I am so happy not to be living down in the valley areas during this nasty heat wave. Our house gets “warm” around 2 p.m.-4 p.m. when it’s REALLY hot outside, but only upstairs. Of course, the upstairs is where I do all my work. But I just pick up one of the laptops and go downstairs where it is so cool, I still have to wear a sweater in the middle of the day. My husband and sons really went to town when they built this house. They insulated the shit out of it, to put it bluntly. Plus, the stucco siding keeps things extra cool. Why more people don’t opt for stucco siding is beyond me. It is expensive, but if you consider what you save in energy bills, I think it’s worth every penny. We hired a crew of Mexican workers who installed the traditional style of stucco over mesh. They would come with their little grills and set them up in the driveway and cook tamales, burritos and other delicious-smelling food. We also went with red tiled roofing because in tandem with the stucco, it creates a natural resistance to fire—always a scary thing in the upper and lower foothills.
So far, it’s been a wonderful summer even if the heat in town is unbearable. I’ve finally been able to catch up on reading all the literary journals I picked up at the book fair during this year’s AWP conference. I had grabbed a copy of the Atlanta Review when the vendors were trying to give away books so they wouldn’t have to haul them back. This particular issue has an entire section of poetry from Iran. Such beautiful and brave writing! The introduction by section editor Sholeh Wolpé informs the reader of the exciting and terrifying world of Iranian poets. In Iran, being a poet is subversive and can be life-threatening. Also, being a poet there is like being a rock star here. Obviously, any creative form that exposes oppression has the feel of revolution on its side. But there are also understated poems celebrating family, love, and perpetual hope for a country very much adored by its people. Most of the poetry in this volume was written by poets who no longer live in Iran. The poignant images and memories of a childhood in Iran or of a beloved relative are painfully sad. I can’t imagine being estranged from my own country. In “The Poem,” Mohsen Emadi writes: “In my language/every time we suddenly fall silent/a policeman is born./In my language/on the back of each frightened bicycle/sit three thousand dead words./In my language/people murmur confessions,/dress in black whispers,/are buried/in silence./Who will translate my silence?/How am I to cross this border?” There are also poems that sound as though they belong somewhere in King Solomons’s Song of Songs. In “I Did Not Expect,” poet Ahmad Reza Ahmadi writes “I did not expect to come face to face/with this absolute snow./I did not expect to come face to face /with this absolute love./These sleeping birds on the glazed tiles/portend this pure love will melt/in that pure snow./If only you knew/how I set fire to the vine.” An added bonus in this issue is its five new translations of Rumi.
My friend and fellow poet, Rachel Dacus, has a poem in this volume. “Ghost Hours” laments the passage of time and how it is “tampered” with by forces beyond her control. She comes full circle at the end: “I see now why we must hoard every spark/of light against night’s snip-end and hold life/by the tail—the dark dot/of the question mark.”
Also keeping me amused and cool of course is hiking one trail after another in the infinitely breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). With my hiking group peeps, I’ve climbed Hallet Peak, Flattop Mountain, Half Mountain, Lake of Glass & Sky Pond, Estes Cone and Frozen Lake. We are still setting our sights on Mount Ida again and one of the Arapahoes. A lot of people think of the town of Estes and the amount of tourists when they think of exploring RMNP. The town of Estes truly sucks. But I am about to reveal a secret: most tourists never get out of their cars and if they do, they hike only so far, usually about a mile, if not less, and you lose them fast. The earlier you start on a trail and the further you go, the less you notice the tourists. They become invisible. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that most of the trails, like the one up to Solitude and Shelf Lakes are hidden and difficult to follow. This keeps the alpine tundra and delicate ecosystems healthy. Yet, if few people see these spectacular trails, the less inclined they may be toward treasuring the park. It’s a conundrum that all national parks probably contend with.
It’s also amazing to me that on so many of these trails, my peeps and I are sometimes the “oldest” people on the trail. Take for instance this past Sunday when my friend and I did the very easy 6 mile roundtrip trek up to Estes Cone. It’s a steady uphill climb with lots of talus and a spooky limber pine forest, a bit of a scramble up and over some boulders, then you’re up at a little over 11,000 ft. and the panoramic view is amazing. We had fun scrambling up and down one outcropping after another. I gashed my shin on the way up to one outcropping on top of which sat four 20-something people. They asked, incredulously, if I was alone and needed help getting up. They were being very sweet, and I sweetly answered “no” to both questions. They asked if I would take a photo of them and I did and then in a flash they were down the mountain. I never feel old when I’m doing these trails, but there must be some lazy-ass Baby Boomers out there, because I ain’t seeing many of them on these trails. And it’s not like Shelf & Solitude Lakes are easy to get to! Or Mount Audubon or Mount Ida. I don’t think we’re picking particularly easy trails.
The one difference in roaming around the Rockies in your 40s & 50s, is that you do hike a lot slower, especially on the way down. My group meanders down and the younger people are always zooming around us. And then, of course, the next day, your knees are a little sore and your joints feel cramped. But honestly, the hikes are worth it. When you enter RMNP, it’s like you’re entering another part of the country. And on any given trail you can pass through three or four different ecosystems. This has never ceased to amaze me about Colorado. Those who haven’t explored it enough, think it is all semi-arid landscape. So wrong! Here’s a tip: start early on the Long’s Peak Trailhead. You don’t have to go all the way up Long’s Peak to witness montane ecosystems, meadows, marshland, subalpine sections, and alpine tundras. And each of these ecosystems have their own array of flowers, trees, shrubs and wildlife. My favorite experience this past weekend was when we were descending the Cone and as I was finding my footing on a slippery boulder, I saw, wedged ever so lightly in a crevice, a dwarf Columbine!
This is what is so enchanting about summer. You could be reading, writing, hiking, or doing nothing and suddenly there is an apparition of something either in your head or literally in front of you that is so fragile and alluring it takes your breath away. This summer, I have, so far, been enchanted by watching a hailstorm from my front deck, seeing that dwarf Columbine and hearing a relentless bear toss our heavy, metal garbage disposal across our driveway at least three different times. We don’t have pie in there or anything special. My own personal belief is that summer is really as fragile a season as spring (even with the heat) and that’s why we hate to see it end. It is full of apparitions. You just have to wait for them to come to you.