”We were in the shadow of the mountains, the light was cool and quiet and no wind was stirring. The aspen trunks were slightly greenish and the leaves were a vibrant yellow.”
– Ansel Adams
My sister-in-law M. says I should be a travel writer. For years on Facebook® I have posted photos and accounts of the places I’ve been. M. says she always feels like she is right there with me. I like that. Keeping company with people across miles through words and images. But, being a working mom, I really only travel if I’m traveling with kids or, on occasion, with just my husband J. But every year I do slip away for a girls’ trip and take a little time for myself.
On Columbus Day weekend, I travel with a group of women to Telluride, Colorado. Telluride is a quaint little mountain town in the southwest sector of the state, dotted with fabulous restaurants, scrumptious bakeries, quirky shops and eclectic galleries, a place where you can walk to anywhere that you need to be. Now, undoubtedly, the best part of this trip is the female comradery without kids, but, for me, a close second are the Aspens. So let’s add a little travel to this blog and let’s talk trees.
This time of year, Colorado literally gleams in gold. On my first trip to Telluride, I couldn’t believe it. I had never beheld scenery so beautiful, so captivating. It was like poetry for the eyes. And despite the occasional sound of a passing car or the laughter from a coffee shop in the distance, the world was quiet…sheer silence surrounded by the quiver of leaves in the wind. I was hooked.
About 15 minutes outside of Telluride, on the drive in from Durango, is a look-out point. We stop there every year. It’s obvious why you stop. Everyone stops. It’s irresistible, really.
When you stand there and gaze out across that sea of gold and amber waves, melting into depths of forest green, and all of it submerged beneath rugged earthen giants scraped in white, you can’t help but know that there must be a God.
You don’t even have to get out of town, though, to soak in the scenery. Every picturesque home and every worn brick building seems framed in gilded glory, patriotic flags waving the red, white and blue in just such a way that feels a little more crisp than any other place.
On my first full day in Telluride this weekend, I spent a little over three hours out walking the town and the trails along the creeks and around the marsh ponds. Granted, Telluride this year has been a little more grey than in the past, but the grey still stands no chance of dampening the magic. The trails around town are speckled with bridges unique as snowflakes, all crossing lazy creeks filled with families of stone, jagged and smooth, catching shiny laurels in their baskets, as if intent on weaving Apollonian crowns for their heads. And the ponds shimmer in ochre reflections while ducks dive, bottoms up, to search below the surface.
Even little warblers flitting from tree to tree and skipping from pebble to pebble accessorize their feathers in karats. I mean, one MUST have a hint of color, right? Maybe all that glitters IS gold.
As I continued my walk, fog began settling in over the mountains followed by water-soaked clouds that could no longer hold in their droplets. Still waters suddenly welcomed the disturbing pelts, evidenced by tiny rings popping up here and there across the pond.
I had to duck for a while under a giant conifer to escape the damage of rain to me and my camera equipment. As I stood there, completely protected and dry, I pondered how my love of the Aspen tree runs far deeper than its shine. My brother-in-law C. B. introduced me to the story of the Aspen, after his first visit to Colorado, and here’s where I get to my talk about trees.
The Aspen isn’t just one tree, it’s a massive multi-treed organism. A colony of Aspen trees actually connects beneath the ground through a singular shared root structure. NationalForests.org describes this phenomenon as follows:
”One aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism. A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system. Before a single aspen trunk appears above the surface, the root system may lie dormant for many years until the conditions are just right, including sufficient sunlight. In a single stand, each tree is a genetic replicate of the other, hence the name a “clone” of aspens used to describe a stand.”
These clones can cover a small area of land or they can stretch acres upon acres. If someone asks you to name the largest living thing in the world, stop thinking about whales and start thinking about trees. Utah boasts Pando, the largest Aspen clone and one of the most massive singular living things on our planet. It covers 106 acres! That is my true marvel of the Aspen, not it’s show but its share.
I stood there under that conifer, reviewing some of the shots that I had taken on my camera, and acknowledging, in amazement, that…
These are ONE, not many…
These are ONE, not many…
These are ONE, not many…
These are one, NOT many…
When you escape, you really get to sit on life a bit. I waited there for the rain to stop, thinking about the times we are in and where we are as humans, and I prayed we could be more like the Aspens. But then, in that moment of quiet with the rain falling down, God reminded me that we already ARE Aspens. We are connected by a root structure between us called humanity. I wholeheartedly believe that I could meet any person across this globe and find at least one point of commonality between us. Surprise. So could you. And inside us all we are the same structure of bones and blood and membranes and organs. Our struggle, though, is our willingness to get past the show and dig deep to the share. If we don’t start honoring the share and our connectedness, we won’t survive.
Well, the rain eventually stopped, as all rains do. I took a few more shots of the gold, now looking more like a wedding ring in need of a good polish, and one last shot of the town behind the trees. Then I wandered back.
Only a block or two from our house, the clouds finally lifted and the sun shone over the rooftops revealing the clearest of blue. It’s moments like this, when the sun shines brightly over the regal Aspens of Colorado, that you can only have hope. Hope for a better time. Hope for a better world. Hope for fulfilled lives that we can all live.
Hope for the share.
All the best,
– All content photos by Amanda J. Schulz