Ah, Nature!

Knowing that I’ve been going through some emotional…challenges the last few months, friends both here and back East have sometimes asked if I plan to stay in Santa Fe. My first reaction is, “Of course! Why would I leave this place I love?” Yet the reality is, especially after my recent birthday and bouts of loneliness and missing friends and family, I’ve wondered if my staying is such a certainty.

One friend made a good point, if I were to leave: Activities that I’ve come to appreciate for the first time, or in a deeper way, or do on regular basis, they’re all part of me now. Along with the new attitudes and perspectives that might have come with them. I can enjoy them all back in CT or anywhere I live as much as I have here. And I think the biggest thing I’ve cultivated here and that will never leave me is a profound appreciation of the natural world.

Pretty good V, dudes

Pretty good V, dudes

Of course, there wasn’t much nature outside my door when I lived in Chicago. But there was plenty where I grew up; I just wasn’t particularly attuned to it, unless I was in high school and high and digging the clouds or the night sky or the sound of snow on the trees along the Connecticut River. Here, though, I think being surrounded by the mountains and a landscape so different from what I was used to has stirred a new curiosity about and connection to nature. I’ve hiked like never before, and camped for the first time in decades, and noticed the birds around me, and studied the multitude of stars, and it’s all been good.

Part of finding this inner Euell Gibbons comes from my photography, I think. So much is so new, I want to document and share it with distant friends. And part of it is spending time with people here who enjoy the outdoors, so being with them means sharing their pursuits. But they’ve become mine, too. Ten years ago, would I have set aside a beautiful spring afternoon for a four-mile hike by myself? Not a chance. Would I have slung my camera over my shoulder to look for pics to take on the road to the store (albeit a store 50 miles away)? No. Yet, as the photos here show, I did both of those in the last few weeks.

On the White Rock hike

On the White Rock hike

The hike was in White Rock, just outside Los Alamos. I went online and found a trail that I thought might offer a good view of the Jemez Mountains after a recent snow. It also led to an overlook above the Rio Grande. I almost turned back before I reached that spot, fatigue setting in, but I pushed forward. While the river was not so impressive a sight, the sound of birds caught my eye, leading to a nice pic of migrating cranes (or something; I said I see birds, I didn’t say I’ve learned what they are).

A UNM duck found, oddly enough, at Duck Pond

A UNM duck found, oddly enough, at Duck Pond

The trip to the store was a drive down to Albuquerque to hit the Costco and stop at the UNM campus. I got some shots at the school and then some of the scenery on the way back. The lighting was far from the “golden hour” photographers crave, and my time outside wasn’t long. Still, I reveled in the experience, as I do all my little jaunts outdoors.

And there’s more to come: a birding hike with the local Audubon Society this Saturday (wait—WTF, a birding hike?), an excursion to Chaco Canyon next month. And surely more during the rest of the year, as time and money allow, even though most of those trips will likely be alone.

On the way home

On the way home

The wide vistas and big sky (take that, Montana) were part of what drew me here. And it’s not like I have a sense that I have to see as much as I can as fast as I can, because who knows what the future holds. No, as I said, this deeper connection with nature has stirred something in me, even as the sound of the wind through the aspens and the call of the ravens and the sight of the peaks also bring an inner calm. So, yeah, it all feels a little spiritual. And as my friend said, that awareness of the power and serenity of the world around me will always be there now, wherever I call home.

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~ by mburgan on March 25, 2015.

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