There’s more to mountain living than city-like behavior

We lead such harried lives.

Even here in this small town, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, we rush around as though our very essence depends on some preordained schedule. We eat poorly and drive fast, often assuming perilous risks, all in the interest of “getting there” ahead of someone or something.

Working long hours, we find little time for family and friends, quiet or calm. Weekends, holidays, and vacations have become marathons, rather than periods of rejuvenation. With noise and commotion constant, and stress ever present, near total fatigue seems the common complaint.

Meanwhile, the innate beauty of our physical surroundings, and the extraordinary ecological events routinely unfolding before us, are often overlooked or taken for granted. We look upon weather fronts as wearisome annoyances, and not the true spectacles of nature that they are. Sunrises and sunsets, along with the cycles of the moon, may capture us but briefly, then slip into the subliminal, all too quickly forgotten. Days and nights pass. The seasons come and go, and we struggle to maintain balance between a society always demanding more, and an environment that nurtures us spiritually and emotionally.

We are infatuated with time. We wear watches, carry cell phones, stare at computers, and overindulge in radio and television, all of which constantly tell us the time. During the space between engagements, we frequently “kill” time, and when a particular affair ends in disappointment, it is at once considered a waste of time. Our busy lives revolve around time, and we’re always alarmed with how fast it flies, as though there is never enough in the course of a day.

Only when we immerse ourselves in wilderness is the passage of time ostensibly slower and more deliberate. If we can fully appreciate a spectacular vista, the lushness of a deep green forest, or the great silence over an ancient gorge, calm and simplicity become the norms, and precious time is never something to kill or waste.

Our son, Tim, married in November a couple of years ago, and on our way to attend the momentous event, we spent a night on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. As always, there were other sightseers at each of the vantage points we visited, but crowds are reasonably small that time of year, and our timing was such that we managed to behold the better part of a rare and beautiful sunset.

There before us, as varietal layers of gold, orange, and red slowly gave way to endless shades of violet and lavender, all stood in silent reverence, with only the song of the wind wafting through nearby junipers.

The next morning, in the half-light before sunrise, we dashed to the nearest overlook in hope of witnessing a similar scene. But there, crowded against a railing at the outermost viewpoint, nearly a hundred foreign exchange students — all in uniform — were talking aloud and laughing, apparently oblivious to the unparalleled grandeur that lay before them.

The students stayed just long enough to gather a few group photos, then hurried aboard some buses for the next leg of their journey. I felt for them as they departed, wondering how few could have savored what they actually came to see, so far from home. Today, each doubtless boasts of having been to the Grand Canyon, but almost certainly, none has ever truly experienced it.

For reasons that now seem unknown, Jackie and I moved to the city for a few years, where beneficial vocational growth, and valuable time with family and friends, made the move largely worthwhile. We even found the cultural and climatic changes exciting at first, but it wasn’t long before throngs of people, continuous noise, and the interminable traffic stifled us beyond tolerance. We felt drained of silence and serenity, and knew that if we were ever to achieve total gratification, we must return to the majesty and comparative quietude of the Rocky Mountains.

Of course, upon our arrival in Pagosa, quality of life was soon restored. It’s true, our collective income is less than that of the city and living expenses are certainly higher, but the air is fresh and clean, and the alluring landscape, with its vast array of alpine summits, sprawling green forests, and crystalline trout streams, is unrivaled by any burgeoning metropolis in the world. Here, there is room to breathe, and with minimal effort, solitude is still attainable by those who seek it.

Dare I say, in this remote corner of the southern Rockies, there is more to living than simply generating an income. Naturally, we residents are still part of the modern world, and to survive here — as anywhere — one must manage financially. But in these mountains, sufficiently removed from city life, where the frenetic rush to accumulate material wealth seems directly related to self fulfillment, I measure prosperity in other terms.

A few years ago, Jackie and I built a new home northwest of town. A modest wood-frame structure, it sits on a heavily-treed lot with two or three neighboring houses in plain view. Though a road runs parallel to our rear property line, traffic is relatively light and a vast ponderosa forest adorns the rugged land beyond. Wildlife abounds, the air is cool and fresh, and on clear nights the ebony sky is crowded with countless bright and twinkling points of light.

Like many Pagosa Country neighborhoods, ours is peaceful and quiet. Road noise is minimal, and only singing birds, the distant croak of a raven or an occasional breeze drifting through the pines interrupts the perpetual calm.

Whether sitting outside or walking the yard, we are in harmony with the ancient rhythms of this blissful mountain environment.

In this scenic and tranquil valley, where nearly everywhere is just 15 minutes away, rushing anywhere seems pointless.

Don’t you agree?

chuck@pagosasun.com