travellin: Sangre de Cristo Mountains

[ In the very foreground, a strip of road; past that, mostly-snowed-over fields rising slowly to the very base of a range of mountains that rises sharply to tall, triangular peaks. No foothills here. ]

The great thing about living in Colorado is the mountains.

I first fell in love with mountains — real mountains, nothing against the ancient Appalachians, but I need young mountains — in 1988, in Zürich, staring in awe at the Alps rising to the south; in Vaduz, just to the east, in their midst. In Oberammergau, at their very edge, before descending to the plains on the road to Munich.

I first fell in love with mountains — real mountains, sharp peaks still snow-covered, serrated & silhouetted dark against a ridiculously blue sky — in 1994, in Jackson Hole, staring in awe at the Tetons all around, remembering mountains I’d carefully forgotten. In Idaho, in a sharp valley in the Sawtooth Range, the sun only visible for a few hours around noon, though the light lingered until near midnight. I tried to remember them. I wanted to remember them.

I first fell in love with mountains — having forgotten, again, for more than a decade — in 2005, above Denver, circling over the mountains on approach to the airport. In Longmont, staring in awe at Long’s Peak & Mount Meeker dominating the horizon to the west. In Rocky Mountain National Park, twelve hundred feet high already, staring at the Never Summers looming further west.

& then, as every time, I went ‘home’, back to humid, polluted, overcrowded Urbia Suburbia, otherwise known as eastern Pennsylvania, until I finally did the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, shoved everything I owned into a cargo container & into my lil car, & drove west.

The moment I saw mountains again, halfway across Colorado’s broad eastern plains, I had to pull over to cry.

I haven’t forgotten, not since that day.


[ This time the road stretches from the bottom right of the photo, off into the distance and around a wooded curve. To the left, snowy hills rise up to a serrated line of snowy peaks. ]

I spent four glorious, heartbreaking years in Colorado, healing, remembering how to breathe (not only metaphorically; turns out living in a steel town, in a house with a toxic waste dump for a basement, is … not good for lungs?), learning who I was. Who I am. Until someone I’d loved betrayed me, & I had to leave again.

I was away for three or four years, I don’t remember which, back in Appalachia, beautiful & ancient but never, ever quite high enough. & then finally I found my way back to my mountains. I could breathe again.

& then, because life goes in spirals, or at least mine does, I had to leave again. This time for New Mexico, which at least had some mountains, I could get up over ten thousand feet at Sandia Crest, & it was more than nothing. It was, at least, blessedly dry, blessedly uncrowded.

But it wasn’t right, & I missed my mountains.

After ANOTHER three years away, on a trip to Colorado for the first time in far too long, I caught my first sight of mountains, pulled over, burst into tears, & swore, ‘the next time I move to Colorado, I’M NOT LEAVING AGAIN’.

It wasn’t the cluebat that hit me. It was a great big gong, which also happened to be saying ‘oath accepted’.

In the words of kids these days … welp.


[ The road runs from lower left to upper right; an old wooden building anchors the very center of the shot. To the right, a bank of clouds with white peaks just visible; to the left, lower, more rounded mountains, with two high, sharp, snow-white peaks beyond them. ]

Which took yet another two years & a truly appalling amount of work. & even with that, it all happened faster than I could be ready for; but by the time we had to leave, I’d built Tyrava, I owned five acres of land, & most importantly, I wasn’t doing it all alone.

I live in Colorado again. WE live in Colorado. We see the mountains most every day — & when we don’t, it’s because there’s clouds (or dust) in the way. I’ve gotten past having the breath knocked out of me every time I see them — mostly — but I never get used to them.


[ Most of this shot is the road, a pair of headlights faint in the distance, light trails of windblown snow trailing across it. The road disappears into cloud and more snow in the distance, but much closer, at the very top of the shot, there’s still blue sky. ]

I hope I never do.

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