Bugling Elk and Sacred Spaces

Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, and the great eagle; these are our brothers. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. Chief Seattle, native American

It’s autumn now in northern Europe where I returned a week ago. The courtyard Virginia creeper vine is reddening more each day. Heavier bed linens are in place so the window can remain open for good sleeping. Scarves donned for outdoor wear. And rain.

Still, for the moment, I’m thinking about a longer than normal summer season in Colorado. Three months at “Camp Estes”–our hillside home with Front Range views and walk-in access to Rocky Mountain National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
camp estes’ long’s peak view

What made it particularly special were the visitors, different from other summers. A toddler grand-daughter’s first time to roam rocky, hilly landscapes, a reunion of women from my high school graduating class, visual apparitions of campfire spirits after two years of “no-burn” ban, s’mores with dark European chocolate, and a herd of rutting elk who wandered in–and stayed.

These events fused with other things I love; wildflowers in profusion, mountain sunrise and sunsets, thunderstorms and rainbows, low hanging clouds clearing to snow on the high peaks, elk bugling in the change of season.

Returning to the mountains is particularly significant to me because of our overseas lifestyle. For twelve summers, during the years we lived in Taipei, Taiwan, I needed to come home and recalibrate. Living and breathing for a few months at a higher altitude under clear blue skies was very different from a big Asian city of concrete, tile, and smoggy air.

The mountains give us our “spiritual geography”, a term coined by Kathleen Norris in her book Dakota. It is the place we inhabit to find our best selves.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote of the importance of finding individual “sacred space”:

“A sacred space is any space that is set apart from the usual context of life. It has no function in the way of earning a living or a reputation…In your sacred space, things are working in terms of your dynamic–and not somebody else’s…You don’t really have a sacred space until you find somewhere to be…where joy comes from inside, not something external that puts joy into you, a place that lets you experience your own will and your own intention and your own wish…”

Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again. J. Campbell

My sacred spaces begin in physical forms–a cabin in Colorado mountains, a campfire ring, and a hidden destination called “Rock on the River” where I hike alone to heal or think.

There is a chameleon-like aspect to living an overseas lifestyle, between home in the U.S. and home elsewhere in the world. In the mountains I live in jeans and soft shirts, moccasins or cowgirl boots. I drink coffee on the front porch in sunshine or on a deck overlooking Long’s Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park. I go to bed after sitting around a campfire and awaken to the smell of smoke on my pillow.

Returning home to Paris, there is a seamless slide into the city version of myself. I adapt to the rhythms around me as I sit in cafés watching people instead of coyotes, hawks, deer and elk.

Returning to the mountains is what makes this work. Feeling small and insignificant amid the backdrop of a huge landscape clears my mind. I love the smell of rapidly changing weather, poking campfires with a stick, and wild animals that roam without fences. I think about the good fortune that lies ahead–sharing this with a generation of grandchildren.

Another way to tell the story is with pictures. To those who dropped in or to those who stayed awhile, and to those who will return–a look back at the best of this season’s memories…

IMG_1087
“mexican hat” flowers germinated from seeds sowed over many years [without luck]. in 2005, a new cabin was built and they popped out of dormancy
IMG_8071
leila 15 months, discovers and wobbles on uneven terrain
IMG_7918
jet lag means 5:30AM sunrise with coffee on the deck
IMG_7883
sunset, first quarter moon rising
IMG_4533
avocado margaritas at ed’s cantina. description here: Sipping Avocado Margs in Summer
IMG_8073
leila loves fresh lime until it gets to be too much.
IMG_2831
horse rides at the shaka shaka [Russian for playground]
IMG_2820
chalk art in perfect squat formation.
IMG_2844
early morning reading with auntie “yaya”
IMG_8298
thunderstorm in sunshine
IMG_2237
IMG_2255
followed by perfect rainbows
IMG_2836
sunset champagne
IMG_2839
fire ring supper with leila, deedee and yaya
IMG_1802
high school girlfriends reunite in estes park, photo by betty cleffman hager
IMG_1815
hiking in the park, photo by betty cleffman hager
IMG_1741
trails with big views, photo by debbie windus
old west photo sepia
marking time with an “old time” photo
2017 Deb Colorado_043
RMNP natural beauty, photo by debbie windus
2017 Deb Colorado_092
september light, RMNP, photo by debbie windus
IMG_4073_09-14-2017
“shining pine needles”, photo by mary beckey kelly
2017 Deb Colorado_082
mountain lavender, photo by debbie windus
2017 Deb Colorado_079
pre-dinner snacks for friends, photo by debbie windus
IMG_8139
fire ring built in 1991 has mostly remained in the same configuration. I re-arranged it a “few times” until a landscaper called it a “spiritual circle” and I quit messing with it.
IMG_8127
s’more ingredients: grahams, marshmellows, European chocolate choices–plain, sea salt or caramel and sea salt. whisky and wine, optional
IMG_8132
toast marshmellows over red hot coals, place on chocolate lined graham crackers.
IMG_8136
smush together, enjoy with adult beverage of choice
Campfire at Wendy's with Joyce and Dave
smoke in our eyes, photo by barb barton minquet
IMG_1840
summer becomes fall with elk rut. 6:30 AM bugling wake ups

CLICK HERE for 30 second video taken from front porch of biggest bull re-claiming the harem after three younger males tried a take over coup

cropped-img_0027.jpg
IMG_0150
herding on south side camp estes
IMG_0156
the long’s view
IMG_1838
baby elk cuteness
IMG_8079
leila cuteness
IMG_8251
natural symmetry
IMG_8248
outside looking in
IMG_8253
IMG_1879
low clouds, yellowing aspen signal change
IMG_8180
next day high country snow
IMG_0453
IMG_0455
flame spirit turns into double horse head

And finally, to Leila: I hope the wide and wild natural world will always be part of your adventure, that you will be nurtured by its’ rhythms and beauty, and know that nature exists to support all of her creatures. You are now part of the earth and it is part of you.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The wind will blow freshness into you, and cares will drop away like leaves of Autumn. John Muir

Sipping Avocado Margs in Summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our United States home is in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. When not in our home overseas, we live in a cabin built on a hillside outside the town of Estes Park. The back of the cabin faces the Front Range of Rocky Mountain National Park–mountains towering 10-14,000 feet above sea level. We gaze at them on a deck in the summer or through picture windows near the fireplace in the winter.

IMG_2021

There are no streetlights and roads are unpaved. The landscape is native Ponderosa pines, tall grasses, sage shrubs, and wildflowers. The only maintenance is digging up the occasional noxious weed and harvesting fallen pinecones and branches for kindling. We built a fire ring with rocks from the land. Campfires are enjoyed with stories and laughter or the silence of a starry night. This has been our home-away-from-overseas-home since 1991.

IMG_1888

The annual summer return begins with the first morning wake up. It’s early. The sun rises at 5:30AM. Coffee is started and we pull rocking chairs onto the deck. Mountains and clouds to the south and west are pink-tinged at first light. As the sun makes its’ way upward, the color shifts to yellowish gold. When it finally rises over the eastern ridge line, the sky turns robin’s egg and then lapis blue. Second cup of coffee, still in bathrobes, day begins.

IMG_2079
IMG_2076
early morning pink
IMG_2085
pink to gold

There is a different way of “being” in the mountains from our life overseas. Time is simpler, less hurried, less structured. It’s not necessary to “do” much of anything for the first transitional days. We live casually in blue jeans, moccasins or hiking boots, cotton or flannel shirts, depending on the temperature.

We eat differently too. The thinner air and long days tempt us with food and drink that somehow “belong” in the high country. Hearty breakfasts of layered egg sandwiches [More Than Just an Egg Sandwich] are eaten on the sunny front porch. It fuels the day before re-stacking firewood, trimming dead tree limbs, or hiking into the National Park.

When it’s time for a break, there is a place downtown we often go. Ed’s Cantina is a 30-year locally owned and operated Mexican restaurant. The sign on the side door says, “Get in Here”. Their logo: “Live Forever. Eat at Ed’s.” You want to see what is going on there. Avocado Margaritas are what we found.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 8.35.49 PM
Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 8.36.28 PM

Dietitian Daughter, savvy in combining nutrition with great taste and pleasure, showed us the way. We fell in love, one by one. It’s the reason to drop in at Ed’s on a warm summer afternoon.

For the nutritionally minded, avocados are one of the healthiest food choices around. They are a good source of mono-unsaturated fat, the desirable fat for lowering LDL [bad] cholesterol while raising HDL [good] cholesterol. Vitamins in avocados [E and C among them] are good for skin tone and texture. There is documentation for the avocado’s anti-inflammatory properties including reducing arthritis pain. Even in liquid form, avocados provide a nice range of health benefits!

This summer, we also ate a lot of avocados in easy-to-make, lime-y, homemade guacamole. Store bought jars, tubs or tubes don’t compare with your own effort. “Less is more” with guacamole. Let the avocado shine with a light touch on ingredients. Use as a sandwich spread [breakfast egg sandwiches!] or, more traditionally, as a dip with tortilla chips.

Keep your avo margs and guacamole as separate ventures, though. You can have too much of a good thing…

GUACAMOLE à la Colorado

  • 2 [or more] ripe avocados
  • diced red onion [or shallot]
  • diced or pressed clove of garlic, optional
  • salt
  • pepper
  • juice of fresh lime
IMG_1950
basic ingredients

Cut around outside of avocado and separate the halves. Scoop the meat out of the rind with a spoon. Mash avocado in a bowl with a fork or potato masher. Add onion, garlic, S&P. Stir together. Squeeze in as much fresh lime juice as you like, to taste. Adjust seasonings.

IMG_1962
mash avocados
IMG_1965
add onion, garlic, S & P
IMG_1971
add squeezed lime juice

Will keep in refrigerator without discoloration by covering with plastic wrap pressed down on top of guacamole, allowing no air space.

IMG_1990
guac with homemade chips

ED’S AVOCADO MARGARITA  [AVO MARG by order]

  • ½ ripe avocado
  • Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila
  • Agave syrup
  • Limeade [they say theirs is homemade, but frozen concentrate is fine]
  • Ice
  • Lime garnish

Into blender, scoop one half avocado, a shot [or so] of tequila, a generous squirt of agave syrup, an even more generous pour of limeade and lots of ice. Blend together on high setting. Serve in tall, salt rimmed glass, garnished with a slice of lime.

  • Best when sipped on Ed’s outdoor patio with the Big Thompson River rolling by.
IMG_2057
the 1/2 avocado
IMG_2062
the tequila, agave syrup, ice, limeade
IMG_2063
the blend
IMG_2065
the pour
IMG_2066
pouring
IMG_2070
perfection in a glass

Live forever at Ed’s…