Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Moose alert

It may be a challenge to hike Lily Pad Trail today as it's snowing and 22 degrees this morning. Yesterday we woke up to snow that melted completely away by 2:00 p.m. followed by bright sunshine for about two hours before another snowstorm came through this time dropping big wet flakes that melted on contact with the ground. So this morning the wet ground had turned to ice making travel down the mountain a little slippery. I think autumn has passed and we are into winter.

Wait...I just saw three moose outside my window in the meadow below. I tried to get a few snapshots before they wandered away. There is a watering hole down there and occasionally you will see moose, or is it meece? These big creatures were nibbling from the tops of whatever shrubs are in the meadow. Now they've lumbered off back into the woods.

I wish sometimes that instead of experiencing wilderness through the comfortable home base of our condo we could instead be living more intimately with the natural world. It is almost embarrassing to make statements like, "We saw a red fox in the parking lot of the outlet mall in Silverthorne." How I wish I could get closer, not only to observe these creatures, but to feel them, their presence. I think that is why I like hiking. It is the closest I come to being part of the natural world. But again, I feel mildly frustrated and disappointed for being on a touristy trail that animals have long since avoided. I guess I'm taking baby steps, getting familiar with my surroundings until I feel confident to cut a wider swath.

All of us can envy the individuals who opt out of the rat race to live authentic lives in nature. It's just difficult to be a Thoreau when you have others depending on you. And even the naturalist writer, David Peterson, who for over 25 years has lived an almost monastic life in an isolated cabin in Colorado, admits to worrying about finances as he grows older and less physically capable. Maybe he wishes he'd earned a little money before he thumbed his nose at society. He may need health care and expensive meds in the years to come.

The key is balance. Maybe this temporary mountain vacation retreat away from my "real life" is as close as someone like me can get to living what Thoreau called a "border life," living as an intelligent balance as possible between the material and spiritual, nature and culture. From the comfort of my condo window I watch wildlife and imagine the world in the pines. Only on my hikes do I feel less a spectator and more a participant. Every time I walk my trail I grow more familiar with the landmarks. I meander through the boulder field, cross over two log bridges, pass the first beaver pond, ascend the flat ridge before the second lake, pass the resting spot where the Steller Jays have learned to scout for picnickers' crumbs, and when I see the crooked pine that Allison says looks like a chair in the middle of the path I grin because I feel we know each other now that I've named it.

I can only snatch little dreamlike insights into that world. What would it feel like to build your own home with your own hands with materials you scrounged from the woods? What would it feel like to retreat from the world and make a life among what in some ways is the true world? Like David Peterson, I inherently believe that the natural world is the only valid place for spirituality. But creature of the modern world that I am, I don't know if I could give up enough of the comforts of my world to be true to my true self.

I'll always romanticize the idea of living on the edge of civilization. Why some of us are drawn to the idea I could hypothesize endlessly. Why for some children do books like, My Side of the Mountain, and Gary Paulson's, Hachet make deep lasting impressions? For years after reading My Side of the Mountain, I dreamed about finding a hollowed out tree for which to hide out. Of course I would collect and make things to adorn my hideaway because I am a nester and decorator at heart. I'd have calico curtains, and a feather bed and carved pine table and soon I'd be venturing back to society to collect little improvements for my den and eventually I'd ruin the whole purpose of my retreat. Such is the allure of material things to a modern woman like me.

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