I know what set John Denver’s Muse to whisper that line in his ear one day: Serendipitously hearing the prehistoric lowing of a sedge of Sandhill Cranes, wings beating languidly heavenward on some unexpected afternoon just before spring. Erie. Resplendent. An exclamation point in an otherwise ordinary day.
There’s something truly magical in bearing witness to the pulses of the planet—rhythms predating the human footprint by millennia. When the play unfolds above a landscape so completely altered by humanity that even the trees and plants appear as foreign bodies, well, you count your blessings.
Today was just such a diamond, leaving Rag’s and I chuckling about how absurd the whole of human existence is in the vastness of Gaia’s biological history. There, right above us, was an annual migration that had ebbed and flowed millions of times before. Yet, humanity fails to grok the magic unfolding in the skies above—if it did, traffic would come to a standstill and the buildings would empty, as all lean back to marvel.
Here’s hoping more of us begin to look up and listen.
In this ancient stretch of earth
our lives blink,
brief as the lace of snow.
richly buried in shadowed soil,
a watered fern,
a river rock, glowing soft
in the ground,
such power I can scarce believe.
lapped from your mouth,
swallowed in wonder
and borne out as
muscle and bone.
You are the strength
of my hands.
This is Copeland Falls. It is the aorta, nestled deep in the magical heart of Wild Basin, a green corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. This past Autumn we spent nearly every weekend exploring and falling madly in love with Wild Basin and in particular the fantastically alluring North St Vrain Creek. It travels purposefully through the basin, carving granite bedrock like butter, tumbling over boulders the size of small houses and in Autumn of 2013, jumping from its well-behaved course to drag trees and rocks downstream from the heights and wash over the trail like a wild-assed banshee.
This past weekend we went to Wild Basin to snowshoe – it is a different place entirely. Resting quietly from Summer’s assault, ice and snow covers everything. The chatterbox St Vrain still murmurs to itself on its way – but under a glass prism of ice. Bubbles moved like lava in a lamp under the ice lens and a snowball thrown in the open water upstream shoots out of the falls a little downstream like a bullet from a gun.
The ouzel was not in his usual place. It’s hard to swim under water when a good bit of it is frozen. Still, it’s interesting to consider the little mouse-bird paddling under the ice as if it were in a subway tunnel, shooting out like a wack-a-mole when the water opens up for air.
Even the parts of the trail where the naughty, ill-contained creek dropped rocks and chewed away footing are remarkably smoothed by the patient packing feet of hikers, traveling like sheep over ten or twelve inches of snow deposited during the last weeks. The path is ice-glazed, then sanded with fallen needles and blown granite gravel, which provides a pretty decent avenue for walking. The photographer foolish enough to step off of the packed snow finds out soon enough that there has been precipitation aplenty, as even the softest step plunges the unsuspecting foot into snow well over the knee.
The images from this little foray are quite different from the ones above. The heart of the basin is the same though whispering in our dreams and filling the thoughts when our minds are off on a journey of their own. I’m using the first image as my iMac wallpaper now, and can hear the wild laughter of the unruly St. Vrain.