|Elusive Promise by J. Binford-Bell|
I first saw mountains at age seven. I was a flatlander from Missouri and my father, then a major in the Air Force, was being transferred to the base in Roswell. As the land rose and rolled I glued myself to the windows of the train in total awe. It was love at first sight.
But loving mountains can be a cruel relationship. You have to take them totally on their terms. There is little wiggle room for negotiation. You build at their feet, at the closest, if you are wise, and with what is called a defensible perimeter. To build in the trees, as is very popular now, is folly. It is like wanting to live in the kindling of a fire pit as the former residents of the outskirts of Ft. Collins and Colorado Springs and Ruidoso have found out.
And even living at the base of a mountain is tough. Mountains create their own weather in the best of times. I have sat on my porch in the valley and watched the clouds materialize out of a clear blue sky and build to astronomical heights. They blot out the sun and drop the temperatures as much as 30 degrees in minutes.
I have wrapped my arms tight against the new chill and prayed for rain I knew we sorely needed. That the trees on the mountain had to have. And watched the huge clipper ships of the sky move east to the plains to dump the moisture. You cannot ignore the weather here on the mountain.
I have cursed late freezes and the early ones after struggling to raise something in my garden. I know that winters, if we are to have no fire danger, must include lots of shoveling snow off the driveway. And after the winter of 2006 and the six feet of snow that closed all the passes I learned how important a well stocked larder can be. I have learned that summer is a gift but you cannot be idle for this is the time to get things done before winter again. And this is when it must rain so you watch the clouds and tune in to shifts in the breezes. Weathermen are not to be trusted so you learn.
But the biggest lesson I learned is you cannot change nature. Oh, you can carve out roads and build houses but the mountain will always have the power. You have to stay on your toes.
As I watch the news of the fires this summer I am grateful that there is no smoke rising from the trees around my valley. And believe me I look. And like a bear I sniff the air. I bought in a valley away from the tree line but I know a fire on the mountain could still cause me to have to evacuate. Having been in that position before I pretty much know what gets tossed in the car first. And what I will strive to take if I have a bit more time.
And I know, beyond all shadow of doubt, that if I and the fur kids and my camera make it out, it is enough.
The land I live on will survive even if the house doesn't. And if I have to live in a trailer to be in my mountains I will.