I am susceptible to bouts of periodic hope, despite the way the world presents itself in the news, despite my sleepless nights thinking about global warming.
Hope is pervasive, invasive even. It has a way of pushing through, like shoots of grass between the cracks in the sidewalk.
Aspen, where I am spending the week, seems to brew optimism, along with the cannabis shops and breweries, the art galleries, bear statues and wandering musicians.
In the afternoon, I explore the valley, following rocky pathways alongside a rushing stream, the famous Aspen trees turning brilliant hues of yellow, shifting in the breeze. An almost religious fervor wells up inside of me, the moment steeped in natural beauty. Dizzy from the altitude and the beauty, I want to lie down in the meadow and stare at the sky, watch the tree tops bend in the breeze, and the hovering rain clouds move in.
Burry me here, I think. And I’m content. But my man awaits, and I rise and follow him down the dusty pathways, accompanied by impish chipmunks and a buzzing hummingbird. I feel like Disney’s sleeping beauty wandering the forest, picture them adorning me with acorns and ribbon.
After we arrive in town, sipping cider at an outdoor pub, our table balancing precariously on cobblestones, I people watch.
A little girl wanders the square, walking from tree to tree – Aspen, oak, pine. She examines each one closely, looking up and down the tree, poking the indentations, the places the tree has succumbed to life, the circles and ripples, running her small fingers up and down each tree. Then the young scientist stops and wraps her small arms around their trunks, leaning in, resting her cheek upon the bark. She inhales the scents and rests.
She has a red windbreaker on, not unlike the one I remember sporting at her age. I suddenly remember being her, age four, leaping from rock to rock in natural forests. Building tiny houses for the chipmunks. Twirling in meadows.
I’m grateful, so grateful in this moment, for my parents’ endless efforts, bringing me from one end of the country to the other, with their small budget and a heavy personal load. We travelled from the everglades to the lakes in Maine, from the Adirondacks, the Rocky Mountains. We went to the places where the main event of the day was the sunset. I’m awed at their determination – climbing on sail boats, spiking the tents, hitching an old trailer to the station wagon. They taught me that the limitations were only as real I permitted them to be. And the absolute importance of climbing mountains.
In the evening the rain descends, leaving the town misty and clean by the time we emerge from dinner. We breathe in the fresh damp air, a combination of wet wood, dirt, stone, and fallen leaves. The earthiness of fall.
I look for the little girl, the young tree hugger, but do not find her. I regret not speaking to her earlier.
I should have kneeled down, looked right into her baby face as she released one tree and headed off to the next and said “Good job, young explorer. Keep doing this, Keep on seeking love in nature. Keep exploring the way things stretch and grow. Keep embracing anything with roots. Keep your arms wide open to the world. You will be blessed by the grace of trees.”
I’ll look for her tomorrow.
Aspen. Standing in the shadow of the mountain, hints of sanguinity drifting with the yellow leaves in the breeze.
I breathe it in.