My journey to New England coincided with the 2011 Autumnal Equinox and was punctuated by awareness. Although I lived in the Adirondack Park in Saranac Lake,New York when I began my teaching career, I never understood the scope of my environment. It is the largest park of any natural area in the lower 48 states. The thousands of lakes and ponds which cover the landscape remind you that floating can be more sensible than climbing. On a sunny summer day there are endless reasons to be immersed in a lake, one being; that’s where the views are.
Both the Adirondack Mountains and the nearby Appalachian Mountains are overflowing with trees. From the air, mountains are evergreen globes. From the trail, views are limited to portholes. Trees such as the yellow birch have such tenacious roots that they hug man-sized boulders and support trunks that date back to the earliest white settlers. White-washed colonial villages, fruit trees dripping with apples, prolific wildlife, from muskrats to moose, loose birch bark masquerading as logs, and hearty cabin dwellers all make me wonder what century this is.
My current life in the Rocky Mountains contrasts sharply. Views are easy to find, since trees grow so sparsely and peaks often poke well above timberline. In the Rockies, sightseers, bikers, hikers, and skiers find empowering vistas around every switchback. Even on days when snowflakes litter the air, we strap gear on our backs and climb steep paths to reach the top step in the stairway to the upper atmosphere. Views in the Rockies allow you to see your current place as well as geological history.
I was slapped with another lesson in awareness on my September sojourn. While rolling across Maine on my lightweight 30-speed bicycle, a bike pump dangled from my down tube and suddenly stopped my front wheel. I now understand what boxers refer to as seeing stars. Lying on my back with damaged front teeth and a fractured hand, I searched the sky for a savior. She arrived in the form of a Camden EMT. Eight weeks later, I’m almost healed and have a heightened understanding of the places a journey can take you.