I'm pretty sure that Red sighed with relief when I backed her into the garage late Thursday afternoon, home again after going 4,680 miles in the previous three weeks. (And five of those days we didn't drive anywhere. That's an average of 275 miles per driving day, which doesn't sound too bad until you add it all up!)
The last leg of the trip, US 285 southwest from Denver to the Upper Arkansas Valley, was the slowest. It's mostly two-lane road, and the leaf-peepers were out in force because the aspen colors were at their height, as in the photo above, which I shot as we cruised (slowly) over Kenosha Pass, at nearly 10,000 feet elevation.
I didn't mind the slow folks, but some drivers did, and hip-hopped their way up the long lines of cars and trucks, passing in dangerous spots. I'd rather be patient and get there alive, thank you very much. Besides, it's easier to shoot good photos of the gold and orange mountainsides when you're going slower…
I've said that windshield time is fruitful thinking time for me. So what did I learn in all those miles and hours on the road?
That I love the inland West and its rumpled, lava-covered, faulted, eroded, folded, and up-tilted landscapes; its spare and wild and wide spaces.
Split Rock Historic Site, near Jeffrey City, Wyoming
And that I love them best in autumn, when the leaves are turning brilliant colors: the scarlet fire of bigtooth maples in Utah's Wasatch Front, the quaking aspen turning whole mountainsides gold and orange, the river-side boxelders and their lemon-yellow leaves. And the shrubs: smooth currant in blaze-orange, brighter than any hunter's vest; burgundy chokecherry, Woods' rose ranging from russet to rust; crimson red-twig dogwood, and lemon dogbane.
Scarlet groves of bigtooth maple on the mountainsides above Spanish Fork, Utah
The landscapes, the colors, the people I worked with, the time with my family; even the houndstongue and knapweed I dug out by the roots in Yellowstone on my 60th birthday reminded me of why I write, and why I work with plants. I love these landscapes, and I not only want to show others their mysteries and magic; I want to leave the places I touch in better shape than I found them.
My work in life is to weave we humans back into the fabric of this living world in a way that we can be useful planetary citizens, that we can feel like we belong here. My work is also to restore that living fabric of nature wherever I can. I use those metaphors of fabric deliberately, because I think of this earth as a global tapestry in the sense that we're all connected, all part of a living, breathing, pulsing web, an organic network that makes this planet the luminous place it is.
I came home to my front meadow in glorious bloom, and the flowers crowning the rabbitbrush here in the valley echoing the lush gold of the aspen blanketing the mountainsides.
Part of my front meadow–the gears are industrial relics Richard planned to use in sculptures
To tomato, cucumber and squash plants that needed harvesting and cutting back; a flood of emails and messages to respond to, and deadlines for workshops and webinars and writing.
And to the feel of change in the air: the change that is autumn, the time we harvest summer's fruits of all sorts and prepare for the coming winter; and also the changes I sense in my life path. I can't articulate those yet, but I know they are ahead.
This morning I woke to frost on the deck and crisp 30-degree-F air. The peaks were dusted with snow from the previous night's storm, and the aspen were brilliant against that white lace.
I spent the first half of the day doing fall clean-up in Monarch Spur Park, the pocket park and habitat garden I designed and helped create for the City of Salida 16 years ago, and the second half of the day working in my own yard. The time in the company of plants and people who take joy from these sun-powered beings soothed me and settled my spirit.
I feel ready for whatever is ahead, whatever lies beyond the bend in my life-path I cannot quite see now. And I am conscious of one other gift of all of those road-miles: I am happy to be right here, right now.
Blessings to you all!