At Great Sand Dunes National Park

The smell of campfire
Still lingers in my hair
As the wind swirls it across our faces.

We sit low between the dunes to hide from the wind.

“Will we ever recover fully from heartbreak?”
I don’t know.

But I hope that we remember bonding like sisters covered in sand
For longer than we remember the many ways in which our hearts were broken.
And I hope that if those memories must stay longer
Than the smell of smoke in my hair after two washes
Then so does this moment.

-LIMG_2841 (1)

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awake

on a sunny thursday morning, walking along the sandy bank of the river
i stopped to watch a small wasp, no larger than the dime in my pocket
dig a hole in the sand
grain by grain

and on a chilly tuesday evening, walking along the spine of the sangre de cristos at sunset
i stopped to watch the hundreds of thousands of bats, each as big as the palm of my hand
fly into the night
one by one

i feel tears sting my eyes and roll slowly down my cheekbones
gathering at my chin

there is no name for what i am feeling
but as if the sun and moon were rising all at once
i can hear each of my fragile perceptions
shatter

and i am in awe
not of beauty
not of the color or texture
or rushing river water or sunset

but of purpose
of movement
of rhythm

of witnessing the earth do
as it needs to

on a misty friday morning, laying in my sleeping bag in the dewy, grassy meadow
i hear an elk bugle in the distance
as if to greet the morning sun

here, or there
with eyes open, or closed,
i am awake

-A

the highest peak in the valley

The morning after we climbed Blanca, my whole body felt heavy with tiredness, yet light with inspiration. I lay in bed, returning to the side of the mountain and the boulders that angled up towards the peak.

That morning, we dragged ourselves out of our tents into the dark, cold mountainside. We felt the miles we had hiked from the valley floor the day before in our steps, but our steps were much lighter without the weight of our packs.

Through the dark, we navigated ourselves through endless switchbacks and boulder fields, small alpine lakes and streams – precious water trickling below us as we passed. Each foot we gained in elevation, our lungs gasped a little more for air.

The rising sun finally greeted us as we we made it to the ridge between Blanca and Ellison Peaks. There, my whole body screamed with fatigue, a lack of oxygen, but my heart and mind could not wait. I split off from the others, still slowly climbing each boulder, but with each step, adrenaline pulsed through my veins.

After a while of scrambling, walking on all fours up the boulder ridge, I made it to the peak, and it was quiet – perhaps 8 or so in the morning. The sun warmed my bones that were made cold from the miles in the frigid morning.

I collapsed onto a rock and sat, breathing with relief. I propped my head up with my arm against my leg, alone, until a marmot made her way near me.

I’m not sure if it was the surprising feeling of believing myself to be alone, but suddenly discovering that I was not, but for the next couple minutes, I sat next to the marmot and cried.

I had made it to the highest peak in the valley.
I could see everything.

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reflections on a year of rock climbing

I remember the first time I got on the rock,
sunny, sweaty hands trembling, stomach lurching

On a warm August day in Penitente Canyon, junipers and scrub oak line the trails where the spring snow had melted

My new friends and I make our way to the climb with the deep huecos

There,
with the comfort of a top rope,
I fall, and I struggle, and I pant,
kick and curse
and it’s the most imperfect journey to the top of the rock

As joyful as I feel to have reached the top,
I tell myself I need to get stronger
that I could have done it more flawlessly

I cast my eyes downward, feeling shame in my weakness
——————-
Fast forward a year later
new friends have become old and we drive the dusty road to the canyon every chance we get
Colorado monsoon season means we get stuck in the rain once or twice
but there is one afternoon that
I remember so clearly

We make our way to the climb with the deep huecos
and I decide that I am going to lead the route
because by this time,
it has imprinted itself into my memory

I am sweaty and nervous and fear outlines my vision
because I could fall a dozen feet

but I have done this route so many times and
each bolt I clip into is a reminder of my strength and ability
to navigate through fear
by staring it in the face
and climbing up it

I struggle, and I pant
and I kick and curse all the way to the top
and it’s an imperfect journey

but this time, the joy I feel at the top is not eclipsed by
the desire for the flawless strength I think I should have

but an acceptance
and awareness of
the jagged, rough strength that I do have

and how the balance of
all my parts
both wobbly and sturdy
has led me to where I am

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-A