00:04 Sun goes up, sun goes down, wind blows round and round the earth, day in, day out an endless circle of repetition that has somehow dulled my senses. And I am in a Solomon’s slump. Vanity of vanities all is vanity. Futility, this vapor, this breath of mine, the seemingly futile efforts I make that all come so quickly to a …dead end. Nothing new under the sun or stars either for that matter, especially me who feels older than sin this morning as I struggle into my backpack and hit the trail before daylight. Weariness has settled deep down into this body and the bones of my soul. All the sameness of tasks rolling the boulder uphill an inch to have it roll back down again into its rut. So right now like the hero or the Princess Bride, feeling mostly dead, and in need of a miracle cure. Up up up the Paintbrush Canyon Trail, I go in search of my Ecclesiastical remedy… wild flowers for this weary soul. My quest racing sun and wind round and round and round again, for just a glimpse of the most elusive of all, my precious Alpine flowers, the tiniest ephemeral wildflowers ..only found in the holy grail made of stones tucked in the highest mountain passes… overflowing with a rainbow of blossoms that bloom for just the blink of an eye. And if seen, their enchantment has the power to pour joy over an old soul like mine, and weariness fades in the blessing of that little bit of heaven.
02:04 I am plotting not striding sleepwalking the easy part of this eight mile pilgrimage up to the top of Paintbrush Divide this darkest time before dawn, waiting, trusting looking for peace in these Vigils. this first Hour of the day. Entering this wilderness feels like stepping into a poem. And when I quiet myself to listen, the repetition of ancient verse swirls around this hopeful heart of mine.. sighs on wind sings in streams, rhythm beats through root and stone and season after season…at each recited cadence old.. mysteries deep and new unfold ..beckoning…further up and further in. Granite, quiksilver stones starlight, mirage of snow, glimmers on steep canyon walls, shadows form ever changing images on the jagged rock. Creation in motion, a kaleidoscope that twists and turns…weaves molecules physics and chemistry, into mystery, that evoke beauty, and beauty that soothes the ache of time. Soft tumble of waterfalls then harsh clatter stone vibrations echo down the opposite cliff face. The power of that noise. Rock giants shrugging. And this tenacious holds as stone on stone shakes loose with a roar and in this wild place, I shrug off my steadfast hold too on the me i scrutinized so carefully. Voice released free to speak aloud. takes flight I am chattering like a magpie to my God. Why did?… How come? What if… I wish.. then God nudges ..Hey you …look up there… And I do.. as a falling star shoots over the peak. Trailing lights sizzles and fades. I laugh. These intersections of blessings. It only took a pause, looking out and up instead of in and there right in front of me. Signs and wonders, reminders of grace all around me all the time. Love made new again, and yet again.
04:27 Recinch my pack as I walk, stumble over a root and then stop. Ambient starlight fingers across the trail, a shadow slowly waddles onto the path. A porcupine silhouette illuminated black quills slicked back snick together clickety clack warnings with each swaying step. Stay back. His head bobs side to side in tune to his stride. An old punk rocker …piercings of pale flowers dangle from his barbs.. silently he melts back into the dark brush. I step over a few pale blossoms left behind. Now slowly waddling along in my own rhythm and stride, and wonder if my prickles shine in this moonlight. On up, past the lacy ferns, fragrant Balsam pine still in shadow ,then I step into a glade and find myself knee high in a sunburst of yellow blossoms with brown button faces, tall mature Mules Ears. Sunflowers that boldly soak in the first Dawn’s light and glow brightly on either side of the trail. lazily rocking to and fro shining fingers of morning light through the trees, while other flowers sleep in the shade until the day’s warmth finally wakes them and shy wildflower faces, turn up to the sun for a morning kiss.
05:58 Up a switchback, and by a little trickle over some rocks Columbines are dancing in their fancy frocks, whites, pinks and yellows. A pause, to savor these old friends, their delicate petals unfurled, graceful gowns in the mist shimmering dewdrops on leaves, days of fairies and enchantments remembered, shared with curious little daughters poring over old picture books and poems of the flower fairies, then imploring me to go search the woods and streams with them, to find the wild flower fairies who left behind a trail mysterious clues for us to follow. A spiderweb shivering with glistening gems “Look at the diamonds!.. The fairy folk must be dancing just ahead of us.” Childlike hearts, never doubting and here these pixies are again and here I am with my children in my heart, and a trail of fairy dust left behind. I tuck this moment into the pocket of my raggedy old soul cloak. Then venture on up the switchbacks entering this canyon ambling along sunlight filters down from the rosy tips of the peaks. Gold melts across the canyon walls, and a palette of color leapfrogs up the mountain. Older summer blooms doze and sway in the valley while the first wildflowers of spring race melting snow up the mountain peaks. A rest at a waterfall, refilling my water bottle, heavenly blue and heart pink Forget -Me-Nots on their willowy stems, bouquets of true love’s promises, lushly, sway back and forth. Blossoms held out to me. Five tiny petals spread wide open to heaven, with five tinier petals still, nestled bound a dot of sunlight, flower fingers open to receive sun and rain, open flowers offering back, blue sky pink of dawn, a gift ..And sitting here, I find my arms wrapped tightly round me, heart closed and protected. I begin to open my arms wide, unclench my fist spread my five finger petals hold my face up to the sky. Open my heart again. Open to receive open to trust again. In True Love’s promises..
08:48 Round a boulder, a glimpse of purple Harebells. Mine to give another name, long ago. These my little Snowbells, delicate dangling tulip domes, one atop each thin stem these brave-hearts that push up through the snow before winters last tempests finish raging. First spring blossoms
,ringing a peal.. “Grow seeds grow… Seek life ..Wake up, Come play…sun and rain are here this day.” These song bringers …marching ahead up the summer mountainsides ..lavender petals breaking ground in white ..standing guard till other wildflowers join in. Then finally, tolling out Autumn’s last peals, declaring the beauty and color of life given as one by one the flowers fade and winter snowflakes dance and twirl drifting to a lullaby, as Snowbells ring out loud and clear. “Sweet Dreams till Spring is here.” Before they too, sleep, bye and bye. I trek faster. Sun is rising higher hurrying now on my quest to find the little Alpine flowers, maybe they are still snow bound. Or maybe they have bloomed already with their wild abandon and now lay hidden buried under stone and soil. From this hot mid summer’s heat pressing down on me. Seed promises for another time another quest. Hope whispers up and up.. on into the high country. I reach the top of the switchbacks below Holly Lake. Cliffs covered in mossy banks, streams of glittering ribbons..tendril over and under a ring of fiery Indian paintbrush, tall bushy plumes, hot blooded colors, Scarlet orange, yellows and white ablaze. Downed trees build fortresses, moats pool across the trail, jumping back and forth over the streams, I catch my boot on a rock, slip, roll, and fall on my pack at a little waterfalls edge. crawl under the rocky overhang behind the spray of mist and find I’m looking through a prism of light. Everything shimmers like a rainbow. Shake myself off, roll back onto the trail the world comes back into focus. Then I crawl back again behind the splashes of water. Droplets zing into the air color sparkles, wilderness bling. I realize my lips, always held tightly in place, have slowly relaxed into a smile. How long has it been since my lips curled up instead of down all on their own, escaping from my control. A smile not to please another but welling up from my Soul Self. The me that was first thought of and then came to be. The me with the name of love’s own mystery… that I’m still growing into. I sigh and pick up my pack and head on up the trail.
12:11 I reach Holly Lake. A savored snack in the sun. Waxy yellow buttercups huddle tightly around the roots of my cushion…a gnarly stunted pine. This small alpine lake, a patch of clear cold deep blue green, waves are free of winter. Except for two little white icebergs like crystal ducks, bobbing up and down together, drifting round and round shore to shore, paddled along by the wind. Patches of color come into focus. time is so short, snow is yielding as sun pummels from above and seedlings nudge from below. New wildflowers sprout lavishly. I dare not tread on any bit of mud, for fear of trampling these hopes of spring defying winter. In the midst of a snowfield, stepping over a muddy moose print. A vase that holds a blooming crocus,satin white petals puffed open tinge of faint blue edges like clouds in the sky. I look up as real clouds now gather. Brief light summer rain drifts over me. Grace for upturned flowers and grace for this weathered old face.
13:37 Final two miles of steep talus switchbacks before the High Pass Paintbrush Divide..10,720 feet snowfields like stepping stones scattered over this last northeast slope. Long striding bootprints engraved in ice sloping up ahead. Choice do I monkey up over rocks, or walk across this shorter frozen stretch. Sun is beating down, then across the canyon dust explodes off a vertical shaft tumble of rock fall. Choice made. Take the quick route, follow the bootprints. A Breath. A prayer. A step into the etched prints on the ice. Poke hiking sticks carefully precariously balancing, gliding along the straight stretch in a drunken weave..Breath. Prayer Step glance down down down into this rocky chasm my illusion of invincibility vanishes. I’m feeling afraid. I chant out loud. Breath, Prayer, Step. Life so fragile, all taken for granted when I feel safe. But the truth always remains the same. A gift of breath given, a Prayer heard, Faith strengthens for another Step. Whether I am aware or not. Reaching above 10,000. Altitude squeezes getting a headrush, skin tingles, rubbing shoulders with my not so invincible self. Breath. Prayer Step. Refocus on the footprints finally reach the last step wide hop onto the talus. It shifts and wiggles I scramble clumsily onto a bigger rock above. Lay back shaking yammering a multitude of Thank yous. Look up and find I met the cairn that marks the final turn in the switchbacks near the end of the quest. Anticipation expectation. Old Soul hoping for the gift of Alpine flowers.
15:48 I take the last steps up over the final rise and drop onto the divide. Look out over the broken granite sculpted into this holy grail. The rim of this cup drops away into a haze of clouds. And here in front of me. The chalice is filled. Color intoxicating as wine. Delicate shapes bubbling out of cracks and crevices and I drink it in deeply. This gift of my Alpine flowers and enchantment spring wildflowers transformed into miniatures. peeking out between jagged rocks blossoms woven over and under as if they sprout from the stones themselves. Prussian blues magentas, vermillion, violets, an ancient tapestry deep and rich, each petal a jewel, tiniest shapes, lace and frill I carefully step from one bare stone to another with prisms of light sprouting in between up and over. Stop look down into the tiny faces replicas of the canyon flowers. Reach the furthest outcropping and lay down on a large boulder at the rim’s edge. Roll over on this lofty bed and soak in this poetry of color. Tiny shaped brilliance, each like a word etched onto my heart, breathing life into my soul again. How do they grow so perfectly? Rain pours. Seeds burrow down root further into scarce soil. Hail pelts. Petals tucked beneath sharp stone. Fierce winds whip. Blooms hug tightly to this highest place on the mountain. Ice and Snow bury. Impossible. Miraculous . These spring promises that flourish for the blink of an eye. These wildest wild flowers, rainbows in the high country. The wind nudges a little tea some chocolate before I go. Scoot to the boulders edge haze clearing feet dangle over this deep vastness. Look over the expanse below and feel tiny as these Alpine flowers beside me. Stand up. Turn slowly round, this body tired but heart sighs, satisfied, content. Tuck this moment into the pocket of my old soul cloak. Carefully stone step my way back home. In a last dance with these wildflower blessings, soaking in this little bit of Heaven.