In 1986, I was heading from the coast of Peru inward to Ica through sizzling desert heat. I awoke from a restless nap on a blazing hot bus to witness the Andes in their full splendor rising from the desert floor like an archetypal goddess.
Moving, dancing, swaying in the hazy distance and the swirling sand, the dense, dark green foliage announced itself: Mother of Life. Cradle of Fertility.
Indeed, there is something primal, mysterious, and deeply feminine about these mountains. When I was sitting at 8,000 feet in an ancient ampitheater at sunset, I wandered away from my friends up a nearby hillside, where I sat down near the shadow of a giant boulder. On a whim, I stuck my hand under a little crevice at the foot of the boulder… and pulled out seashells.
Back in New York, I wandered among towering concrete mountains by day, and packed my bags at night, for I could not discover a deep enough connection to the soul of the place.
That’s really it, isn’t it? The soul of a place, like the soul of a person, has the power to touch something inside of us and like a tuning fork, we hear the message and either resonate with it — or not.
I never resonated with Connecticut, where I grew up. And I never resonated with the Jersey shore, where I tried to make a go of it for a time. And I never resonated deeply enough to want to stay in New York. But when I moved from the East Coast to Albuquerque several months later, I felt like I’d landed squarely on the moon. There was no concrete maze to block my view of the sky, like in New York. No tangling foliage to confound my sense of direction, like in Connecticut. No ocean breezes to moisten my lips, like the Jersey shore.
In the late 80’s, Albuquerque was a comparatively small-ish city that had somehow tumbled down the baked red hills of the Sandias, fell at her feet, and broken apart into lots of ugly little strip malls.
The first morning after my arrival, I opened my curtains to see giant hot air balloons everywhere. They were landing on the highway, in parking lots, and in empty fields. They hovered so low overhead in their bright slashing colors that I could hear the people in the baskets talking. They sailed the air currents so high and far I could barely see them. Overall, they filled the entire sky like an enormous pod of huge, floating whales.
So… not just landed on the moon then. Somehow I had landed over the rainbow and through the looking glass as well.
For an entire year, while I was studying at the Ayurvedic Institute, I lived on the moon, over the rainbow, and through the looking glass. Tumbleweeds, road runners, green chiles roasting in giant turn-styles by the roadside; braided Native Americans wearing feathers in their ears and around their necks, moccasins in shoe stores, and cottonwoods! Lord, the cottonwoods! Massive, mighty cottonwoods stretching overhead, and flittering Russian Olives; the Rio Grande, the Tram, Elaina Gallegos Park, and those mountains! Those magical, mystical Sandias turning to flame at sunset!
It took an entire year for that flame to catch inside of me, and it was a rough year at that. I’d given away all my winter clothes to move to the desert. Good grief! Do you know how bone brittling COLD the desert is at night?
Regardless, the flame did catch, and my vision cleared. My perception changed. Somehow, the spirit of the place had challenged me, found me persistent, and then opened out in a sublime welcome that I will carry with me for as long as I live.
I began to cherish the way life grows small and secret and close to the earth in the scrubby sagebrush. I began to revel in the wide open sky above my head —to see in all directions an ongoing ocean of ever changing moods in subtle peaches and teals. I began to appreciate the raw power of a landscape that hadn’t been plowed a thousand ways into submission.
In short, the spirit of this small-ish, ugly, rambling city had taken me into its heart, and its spectacular, flame-red mountains became my mountains.
And they still are.
These days, however, I make my home along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. From the big picture window in my dining room — and many other places in my home and on my property — I have a direct view of the Flatirons, in all of their jagged, shadowy moods.
These are hard, masculine mountains that challenge men to climb them. They command respect, and don’t care if you get their message or not. They are indifferent, and I’ll tell you why…
If you drive straight up the side of these mountains, your ears will pop about ten different times until you come to a highway called the Peak to Peak. There is a certain place (I’m sure there are many “certain places,” but this is the one I know) where, if you park your car and make your way through the trembling, golden aspen groves, then scramble up a slope so steep you’ll mostly be struggling on your hands and knees until you get to the top… you will come to a small area of delicate, alpine tundra with tiny, wind-twisted juniper trees.
The air up here is faint, for you’re over 10,000 feet, but it is beyond clear! Beyond bright! And when you turn around and gaze to the south, there before you is the full majesty of the entire Rocky Mountain Range, and you are standing on the top of the world in a supremely elegant, high frequency that makes you realize that God is not only very, very real, but very, very present.
The Silence of this place hushes you. It humbles you. And it makes you realize why the tough, jagged foothills below are so indifferent.
They know very well the frequency they carry. They know very well that you and your glorious schemes and doings and self importances are essentially… irrelevant.
If home were a mountain, the Sandias have certainly captured my heart. In fact, my heart is probably in their very shape and likeness. But somehow, I have still chosen these Rockies, these tough, indifferent mountains that also carry a frequency that is profoundly sacred and ultra-fine. Because the spirit of this place reflects most closely my own spirit’s true home.