallace Stegner's words echo like poetry in the emptiness between my ears: 

"It is probably a combination of a different landscape and an abiding human freedom-dream that tourists respond to in the west...
what a native recognizes and responds to, what tells him that he's home, is...aridity. And if he has the freedom-dream, as he probably does, he also feels the tug of its opposite: sanctuary. 
...in spite of the huckstering of scenery and commercializing of beauty and grandeur and awe, there is a lot of the west where both illimitable freedom and perfect sanctuary may be found."

Cue Lovely Ouray, if you will pardon my prejudice. I believe Bobbie and I have resolved the "Freedom-dream versus Sanctuary" dilemma/argument (yes, we argued) because of this little southwest Colorado town. "Beauty and grandeur and awe" to be walked, hiked, peddled, and paddled out our doorstep. Arizona's winter warmth is one day's drive. Utah is most beautiful during transitional seasons here, and is only a few hours distant. How lucky to have found both the freedom I crave and the sanctuary to hole up in when needed. In "Through Painted Deserts," Donald Miller suggests "Home" is a place you must leave, so that you can come back and appreciate the other side of the travel coin. 

What to do with the rest of our one-shot life. Me? I'm going to keep fluttering my eyelashes at gourmet wildflowers, self-propelling to blue lakes nestled in iron-crusted basins. I guess I've been persuaded to call Lovely Ouray our summer "home," a place to come off the road to, a place where I can Man-tinker and weld in a garage, sleep in a super kingsize bed, walk to town or the Hot Springs or the park or to a lonesome trailhead bound for glory. It's a place where I can climb a mountain or squeeze in a bike ride before work. And those are mighty important things, as they are cursed with a wretched "shelf-life" that strikes fear into the hearts of aging athletes.

Yep, I'm over and done with with the search for that fantasy "someplace better." Only now, as hair grays with wisdom, am I beginning to realize that "home" is a lot like people, “when you stop expecting (them) to be perfect, you can like them for who they are” (Donald Miller).  Perfection does not exist except in the minds of dreamers, and Lord knows I'm a dreamer extraordinaire. Wisdom eventually finds its way to the most footloose old men, who someday might just appreciate and/or need "community" or familiar sanctuary when it's time to ease up on the gas...probably...maybe...I think.
Guess maybe I'm still straddling that fence after all :).  


Now for a reunite hike with Airstream Wiseones, Susan and Maikel. As you recall, we spent most of last winter playing with them in Utah and Arizona and they never got tired of us :). Boonie and Coffee Girl are still around, so they joined us for a hike to Ice Lakes. Such great company in High Places.

Coming up, we get together with Rv'ers/bloggers Al and Engrid of Live, Laugh, Rv. 
That's a great name!


  1. While I of course enjoy the blog- this constant harassing of the southwesteners has to stop!! We do go outside!!we run halfs- we kayak- we stand up paddle board- we bike-we sail--Just kidding- kind of-
    Plans are in the making this winter for at least one Ouray resident to sample this lifestyle! - After my road trip to Ouray I have completely changed summer plans - with more camping life around Ouray-

  2. Oh Walden Steve...
    I'm just seeing if you are paying attention :) But you are the exception to the rule down there in Florida...you said so yourself, that the seniors in RV parks don't come out unless there is free food and booze...and then they use a golf cart to get there.
    I do, however, love your plan to go mobile!!!

  3. I'm looking for a "home" a tiny little cottage that will be a homebase, but it has to be in a walkable community. Probably in a mountain town somewhere. I will still travel in my RV, and will probably become a snowbird in a few years.

  4. Mr. Stegner says it well, as do you. I am seeing first hand how the Eastern slopes are quite frantic and crowded...LOVE seeing Ice Lakes in full bloom! Gorgeous!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  5. Walden Steve is indeed the Soul of a Westerner temporarily trapped in the body of a Floridian.

  6. Great fun to reconnect with old hiking friends for that beautiful journey. Absolutely magnificent picture!!! What scenery!

  7. I just don't know how you do it...your pictures are so beautiful! I enjoyed the read too. We have, just this year, discovered the west and do not want to leave!

  8. Have you read "Angle of Repose"? It's one of those books perfectly suited for reading in a remote boondock place. Stegner epitomizes the west, I love his writing! -scamp

  9. The San Jaun mountains have much to offer hikers. I always say the beauty begins when I leave the trailer. How cool is that drive down 550 to get to the tail head of Ice Lake?
    Thanks for the photo's of Ice Lake. Glad Bobbie now has Susanne to hike with, rather than all us guys. Just wondering, do girls still go to bathroom together on the trail like they do at restaurants?
    Just finishing my stay in Telluride, enjoyed the Cross Mountain hike up to Lizzard. Now on to Crested Butte to explore some more of the back country.
    John Q

  10. "megalopolites lapping at foothills??" I think I resemble that remark. Why, I even have "The Best of John Denver" in my CD player! LOL! (no joke!) But I gotta agree with Walden Steve, there are a few of us who are willing to trade the AC for a gentle sea breeze now and then (currently on Ocracoke Island with all the windows open. ;-)

    I hope to make it to Ice Lake one day. That looks like my kinda tent pad!!

  11. love that first shot of the mountains reflected in the lake; and then marmot; and the wildflowers... oh heck, don't ya know I just love them all, as usual!

  12. Good Morning from a rainy, low clouds, sweet smelling Ouray (deep breath...ahhhhhh). As always, we do appreciate you taking time and thought to comment :0

    I suggest you look at Lovely Ouray, but there are other small towns that are less expensive nearby and just as proximate to "grandeur." Delores, Cortez, and Pagosa Springs come to mind. And Cortez/Delores is three hours closer to Arizona's warm winters!

    Sadly, beyond Buena Vista you are encroaching on "their" territory (sigh). We were too early to Ice Lakes with you guys, darn it.

    Painful truths...
    I think he is going to split from Florida come next summer, Winter's there are probably much warmer than Arizona, so it will be the best (if you are a beach lover) of both worlds for Steve.

    John and Pam,
    Thanks...someday we wil be reconnecting with you :)

    Gay and Joe,
    Ahhh, another convert :) Welcome to the "cult."
    Sometimes I think it's the rarified air that makes photos so 3D up in the Alpine Zone...
    thanks, guys.

    No, not yet...and "Angle of Repose" won the Pulitzer, too. I will order it cause if you liked it I know I will too. Just a Montana boy, waxing poetic about the west.

    John Q.
    Crested Butte is a good place to wind down your annual visit to Colorado...lots of trails and flowers. We look forward to seeing you next year!

    As long as the breeze comes in off the ocean you will do well there. It's a bold move to travel the east during summer. You are one tough gal. As for Ice Lakes, they await your stakes and tent. Bring a good bag as it gets frosty up there at night :) Travel on, wanderer.

    Meow Mamma,
    Thanks...mountain photos are like children...we shouldn't have favorites :)
    mark and bobbie

  13. "I'm going to keep fluttering my eyelashes at gourmet wildflowers, self-propelling to blue lakes nestled in iron-crusted basins."

    sigh... your photography is so beautiful and "fluttering my eyelashes at gourmet wildflowers" ... love that as well as

    "Perfection does not exist except in the minds of dreamers, and Lord knows I'm a dreamer extraordinaire. Wisdom eventually finds its way to the most footloose old men, who someday might just appreciate and/or need "community" or familiar sanctuary when it's time to ease up on the gas...probably...maybe...I think.
    Guess maybe I'm still straddling that fence after all :)."

    Did I write that? haaaa... this is the third visit to this post.. just didn't know what to say. I'm off to read your most recent post...

    good stuff, Mark!

  14. I don't see the fence. I've always felt those were built by the people trying to direct the "show" anyway.

    You get up in the morning and go, and do, what that spirit inside leads you to do. Sort of like a craving for some mineral or vitamin you lack and hunger for.

    Go, stay, go for a while, stay for a while turn around and back track... why does there have to be some thought out choice?

    Why can't a man just live, and breathe and BE, whatever the hell he is today? Screw tomorrow. Too often it never gets here.

    Maybe what I rail against is that incessant demand that I make some "choice" that makes sense to Someone Else.

    I despise a world that belittles a man for his dreams, and labels him nuts, or selfish for pursuing them at the cost of the loss of his greater "use" by the fence builders.


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