A River Drives Through It

Wednesday morning, we loaded the dogs in the car for a jaunt back down to Monument—a thousand feet away in altitude, but a three-hour drive in distance. The tough part about moving far, but not very far, from our old home is that we think we can “run errands.”

Driving past the glittering waters edged in crystalline pines, we could have been the sole survivors on a peaceful morning, years after an apocalyptic event traveling on horded fossil fuels. We were insular, music and each other. Who needed the world?

In the first small town, a few cars passed from the other direction, and we stopped for lattes. Berthoud Pass bridged us to the other world—I-70, brake lights, a downhill slide into the murky inversion layer smothering Denver.

By the time we were surging, rubber band snaps of start and stop outside of Castle Rock, I realized I was seeing my former life through new eyes. Mt. Herman was a gentle slope and Pikes Peak was rounded majesty like a chubby cousin to the sharp crags surrounding our new home.

The landscape that had once opened my heart, this time, seemed like a perfect picnic, a cornucopia of verdant plenty, overrun by ants.  I couldn’t know that my sustained, if very short, sojourn in a little more rural and rugged part of Colorado would have this effect on me.

The traffic was the defining difference. Despite the contrasting blue skies, strutting elk, and pine-lined trails of my new home, it was the presence of all the cars, not the absence of these finer points of beauty, that did me in back on the Front Range.

The flow of driving runs its own narrative, a fiction formed by the non-fiction around us.  When the white Volvo held up six cars behind it, I imagined how her small world was, and surely more important than the thirty people involved in the small drama playing out in two northbound lanes. The little Subaru Impreza that tortoise and hared around us with disregard for safe space was also oblivious to the rest of us, texting and driving her way for 45 miles of our journey. In the absence of parallel driving at my new home in the high country, I had forgotten how much we, as modern humans, only care about ourselves. Everyone else should bend to our wishes.  People aren’t less selfish up here, I just don’t witness that self-centeredness on a daily basis.

Now I wait for the fiction that unravels from full-moon nights laced with gliding deer and hung with lingering coyote howls. I wait for the breathless moment when a stand of trees unbends into the regal step of a bull elk or the transformation when river willows raise their branches and become the massive-palmed, knob-kneed, awkward-grace of a moose. I wait until the automobile river becomes full light-years away.

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