As I walk along the dry, rocky trail edged with grasses and wildflowers, I think about my new home. I’m on a meandering path heading west towards the rising hills on the edge of Fort Collins. The trail is flat through the prairie until, gradually, it slopes up where it meets the hill. Even as it meets the incline, the trail zig zags back and forth along the eastern side. Grasses give way to shrubs, herbs, and flowers; mountain mahogany, thistle, wild sunflowers, sagewort, and many other plants I have yet to identify. They are both new and familiar to me, ancient ancestors and strangers in a foreign land.
I take my time along the dry path; the heat and the sun press against my head and my skin. I like to come here as the sun is setting, walking into the slowly growing shadow of the hill, knowing the valley and the reservoir are just beyond the crest.
This walk is apropos to where I am in my journey. I, too, meandered west, leaving flatness for dynamic twists and turns, reminiscing with old pals and family while making new friends along the way. As I lose myself along the rocky incline, the bordering vegetation, so, too, have I lost myself throughout my journey west. The art of losing oneself is a learned skill, not to be misunderstood or taken for granted. How long can we cling to ideas about ourselves, stories of “who we are” and “what we do”?
Make no mistake. Losing yourself is terrifying; zig-zagging, wandering and wondering up a vague slope, not knowing where exactly you are or how you fit. I am in a strange, dry land that reaches up towards the sun, nearly two-thousand miles from my New England home. I set out with lots of questions, curiosities. While some have been answered, satisfied, they have also multiplied. All that I thought I knew I left somewhere in Tennessee, Georgia, Peru.
I have been in Colorado just over four months now. I have embraced the mountains, valleys, canyons, and river with the loudest beats of heart and strumming of spirit. I have found friendship and love wherever I turn. It is still (more than ever, in fact) myself I seek most. I can see her, just beyond the crest; can imagine the endless hills and valleys I will encounter once I get there.
As I reach the hilltop, I continue to walk along the western slope. The heavens are splayed before me, lighting up the clouds as our sun dips below the rocky peaks beyond. The excitement of color collides with the quickly approaching serenity of dusk. Transitioning from day to night seems quicker in the mountains and the foothills. All at once, the sun has dropped and twilight rules the land.
This is my favorite part of this walk. The air cools down and the deer come out; a mother and fawn making their way down the eastern slope, a group of four grazing on the flat grassland. I worry about disturbing their peace, but I believe we have a deeper understanding. We share this land and all of its transitions; day to night, season to season, year to year. By the time I make it back to the trailhead, it is dark and the stars are beginning to peek through the sky. I go home.
It has been a while since I have been able to say that. I go home, to my house in Fort Collins, and hang a small bundle of wild herbs and flowers on my wall. The future stretches before me like the mountains to the west; each mountain, a question, each summit, a million more.