July 27, 2010
It’s hot! Temperatures during the day vary as much as 45 degrees. I awaken to 55 degrees and by noon it is in the mid-nineties. By late afternoon storm clouds have gathered and I begin to worry how severely my car will be damaged by golf ball size hail, should mother nature get nasty.
I find the landscape in this area similar to the temperature; incredibly unpredictable. Recently I have been leaving town to get in my daily walk. I am fortunate that I have many places to walk and explore at the same time. It is amazing to me that within a 5 mile radius I amble next to verdant pastures sloping gently upward into stately pines and craggy rocks beneath towering peaks. In the opposite direction, barely green pastures compete for moisture with copious cacti in rugged terrain.
What amazes me the most is how quickly moisture evaporates. Dirt roads made wet with rain showers during the night smell fresh and clean. By the time I am back in my car heading home, clouds of billowing dust trail behind me.
The landscape of my childhood consisted of gently sloping acres sectioned off into 40, 60, and 120 acre lots, which produced wheat, corn, oats, flax, barley, alfalfa and hay. This holds true for the northern states in general. I have always seen land used in the production of food.
I have had to adjust to the beautiful, but very rugged terrain in Southern Colorado. There are no verdant fields producing crops. Instead, semi-parched pastures sustain cattle dodging cacti and huge rocks as they graze. It seems to be too barren, too brown, too dry. It is impossible to till this region. It will never submit to a plow.
Although I appreciated its intrinsic beauty when I first arrived, it didn’t resonate with me like the pastoral scenes I am accustomed to when traveling in northern climes. It was lacking something I could not quite put my finger on until recently. Where was the serenity in this landscape? Cacti are not exactly soothing to the eye.
Taking a few detours to a meeting in Westcliff, the wild, untamed beauty of the land, began to pop up all around. All the prickly cacti that seemed the worse for wear, were alive in a riotous display of bright pinks, brilliant magentas, and yellows, ranging from lemon shades to deep apricot tones. I couldn’t help but smile and feel giddy. It was as if the cacti festooned the pastures for their annual summer gala.
For the first time I found myself deeply appreciating the harsh beauty of Southern Colorado. The unexpected magic show combining exquisite beauty with menacing thorns is truly a wonder to behold. Reminds me of a few people I know. Lovely to look at but dangerous to get close to.