Taking the Untaken, Exploring the Unexplored

MY wife, Laura, caught the 10:15 train to Boise, Idaho, and will be gone for a week. The people from the camp our daughter Juniper is going to were kind enough to pick her up at the train station, and she'll be away for two weeks, concentrating primarily on riding horses.Our younger daughter, Amanda, and I stopped at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins on the way home and watched the Overland Stage Company perform "Ivanna and the Rainbow Serpent." It was lunch on the sculpture garden terrace (bring your own lunch) with primarily children in the audience. The sun broke from behind the clouds, and it was hot. Pity the poor performers, who were dressed for their roles in more costumes than the day would have reasonably allowed. At first, I thought the performance was overacted and contrived. Not more than a minute later, however, I was caught, enraptured. Three performers with their costumes and a minimum of props (a walking stick, a wrapped piece of wood that represented a horse, a few streamers of crepe paper that represented the rainbow serpent, and the sunshine for rope, clouds, dogs, canyons, and bees) created the desert, a yurt, a camp, magic, adventure, and humor. It was a lovely story of a princess seeking adventure and romance but finding adventure and wisdom. I was glad I had crushed the subversively rising head of my adult busyness that tried to influence me to say, "We don't really have time to stop for that." So was Amanda. She stopped to compliment the actress who had been Princess Ivanna. I wanted to compliment all three performers, but I didn't intrude into the younger people's domain. I leaned on a speaker stand in the hot sun until Amanda was ready to go, and we drove up the mountain, home. And today, I continued the policy of stepping on subversive adult busyness. After all, part of the reason we transferred to this part-time position as ranch caretakers was so that we would have time to actually live, time to do things just for the fun of doing them. I said, "Let's go up to the ranch and see what there is to see." And we did. We saw deer. Horse tracks. Someone's horse was loose and had wandered a lot of country up here. We saw many birds. We saw a vulture close overhead. Amanda said, "They're pretty birds." And they are, you know. We crossed a small stream and walked up the trail, with an aspen grove on one side of us and granite rocks rising above us on the other side. We have had a lot of spring and early summer rain, and there are wildflowers everywhere. We walked into a profusion of columbines. Amanda stopped, startled, and I jumped to the side, momentarily mistaking her enthusiastic delight for alarm and reacting in alarm myself. She had discovered, close beside the trail, a columbine that she thought was mauve and I thought was blue. Every other columbine we saw was blue and white, or mauve and white. We didn't know if it were rare, but it was for the area where w e lived. We wished we had the camera along.

Up the trail a ways, Amanda pointed out the orange something that she had seen and had been puzzled by on an earlier walk. It was on the side of the hill facing us, several hundred yards away, and definitely not a natural color. We didn't have time to walk over and see what it was, since Amanda had to go to work, a switch on the usual structure of time and responsibility. We headed home. Amanda left to baby-sit. I watered the garden, made and ate four bean burritos, got the camera and binoculars, and went back up to the ranch. I'm pursuing a resolution to spend more of my life seeing and enjoying what is around me and less of it being involved with earning or trying to earn money and fulfilling busy adult responsibilities. I've let too many possible pictures and mysterious orange things go untaken and unexplored. It was a long way up to the ranch. When I got halfway there, clouds covered the sun. When I got to the columbine, there wasn't enough light to take a picture of it with the slow film I had in the camera. So I sat down and waited. The mosquitoes saw me as the local fast-food restaurant in the 30 minutes I waited for the sun to show through the clouds. When it did show through, it nicely backlighted the blue or mauve flower, and I took two pictures before the clouds moved in. Then I walked up the side of the hill until I saw the orange thing. I found it in the binoculars, but I still didn't know what it was. I kept looking at it as I walked along the hill, trying to see where it was in relation to a large granite formation and the dirt road that went up the hill across from me. Then it fell out of sight behind trees as I walked on down to the road and followed it up the facing slope.

I left the road and walked up through trees, past the point of the granite formation that I saw from the other side, until I saw orange ahead of me. I climbed rocks until I saw a flat orange rectangle fastened into the top of a pine tree that was not more than about 20 feet in height. I walked all around the area, looking for any indication of why the orange rectangle was in the tree. I found nothing. Clouds that had been dark in the western sky moved down from the mountain peaks to cover the rest of the sky, and wind rose. I followed the dirt road toward home. It was the shortest, easiest way. Rain came in the wind. The camera and binoculars were in a plastic sack. I arrived at home to find that Amanda had returned early. The light gave way to dark in the Rocky Mountains, and we agreed that it had been a good day. And the orange rectangle in a tree? I'm not going to try to find out what it is. I'm going to let it be a marker left by a space ship or something else of mysterious origin, unknown to man. That way it fits better that way into our days of unusual columbines, our days in which a few streamers of crepe paper swished back and forth in the air and became a r ainbow and a rainbow serpent, on which a princess and a wizard rode away to wisdom, to the everlasting freedom of imagination.

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