8/05 — Visiting Colorado…

Of course I took almost no pictures. Do I ever remember? (Okay, yeah, sometimes I do.) But it was a good trip.

I’ve missed Colorado. I’ve missed my mountains. I miss the beautiful dry, I miss the deep blue of the sky, I miss the cottonwoods and the clean clear air. I miss my people. It was good to be there for a little while.

I had a bunch of fun on the way there (and here’s an example of me being a geek) watching the altimeter on my GPS. Here in Knoxville I’m at just short of a thousand feet above sea level, and by the time I hit Longmont I’m a little over 5000 — but where does the altitude rise happen?

Turns out it’s all in the western half of Kansas and the eastern half of Colorado. Before that I ranged from 300 to 2500 feet — and back down, crossing over the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. But round about the middle of Kansas, those long rolling hills started rising higher and higher and higher, and over the course of that third day on the road I went up most of that 5000 feet.

My mountains.

I’m always eager for my first sight of the mountains. This time there was a storm over Colorado Springs, so it was later than usual — but it was clear over Denver, so after I made the big turn north on I70 they came into sight.

To the tune of ‘The White Tree’ from the Return of the King soundtrack, some of the most awesomely dramatic music ever. Go ahead and have a listen — start around, oh, two minutes in; the mountains came into view right at 2:36. Just sit there and think about that for a moment, look at the picture I’ve posted there of the Front Range. Breathe that.

I realized two things right around that point. The first was that I was crying so hard I couldn’t see so well. And the second, once I’d dashed some of the water out of my eyes, was that I was going about 95. And accelerating.

…so I just pulled over for a little while, and sat and watched them, my mountains, that I’d missed so much.

Your mountains?

I don’t claim that I own them. They’re my mountains in somewhat the same way that Loiosh is my cat. They don’t belong to me. I belong to them, and with them. It’s been far too long.

Even just a few months after I moved to Colorado, I was theirs — I wrote this after a brief visit back to Pennsylvania, almost five years ago now:

Colorado is home. I missed it the whole time I was in Pennsylvania. Sure, I missed my friends; I missed my cats and being in my place but most of all I missed Colorado; the clean clear air and the snow and the low rolling hills rising up the the mountains o gods the mountains, always just there. I could feel them not there on the East Coast, like a physical ache.

Sit and think, for a moment. Most of the time, nagging just below your conscious thoughts, there’s a need or two. I need to pee, I need to eat. I need to sit down because my feet hurt. I need a drink of water and something to put on my chapped lips. I need to go home.

Highest on my list was the need to go home.

I knew Colorado was home already, mind you. I’ve known for twelve years now that home was somewhere in the west, somewhere with dry air and mountains. I forgot it from time to time. For years at a time, until I came out here again summer before last. I remembered…and I put the remembering away, because it wasn’t going to happen. Clearly.

And now? I’m here. I’m home. And I didn’t truly know it until I left it. From the moment I touched ground in Philly, I needed to go home. I felt as if I could point west without looking (I couldn’t; I tried). I mistook cloud banks for mountains (and then got grumpy when I was wrong). I did get used to the extra oxygen quickly enough, but I didn’t get used to either the extra humidity or the pollution. I coughed from when I got off the airplane in Philly to when I got home to real air.

And…none of that is more than symptoms. I ached to be home. And now I’m home, and it’s just as good as I remembered it being.

It was good, for a little while, to be home.

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