It took a visit to Mexico—a place with blue/turquoise seas, white sandy beaches and warm, balmy air—to make me realize that I’m a true northerner. Not that I didn’t love swimming with fish and turtles, floating in the salty water, being able to wear nothing but a bathing suit all day, sitting under swaying palm trees, or even the endless margaritas, but that iconic tropical landscape never grabbed my heart the way the high peaks of Colorado do.
While I was in Mexico, my sister posted on Facebook a picture of herself hiking in Boulder. It was an early morning shot, the pink glow illuminating the Flatirons behind her. When I saw that picture it looked like the most beautiful place in the world.
We all feel at home someplace. It’s not just a feeling of comfort, not just a feeling of belonging, but something that stirs our souls all the way to the bottom. I grew up in the Midwest, where my first true love of nature was the north woods of Wisconsin, where the clear blue water of the lakes, the tall yellow pines and white birches awoke something in my heart that has never diminished.
At my cabin, the ponderosa pines and yellow-barked aspen keep that flame alive—that and the mountains, those seemingly impenetrable fortresses of stone that rouse my heart with something unattainable, non-human.
They say we’re molded by our environment, imprinted from an early age with the sights and sounds of our own landscape. If I grew up in the jungle, it would be a complex place, full of subtle changes and forms, bird calls I could instantly identify, plants that would hold meaning for me. Instead, driving through what appeared a monochromatic landscape, nothing but endless shrubby forests, it was as uninteresting as the wheat fields of the Great Plains. And yet friends who grew up on the flatlands of Kansas or Iowa thrill to the wide open spaces, the endless skies.
Back at the cabin this week, the temperatures were a balmy 40 degrees and sunny, although the ground was still covered in snow. Instead of a jungle full of a cacophony of bird sounds and a sapphire ocean teeming with pastel-colored fish, the landscape is almost devoid of color and life here: just the Steller’s jays, the chickadees, footprints in the snow indicating other animals have passed through. The colors range from pale beige to dark green.
I’m not sure I can rationally explain my love of this now almost colorless landscape, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mount Meeker look more beautiful, covered in snow and wrapped in clouds, or ever seen light more pure.