In the Colorado high country, summer is about the wind.
Wind blowing hot and dry, chapping the skin
A foot of lingering snow evaporates in less than an hour.
Where one lives remote from the
paved over landscapes of the city,
you live every moment aware.
Aware of the climate, the environment that holds you,
of which you are a feature but have little, if any, control.
No stoplight will halt a coming storm,
No roadblocks can be erected in time for a flash flood
No lighted signs marking an emergency exit
from a fire roaring up the canyon walls.
There is no foundation, no dwelling completely immune to the forces of the Chinook winds.
I move between the city and the Colorado high country every year
and relearn in a moment or two to change my level of awareness.
In the city we are alert to man made dangers,
or dangers presented by being in close proximity to other people
Those dangers fall away here at the edge of the snowline.
I stand with hair whipping my face, skin parched like cracking earth
checking the water level in the well, traveling the acres gathering dry fallen
branches, removing dead trees , cutting back vegetation around the home.
Protecting from fire.
We secure everything outide against the Chinook winds.
Reseal windows and doorways where the winds blow in dust and dirt.
The body is endlessly aching with thirst as is the land.
A resplendent afternoon shower frequently nourishes
the parched air and ground for a moment.
But sometimes, thunder, shaking the trees and the ground is accompanied by lightening that will set the dry grasses ablaze,
the fire roaring up a canyon or pass in minutes.
The Rocky Mountains stand in the path of the warm air currents.
Warm, dry down slope winds known as the Chinook,
named after Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest,where the winds originate.
Weather patterns produce a strong, deep flow of air across the Rockies,
the peaks along the Continental Divide act like rocks in a stream-bed.
Just as a rock in flowing water produces ripples in the surface of the stream, the mountains cause ripples in the atmosphere.
Forced up by the peaks, the air seeks to return to its original level
roaring down the eastern slopes only settling down once they blast onto the plains in the east.
I am acutely aware of the changing conciousness
as I leave the high country,
Driving down the passes,
my attention turns to the gradual thickening of traffic,
reception comes back to the radio and there is the sound of the Lemonheads that replaces the sound of the wind.
I reach the airport among throngs of people each with their individual dramas.
But part of me is thinking of the drama of the build up of the afternoon clouds and the blowing wind up on Copperwood Pass as I board the airplane.
As we fly through the sky out of Colorado we fly over my land,
I check on more time the weather below,
read the clouds for moisture content, velocity of wind,thunder and lightening.
I land back in the city, move through the lines of people to collect bags and scuffle to get a cab, fighting traffic and accidents back into the city.
step over excrement on the sidewalk to unlock my door, secure the locks when I get in, answer the phone messages, prepare for urban job travails for the week.
The transition is almost complete.
But when I lay my head on my pillow, I am still listening for the Chinook wind.