Saturday, September 16, 2006

The view from here

Summit County got a mix of rain, snow, a little light hail, and intermittent sunshine all in one day. At once the sky would be dark and the mountaintops obscured in misty clouds. Then the snow flurries would begin, but the flakes would melt on contact with the earth. Then the sun would peek through like a second sunrise and the valley would glisten like after a good rain, but you'd see that the mountain-tops had been well dusted with snow. It was a bit confusing.

Robert arrived Friday and is suffering that huffing-puffing condition caused by high altitude. We are over 9,000 feet. Allison and I are already adjusted; I'm trotting up stairs at this point. I have to remember to take it easy on Robert until he catches up, although I'm anxious for a hiking mate. We did get out today for the Parade of Homes. We put on the blue paper booties like all the other droolers and toured through several beautiful homes in the prestigious "Three Peaks" until hunger and thirst and "there's something we'll never have," overtook us and we went for lunch instead. We sat at a table near the window in the Butterhorn Cafe in Frisco and watched as the wind whipped snow off the mountains down the long corridor of Frisco's Main Street. Robert commented that I had a permanent smile on my face. Truth is, we were all in high spirits; an involuntary reaction to being in the midst of such charm. Charming now. Maybe months from now, as the weather grows harsher, so will our attitudes. Hope not.

I'm reading John McCain's memoir, "Faith of our Fathers" and feeling very humbled. There's a man who knows what it means to believe in America. Having survived being a POW in Vietnam, I believe he has unquestionable authority on what it means to be loyal to an ideal. His long, torturous imprisonment brought him more than despair; it brought him to a greater truth--that there is glory in the act of being constant to one's principles, to the belief in something greater than oneself. For him that was America and what it stands for: Freedom. It was living without that freedom in a hell-hole in Hanoi that made him fall in love with his country, he writes. "...I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn't until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her."

I'm humbled for obvious reasons, but mostly for never having had my loyalty put to a test. Most of us never will. In many ways he was given a gift--conviction that comes through being put through the fire. To shamelessly believe that America was stronger, better and more virtuous than its enemies is what kept men like John McCain from giving in. I wish more people would remember the greatness of America and what it should stand for. "It was what freedom conferred on America that I loved the most--the distinction of being the last, best hope of humanity; the advocate for all who believed in the Rights of Man."

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the better men and women than me, the ones who aren't around to sit in a cafe eating a croissant watching snow fall from the mountains.

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