Some of What the Mountains Taught Me

img_1070         Recently, my husband and I spent nearly a week in the great Rocky Mountains, at elevations of 8,000-11,000 feet.  I had not been in the mountains for nearly 26 years (The Blue Ridge Mountains) and before that, it was 1969 (The Smoky Mountains). I was young both times before, and the elevation was nowhere near that high as we stayed down in the valleys and had to drive up to be in the mountains.

When were were driving on the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway, I remember begging my husband to “Get me the ____ off of this road!”  The height was simply staggering to me.

This time, we stayed in a camp that came with warnings about altitude sickness.  During my time there, while I was so in love with the fresh air, the lack of mosquitoes, and those breathtaking views, I also was traveling for the first time with a chronic health condition.

Some of the things I learned:

  • I am weak, the mountains are mighty.  What a cliche’, but how true.  As I gasped for breath while hiking, this truth became very apparent.  The mountains were just there, strong, hulking,  huge boulders ready to fall, while I was slowly walking, stopping often for air.
  • It’s okay to realize your physical limits. I am not a young athlete. I’ve spent nearly all my life reading, writing, researching.  I’m not an athlete.
  • It’s okay to ask for help.  I was in contact with my doctor four times (poor guy!) while gone, and he assured me each time that yes, this altitude could make my chronic condition worse and might for up to a month after I got back down–but he hoped I could enjoy the vacation anyway since I had talked about it every time I saw him.  He gave me some tips.
  • I don’t have to do everything the others did, and in fact, I could not.  I felt sad one night while others were out at a barbecue, and I was back in my room reading and trying to recover some energy.  The next day I was able to hike and go up 11,000 feet on an aerial mountain tram.
  • Chronic medical conditions do not just leave because I was on vacation; they don’t care, they are not going away just because I paid for a vacation I saved for for a long time.  That’s romantic thinking, and not realistic.
  • I didn’t write as much poetry as I thought I would, although the natural beauty would have normally sent me to typing away!  I was dealing with my health. That’s okay as well.  I can write when my body is accustomed to being back to a normal elevation.
  • I cannot describe the beauty of the lakes, wildlife, and plants/ flowers we saw on our mountain hike.  Incredible.  See the photos blog entry here: https://wordpress.com/post/lauraleewriterpoeteducator.com/1379
  • At my age? I conquered an immense fear of flying and somewhat of heights in general–perhaps because I was so diverted by managing my health symptoms? I just didn’t have time to focus on my fear of heights!
  • I am forever grateful for my husband, who did not complain or in any way appear annoyed or disappointed I was not more agile, hardy, or strong. As I clutched his hand during some turbulence in flight, all I could think of was how blessed I was to know him for nearly 42 years.
  • I missed my maples, elms, willows, ashes, beeches, birches… I missed my deciduous trees, while being thankful to see and smell so many wonderful pines.  I missed my trees!
  • I was not wrong; sometimes at home I would imagine the immense clouds of summer looked like mountains.
  • Those beautiful images are starting to seep into me now, and I feel poetry coming.
  • I am glad to be back where there is 45% more oxygen.  Just because.
  • Coffee at 9,000 feet was WONDERFUL. So was the apple tart.
  • I was so proud of myself for doing something others find simple; I did not.
  • I cannot imagine how roads are built through such massive, imposing things such as MOUNTAINS.
  • We have a beautiful country!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Seeking the Mountains, Seeking the Stars

 

photo of galaxy

When I was a child, I was fortunate to live near a now rare Illinois prairie.  Oh, and a swamp at one end of the prairie, right before a suburban housing subdivision.

As I get older, I begin to understand how much that open space, those wildflowers, those butterflies, that swamp mist, those ancient swamp trees–what they all meant to me.  They are part of my very core, part of my poetry even when I am writing about teaching or abuse or anything. Why? This core of beauty and mystery provides strength, curiosity, and respect deep within, helping me find courage in this increasingly terrifying world.  I am deeply sensitive, deeply afraid of much, deeply observant.  Without this core, I think I would have become crushed as some family members have been–utterly broken down.

But mountains and a starry filled night sky have NOT been part of that core.  I live in an area with too many people, too much light pollution in order to see that starry night filled sky.  The few times I have seen such a sky I was overwhelmed and nearly had to squint–it was so much beauty at one time.  But those times have been few.

And living in the “Land of Lincoln” means flatness everywhere. Flat, flat, flat–which made for gorgeous sunrise and sunset viewing. But it’s all so open. I’d like to see mountains. Last time we drove to NC, I panicked in the mountains, but I feel I’m better able to handle all that too.

I am not an easy person to know, nor an easy person to live with, even for myself.  I am very high maintenance, very stressed, very much TOO MUCH.  But I have a talent for gratitude and do not take things for granted.

We are headed to a family reunion in the great Rocky Mountains tomorrow, and I am beyond excited. I am overwhelmed by the prospect of seeing stars, seeing mountains.

As to seeing family, that’s another long story.  (My family is a novel waiting to be written but too painful to write.)  I love my husband’s family dearly, and this will be a great gathering.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

scenic view of mountains during dawn