Lost Creek Wilderness {November 2011}

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pawnee Buttes

I had originally made an attempt to post this entry a week ago – I thought I had been successful, I mean I swear I saw it a few days later, but apparently it disappeared? Anyway, I shall try again.


Pawnee Buttes

Northeastern Colorado doesn't particularly evoke images of idyllic campsites, nor is it a place where I'd prefer to spend much of my time - I've driven through the region en route to Indiana on multiple occasions ... there's nothing there! Well, that's not entirely true; it's the location of Pawnee National Grassland.

 

In the early 1900's, the now desolate towns of Keota and Grover were once booming as homesteaders and settlers migrated to the area in search of grazing land and farming opportunities. In 1918, the population of Keota peaked at 140 ... before the onset of a deadly influenza epidemic, several droughts, and frequent periods of inclement weather producing tornadoes, deep snows, and hail. Farms were literally blown away as this "Dust Bowl" area became a virtual desert.


A record amount of snowfall has found its way onto our mountains this year, which means that it's still too chilly to enjoy camping anywhere beyond the foothills. So, Justin and I (as well as our pup, Kona) traveled east to the grasslands on Mother's Day weekend in anticipation of warm weather and pleasant conditions. However, instead of warm, we found hot - I mean, above 80 degrees hot! It was also windy - as grasslands typically are. But, we managed to find an ideal windless campsite, and even a few splotches of colorful wildflowers on the yucca and cacti-studded terrain. Once the sun began to set, everything became unusually still ... I have never experienced a peace and quiet like it. We slept sans rain fly with a prime view of the stars above, and upon waking felt extremely refreshed and well-rested. Initially viewed as a lesser alternative to mountain camping, Pawnee is unique and desirable in it's own right and I do want to return when the landscape is just a bit more lush and green.




 


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Liberation

A few random, albeit important and somewhat profound, thoughts have been taking up space in my mind for the past few weeks now. I'd wanted to do each one justice (in the form of one blog post per thought), but time is not on my side while the MCAT looms over my head. So, this entry will serve as a forum for which the contents of my mind will arbitrarily pour out, giving no precedence to any one issue.


One. The world is too large. Until recently, I have perceived this to be an unfortunate yet undeniably true fact. A person may be well-read (that is, they have gotten their hands on a wide genre of reading material from varying fields of study, literary movements, and cultural backgrounds); well-traveled (they recognize value in the customs and heritage that define any given location, while also spending time in said location); or well-versed in music and art (they have acquired an appreciation for different styles, approaches and techniques). However, it is impossible for such a person to read every well-written book, visit every interesting place, listen to every great song, or see every beautiful piece of artwork; the world is simply too large. This fact is particularly true when we account for the not-so-good books, places, songs, and artwork that we encounter. So, what to do? Really, this isn't so unfortunate - it's liberating! The pressure is off to finish that huge stack of unread or unfinished books ... we must simply take our sweet time and thoughtfully explore each one we get a chance to pick up. More importantly, to me anyway, is the ability to take pleasure in each place we visit - to learn the culture, speak with the people, and allow ourselves to be transformed by the experience. I came across an NPR article about three weeks ago that I found to be an enlightening read. Not only did it address this anxiety of mine about the world being too large, but it opened me up to the idea of surrender (from which liberation naturally emanates). Enjoy!

The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything


Two. Osama bin Laden is dead. This concept is a bit hazy in my mind; I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet. The dominant emotion seems to be sadness ... but isn't that opposite of what nearly every other American is feeling in response to this news? Maybe. It's difficult to express ... I'm taken immediately back to 9/11 - to the firefighters, to the victims, to their families, and to our country. I feel sadness. Of course, I do believe this represents an important 'victory over evil' for America, but I want to be clear that it shouldn't be considered a victory built upon revenge. It's a victory steeped in pride, patriotism, and love for our country. Perhaps many of us will see this as a sort of closure, but the image of a man who was shot in the head for what he did will never evoke happiness for me, only sadness. 


Three. What is art? It was not until my freshman year of college that I noticed how much this question perplexed me. As a medieval studies major, I made my way through Gothic Art, Medieval Art, Northern Renaissance Art, and even Modern Art; I spent a large part of my time looking at and discussing artwork as well as visiting various museums and galleries. While I couldn't argue with the exquisite detail and obvious beauty in more classic works, I had every problem with modern art. I'd always thought of it as 'non-art' - most of the pieces appeared to be so simplistic that anyone could slap something together and call it art. What I had yet to learn were the influences behind the style - modern art is now fascinating to me. But, we can still ask what establishes art as 'art' ... Aesthetics? Skill? Creativity? Emotion? Truth? The artist's intentions? The viewer's perceptions? Who knows!? Arguments can be made for and against each of these characteristics, plus some. I guess the only thing I can say for sure is that art is by no means an absolute; there are not really objective criteria for which to judge. Just as each person perceives beauty differently, each piece of artwork will shout 'beauty' to some and 'ugh' to others. So, I am no closer at answering my own question; but I am also no longer perplexed by or concerned with it. Rather, I am merely happy that art exists in this world, and okay with the fact that I won't get to see most of it :) 


Four. On poetry. I came across the following words in one of my MCAT verbal passages the other day, and I think they're profoundly beautiful (thus, worth sharing). A bit on the random side, but somewhat connected with my discussion on the way artwork can be defined:


'There are many who are not gifted with the power of giving expression to the deeper sensibilities, who nevertheless experience them throbbing in their hearts. To them poetry appeals'


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wine, Food & Relaxation: the heart of Napa Valley

Despite three-hour long MCAT classes twice a week, and studying madly in between, I realize that I should briefly address my recent trip to the west coast (primarily through photos). The week can be described in a few simple words: wine, food & relaxation - everything a true vacation should be. We dined at world-class restaurants (including Bottega and REDD ... we decided to skip the notoriously overpriced French Laundry ...), tasted ridiculously good wine of many different grape varieties, and visited several interesting and unique vineyards during our stay in Yountville.


Domaine Chandon

Quixote Winery

Wine, cheese, olive oil, and chocolate tasting at Gabrielle's private estate & vineyard ~she also makes her own organic lavender products~

Napa Valley offered us a lovely time; I am happy to say that each visit to this region (November 2008 and now) left me feeling both refreshed and energized. From Napa, we drove through Sonoma and Point Reyes, where we opened a bottle of chardonnay on Limantour Beach, to San Francisco. Dan and Traci are doing so well, and little Bryce is the most adorable baby I could possibly imagine! It was such a treat to spend time with family that I don't see all that often :)


Enjoying a bottle of wine at Point Reyes National Seashore

Golden Gate Bridge

A gorgeous California poppy

California is a lush and beautiful place; I look forward to returning in June :)