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Desktop Backgrounds

As I was organizing my picture files last weekend, I chose a new desktop background for my home computer. I have a bright 22″ monitor that gives each image maximum impact. My previous background photo and the new one are very different, and every time I turn on my computer I am struck by the difference in the emotional impact each one has on me. The previous picture was a view of the red rocks of Roxborough State Park against the bright green of early summer last year. It is an image of light and life, and my spirit filled with joy at its beauty.

The new background I chose is a sunset image of the view from my parents’ front porch in Patagonia. I had several pictures where the sky was aflame with intense oranges and fuscia, but I chose a broad view with less intense colors. Now when my monitor lights up I feel all my tension drain out, flowing across the wide valley to the distant mountains and calmed by the pastels of the sky.

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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Photography

 

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The People I Never Really Knew

In spite of their lifelong determination to live surrounded by nature rather than people, my parents attracted a rich variety of friends. When I was growing up the crunching of tires on our gravel road usually signaled a chance to sit in our sunny living room and listen to conversations that I now realize exposed me to experiences and ideas far beyond what most young people encounter. Mountain climbers came from all over the world to see the workshop where some of their favorite climbing gear was made. Grandparents, great aunts, and cousins came from New York, Michigan, and Idaho to spend a few weeks in the fresh air. Our most frequent visitors were the Hanssons and Metcalfs, two families who had met at Antioch College. They brought the world of universities, business, psychiatry, and wildlife management. Colorado’s first state botanist, Hazel Schmoll, ran a guest ranch just down the road from us.Local sheriff Roy Fling and his wife Goldie lived log cabin down the road decorated with white antlers that stood out starkly against the dark wood. They regaled us with tales of mountain rescues and Roy’s efforts to keep the peace as hippies, old mining families, and summer visitors intermingled.

Part of my experience of reflecting on Mother and Dad’s lives has been to realize how fascinating all these people are and how little I know them. As a child I took them all for granted. They fit into the context of my world, but I never wondered about the wholeness of their lives. The first time I realized this was when, in my early twenties, I realized that my Great Aunt Florence, who played a big part in my mother’s upbringing and sometimes brought me presents from her overseas travels, would be a very interesting person to get to know as an adult. I tried to visit her one summer, but she was out of town and she died before I had another chance. The more Mother has shared with me about her, the more I regret not knowing her better.

Today I started to write an entry about my father’s guitar playing. It was family friend Dolores LaChapelle who got him started, and I decided to try to contact her. I remember Dolores as a tall, warm, earthy woman with a long thick braid of hair hanging over her shoulder. She and her son Randy (later known as David) spent a few summers with us in Colorado while her husband Ed followed the ice and snow to Alaska. I also remember visiting them in Alta, Utah in the winter. Their home was a small chalet up the hill across the valley from the ski area and accessible in the snow only by a rope tow. Visits were warm and friendly and permeated with the smell of damp wool and warm ski wax. They had a howitzer on their front porch which Ed used to shoot down potential avalanches before the lifts started up in the morning.  A bit of Internet searching placed these personal memories in the context of three influential lives. Dolores wasn’t just someone who played the guitar and served us hot chocolate when we came in from a day in the snow. She was an internationally known pioneer in powder skiing technique, a scholar, a researcher, and a philosopher. Her husband wasn’t just a guy with a job keeping the ski slopes safe. He was a scientist who studied snow structure and glaciers and a pioneer in the development of the avalanche beacon. And their son Randy/David who was just a kid my age who shared my love of the outdoors when we were growing up made a name for himself as a wilderness guide and writer, following his mother’s deep love of and connection to the earth. And they are all gone. The Internet told me that, too. Dolores died in February, 2007, active until the end. Ed died just a few days after attending her memorial service. David died in the summer of 2009. Just like that, they are all gone, and I will never have a chance to sit and talk to them and get to know them outside the lens of childhood.

All this makes me grateful for the people from my childhood that I have spent time with as an adult. Meg Hansson, an astute businesswoman with a warm heart that welcomed a parade of exchange students into her home when I was young welcomed me into her home when I moved back to Colorado almost fifteen years ago. I call or visit her several times a year and through our conversations I have begun to fill in the context of many lives from my childhood. I have also spent time with Dad’s army buddy Bob Swartz and his wife Dorothy, and Stan and Ginny Boucher, old climbing friends of my parents. The memorial services we held on our old mountain home brought other people from my childhood into my adult life. As I close this entry (guitar playing will have to wait) I remember a promise I made to another family friend that since my last two phone calls to her were to bring the sad news of my parents’ deaths I would call her again just to talk. She lives on the West Coast, so it’s still early enough.

 

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Roxborough Park II: Cameras slow your heart but fill your soul

Saturday (June 19) was our TNT hiking team’s week off. I went back to Roxborough with my camera. Hiking in  a group, even a very compatible group, isn’t conducive to photography. Stop for just one picture and suddenly you’re huffing and puffing, trying to catch up. By myself I confirmed that cameras slow your heart rate, expecially in a place and at a time of year so full of beauty. There was never a long enough stretch without a potential picture to get my heart rate up. However, what I lost in cardio workout I gained in the renewal of my soul. In fact I stayed out twice as long as I intended.

Now if only I could figure out how to control the images on this blog, I could rotate the ones that are sideways. I guess you will just have to turn your head:

 

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Cameras Slow Down Your Heart Rate

The trail I have been using for my morning walks runs along a ridge, with plenty of ups and downs. I’ve been  stopping at a fence that crosses the trail and turning around, giving me a total hike of about 50 minutes. For the past few days I have been stopping occasionally to check my heart rate. Each time it has been right in my target range so I’m feeling pretty good about my training. This morning I took my camera along to take pictures of some ocatillo along the way. An ocatillo is basically a spray of long spiny wands topped with crimson flowers reminiscent of spindly Indian paintbrush. The trail looks slightly down on the flowers, making them stand out against the hazy blue of the gully beyond.

With camera in hand, my view of my surroundings changes. Long before I reached the stand of ocatillo my photographer’s eye found several other bits of nature to capture. (I would upload some of them, but Dad’s computer doesn’t seem to recognize my SD card.) It took me an hour and ten minutes to go the same distance as my previous hikes, and every time I checked my heart rate it was below target. I now have proof: cameras slow down your heart rate.

 
 

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The Empty House

It’s evening now and outside is nature’s quiet slightly punctuated by awakening night birds, and a distant barking dog. Since I arrived on Saturday this house has been filled with talk: making decisions, sharing memories, exclaiming over objects we had forgotten ever existed. Now it is so quiet. David and Jeanne have flown back East to resume their travels for another month or so before returning to work on getting this place ready to sell. Peter is off at a meeting for the evening. Now is the first time I have really experienced the absence of Mother and Dad in this beautiful earth-sheltered freeform concrete dome that they built over the course of thirty years. Yet I am not overwhelmed with grief the way I thought I would be. It feels a bit sad, but the beauty around me is such a legacy to two lives well lived. My greatest hope is that we can find a buyer who will honor this legacy as well as the wonderful couple who now owns the Colorado mountain home that I grew up in.

 

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