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A River Does Run Through It

Posted in: Blog by admin on September 23, 2010

July 12, 2010

As I sat on the airplane, departing from Aspen’s airport, tears streamed down my face. My friend Jill, who had just spent three days hiking, exploring and relaxing with me, asked if I was okay. I didn’t even know why I was crying, and I was unable to articulate what I was feeling. I think that the power of the mountains and the beauty of Colorado had just proven to be so much more powerful than I.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Aspen over the years, and every time I still walk around awe-struck by its beauty. I wonder if I annoyed Jill with my constant jaw-dropped reactions. The rushing rivers, the majestic mountains, the white-barked Aspen trees — there was so much beauty all around me, and I consistently felt overwhelmed by it. I spent much of this brief visit to Aspen absorbing every ounce of beauty that enveloped me. It is something that I can never take for granted. I remember how I felt 20 years ago when David first introduced me to this magnificent city, and I still have that same feeling today when I stand on the balcony of my hotel room, when I walk by a rushing river, when I drive up to the Maroon Bells, when I hike up Aspen Mountain. Beauty. Peacefulness. Power. Strength. And more intoxicating beauty.

There is something about this place that intimidates me, as well. And, I think that has something to do with those tears. It forces me to be so present. I can’t stand there amidst such spectacular beauty and not notice it. I can’t think about something else. I can’t worry about tomorrow. I can only be in the now. There’s no other choice. However, at the same time, that entrancing backdrop does force me to consider my place in the world, my purpose, my path, my journey. The fact that I currently am uncertain about the direction of my journey is certainly a contributing factor to those unexpected tears. What do I want? Where do I want to be? Am I eager to go back home? Do I belong in the mountains? Am I displaced? Have I made the right choices in my life? What is my next step?

The tarmac at O’hare doesn’t do this to me! It never encourages me to think, to reflect, to consider, to challenge, to change.

I love that about Colorado. And, I hate that, too. It’s a paradox for me. It keeps me awake at night. It lulls me to sleep during the day as I sit by the pool. It makes me feel so peaceful, and it shakes me up at the same time.

Maybe that’s precisely it … I am forced to feel the dichotomy that is this city, that is life, that is me. It can all be so simple, so beautiful and so very peaceful. Then, there is the rushing river, slicing through all of that quiet. There is the water crashing on the rocks. There is that shout in my belly that wants to erupt.

But, what does it want to scream?

Where do I want to be?

And, what about my cherished philosophy of simply being in the now?

Of course, I can’t come up with those answers right now, nor do I want to. I want my path to meander before me like the trails I explored in Aspen. I didn’t know what snapshot of nature was awaiting me. I didn’t know how much longer we had to climb before we reached our goal. I didn’t even know what our goal was as we didn’t care if we made it to the top of the mountain or not. Aha … That’s it! Without set goals, it’s more challenging to keep climbing. If we knew that our hike was complete in just five more minutes, then maybe we would have felt a sense of relief or comfort or peace. We would have better known how to calculate our pace. But, we didn’t know. And, we don’t know. And that makes the journey both unnerving and inspiring.

I don’t know where I want to be. I don’t know if I belong in Chicago or in Aspen. I don’t know where I’ll be in a year, in a month, in a day. I didn’t know if Jill and I would make it to the top of Aspen Mountain or decide that we prefer to climb half-way up and then head back down. I don’t know!

And isn’t that the true beauty of the mountains? Their range is so vast. Their beauty is so captivating. Their possibility is so endless. The mountains that is. Life that is. They are synonymous to me right now. They were on the runway. And, that is why I was struck by emotion. The journey was swallowing me and carrying me at the same time. I felt encouraged and anxious. Awakened and sleepy. Aware and terrified. Carefree and worried.

By the time we ascended to the clouds, I let the plane ride remind me of my favorite thought … to just be. The seatbelt sign was illuminated, and there was nowhere for me to go. So, I looked out the window at the clouds and the mountains and the beauty. I wiped away my tears and accepted where I was at that moment: Right there. Right now. Right here.

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