Being alone with mountains and music

View of mountains at rest stop

I haven’t blogged much lately, and it’s not because I don’t have things I want to write. It’s that I don’t feel up to writing the layers of thoughts in my head. They are dense, and well, confused. They might not make much sense. But I’m gonna try. Forgive my ramblings in advance.

I just finished reading “Tracks“, by Robyn Davidson. I guess devour would be the more appropriate verb. Thanks to some magic algorithm on Kindle, I stumbled onto this book, and after finishing my binge of thriller/horror/post-apocalyptic stories by Blake Crouch (loving every minute, by the way), I decided I needed a little female, journey-based, introspective non-fiction. And boy, did I get it.

Seriously, I couldn’t put Tracks down. It’s rare that books have sentences that can gobsmack me from one word to the next, and have me moaning in pre-ugly crying dismay – “oh, no, no, no, no, nooooooo…” – at a moment I should have seen coming. I never gave a damn about camels, but now I will enjoy imagining them like the big, silly, 8-year olds the author likened them to. Like her, I got to the end of her journey and blinked –  that’s it? It’s done? Really?

The book was about a lot of things, but for me, it was a meditation on being alone. With a seemingly endless supply of supportive friends who always knew precisely what to do/say lingering on the fringes of the story (or the occasional perfectly placed foil of an enemy) this author trudged through the Australian desert bereft of human companionship, most of the time. She had camels and a dog to keep her company, but she seemed happiest with no humans nearby, when she was relying solely on herself to figure it all, every last thing, out.

That I related so strongly to this surprises me, because having just come back from a work trip where I spent considerable time pondering my need to be useful to others, one would think I was desperate for the affirmation of other humans. And sometimes, I am. More than 25 years after those traumatic junior high years, I still have to fight against that part of me that insists, when I’m not needed for an event or not invited to some shindig (that I really don’t want to go to, but it’s the invite that counts!), that it’s because no one likes me. I have never written this because I don’t want my parents to worry about me, but I do wonder, sometimes, what is so terribly wrong with me that I’ve not managed to land a nice man to help me carry the groceries (I can kill my own spiders and open my own pickle jars, thanks).

But then, I bristle, big time, at the implication that because I am “alone” (read: single) that I’m somehow deficient or worthy of pity. I also, sometimes, chafe against the need to work on a team, wishing I could just get it all done myself and not have to deal with the hassles of others. But then again, I love sharing a success with a team, so yeah, I’m a little confused in the head when it comes to this stuff.

But boiling it down to the essence, it seems that, on balance, I’m one of those who is ok with being on my own, with a healthy, completely essential dose of the people I care about sprinkled in there. To be honest, I’d better be ok with it, since that’s how I’ve lived most of my life, and if I wasn’t, I’d need therapy more expensive than this blog.

So I guess, having worked this all out in these last paragraphs, the other experience itching to be written about shouldn’t surprise me.

On the aforementioned work trip, I found myself driving alone from Denver to Aspen, CO. There were at least a dozen other staff members going the same way, but for some reason, no one else wanted my flight. This is not because I am unworthy; it simply worked out that way. See how mature I am about this? 🙂  Anyway, I was on my own.

I arrived in Denver and hunted down my bags and rental car, and struck out, heading west. Thanks to traffic, it took me nearly 5 hours to make what would normally be a 3.5 hour drive. The last 90 minutes were tough, driving through canyons and mountains in the dark, but those first 3+ hours, y’all…they were some of the best hours of my life I can remember recently.

Those who have traveled with me will probably agree that I am obsessed with views. Mountains, oceans, rivers, fields, vistas, cities from the top of skyscrapers…I will do a lot to find and soak up views. There is something almost holy about taking in great spans of space, absorbing the colors and textures of the world, and realizing how lucky I am to have the eyes and heart and means to see such sights.

The drive to Aspen was nothing but views. I felt, quite honestly, a little high as I sped up and down hills, through tunnels, past conversational signs warning truckers that no, the 6% grade wasn’t done yet. I was flying on the joy of what I was seeing, and on the sheer decadent pleasure of plugging my IPhone into the stereo system, hitting shuffle, and listening to the 2300 songs that track my history, in randomized order.

Around every corner, a new mountain.

An a capella song sung by a guy I had a huge crush on in college.

Trees so pointy and different from those I knew in Arkansas and here in New England.

A U2 song I was listening to the morning of 9-11.

Rock cliffs of red, grey, green, and brown patterns.

A tune from Phantom that my voice teacher in middle school used to make me sing, even though I swore I was an alto.

A violent, stunning pink sunset reflecting off wet pavement, nearly sending me into a canyon as I gaped in awe.

Johnny Cash, whom I came to love while living in Arkansas.

Beams of “god-light” spearing the clouds as the mountains turned to black shadows against the sky.

Random Canadian electronica from some show at Walton Arts Center.

Fighting the urge to take pictures while driving, singing at the top of my lungs, hitting the advance buttom when Christmas music came on or other songs didn’t strike my fancy…it was marvelous, perfect, wonderful, and I was totally, completely alone.

I loved every second of it.

Here’s the only photo I allowed myself while driving, and this was while stuck in traffic. It doesn’t do it justice. Sorry about that.

View of mountains through car windsheild

And I guess, when I think about it, I wasn’t really alone. I wished I could have shared the high, the beauty, with other humans, though I doubt they would have put up with my nostalgic sing-a-long. I would have shared photos on facebook if I’d had service at the rest stop at 12,000 feet. I knew I would blog about it, and hoped I’d be able to find the right words. So there’s the answer, like I said before. I can be alone, but I will bring those who matter along with me, and hope, at the end of the day, they value me enough to listen to my ramblings.

Here are a few more photos of Colorado, not from the drive, but they are still pretty amazing. Enjoy, and thanks for keeping me company.






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