Put on all my woolies and we rode up.
From away, home looked really close.
I could see every part of its safety:
rigid structures holding the line between
higher income and low, our covenant-controlled,
chain-stores-for-every-need town, with
improbable signs warning “no cruising between
9 PM and 4 AM,”
the home of our medium class.
On the mountain we are in another country,
colder by a good 40 degrees, brashly wild as winds,
not breezes, whip through pines taller than most buildings down in our town of horse properties
warring with development and losing, as usual in Colorado, to the winds of change–a lot less clean
than what we feel right here.
Soon the meadows along the tracks will be filled in,
the horses on Kipling gone.
There is no summer here. It is over 10,000 feet,
and the best it can ever do is a sort of late spring.
Somewhere I read about a Neversummer Range:
here it is. That’s why aspens never turn a true dark green; they hold a fresh springtime color, then turn immediately to autumn gold, while down the mountain it’s September and it’s hot.
In Ouray our friend Don found abandoned seedlings
and brought them down. We planted them at his house
and ours next door; together we have a grove of trees.
The extension agent said no way could they thrive
so low, so warm. Of course they grew, because Don planted them, my husband staked them, they both watered them, and prayed over them, I swear,
by the light of every moon.
We are near to Brainard now. It is snowing and
my husband is just a little more aware of the road.
Big old motorcycles work best on dry surface,
but can ignore the surface better when the man
who drives it has fixed it, ridden it, wrestled it every summer for 11 years down roads like that nearly-to-Rapid-City 10 miles of gravel and sticky tar, always unmarked, always in a different spot, that the South Dakota highway department is pleased to call its “Welcome to Sturgis Rally Week”.
This guy I don’t mind riding behind when traffic
or the road turns weird, though even he can’t control the weather and I do carry an extra layer of warmies in my saddle bag.
There’s snow collected under the trees; we’re going
too fast to tell now if it’s new or crusty old.
Almost all the golden leaves are gone and there’s little contrast between dark rocks and darker pines.
Which stand of aspen stood out tall and golden blowing in the hard breeze, losing its leaves first?
Was it the one on the right, only a few trees thick but very tall, with nothing to fight it for sun and soil?
Was it the left stand of forty or a hundred trees enfolded in their faithful backdrop of lush pine,
dark green velvet until you try to touch?
I have never seen our aspens turn deep and truly green; they too are always spring-colored and supple
in the breeze. Or the fifty-mile-an-hour wind–they
don’t care, but move and skim against our roof, making
dimly-colored shadows on the sky. They live and thrive but in their own mild way they oppose
the rigid sameness of our town.
We’ve been riding against the wind down Left Hand Canyon, past drab little huddles of Appalachia
against the Colorado hills. How unsightly and so sad.
Houses crumbled there with their wood and metal leavings as if the glory of the Colorado 1960s
never happened, but just the poverty of old druggies
who refuse to find a job.
I wonder what their grown kids think;
I hope they don’t live there.
We are running past Sunshine Canyon now, toward Boulder Creek. Soon the traffic will remind us that we aren’t so far from home and all its have-tos. But we’ve been where the winter comes, snowy, still, and real.
He guides our bike onto our driveway in a sudden drift of leaves. I know it’s too soon for autumn, but I haven’t really been keeping track. In my imagination, starkness fills my mind and a hard wind blows; in the mountains, the aspens sit rigid in their dark branches. And I’m still cold.
But we’ve been gone all day. It’s like a cat, really,
that knows the car means going to the vet.
Our aspens at home live warm, but they’ve cousins
in their hearts. They know we’ve seen the mountains; they know it’s started to snow.
Off the bike, I walk through autumn gold.
We won’t see them green again this year.
They only began to turn last weekend,
but now almost all their leaves are down.
© 2014 Melanie Rodden