Saturday, June 27, 2015
Woods and water
On our trip to Colorado last week, we took a scenic drive in a northwesterly direction from Colorado Springs, where we stayed for the first two nights. The road took us along the Platte River, which is quite high right now after a wet winter and spring. When it was time to stretch our legs, we stopped near a pretty clearing overlooking a branch of the river. It was a short walk from the roadside down to the water. Fallen trees stretched across the stream and the water was actually fairly deep, but those logs beckoned. The small Bears balanced on the logs and did a pretty good job. Four feet got good and wet but nobody fell in. It was good for them; they don't get a lot of precarious water-play down here in New Mexico. The Bear stayed close by, which allowed me to explore a little.
I don't often have much time alone in the outdoors, but it's something I've always enjoyed. We live in the city and I take myself to the park sometimes, but real, honest-to-goodness wilderness isn't a big part of my life anymore. I miss it. This day was a good chance to walk around, get my own feet a little wet and muddy (I had sneakers on), scope out wildflowers and gaze at the trees, staring up into the boughs of old-growth cedars and pines. There were butterflies everywhere, sipping water from the marshy grass, flitting away too quickly for me to photograph them. But I can tell you there were butterflies of nearly every color: white, blue, orange, brown, yellow, red and black. There were bees and dragonflies. It was like a fairy tale forest and with my family busy playing, I had it all to myself.
We gathered for lunch after a while, once the small Bears had begun to get clumsy on the logs, their feet soaked and their faces red with the heat. We spread a blanket on the ground under a huge, shady pine and we ate. There were bagels, yogurt cups, bananas and apples, water in Nalgene bottles - a simple meal, easy to pack and transport. Everyone liked it well enough. Then we all lay on the blanket and rested, looking up into the trees, listening to the birds and watching vehicles pass on the road nearby - campers, massive pickup trucks, motorcycles. I almost fell asleep once or twice. It was quiet and peaceful, the air was fresh, scented with pine, and the shade was cool. We're not fancy-vacation people - give us a hike, or a cave tour, or a museum, and we're very happy. That day, it was a meandering drive in the pine forest, with a stop for play and a picnic. It felt relaxed, unhurried, connected to the place we were visiting. To me, that's exactly how vacation should feel.
We moved on after a couple of hours. I said goodbye, right out loud, to the wildflowers, the pine cones, the burbling water and the trees. My children gave me a funny look but then they joined in; we were grateful for our time there, so glad we had stopped in the clearing by the side of the road where water glinted through the trees.