Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Colorado Learnings: The Upward Way

I'm a flat-lander.  I readily admit that.  A child of the Midwest, that region is my home in many senses.  I'm rooted and grounded there and love its seasons, flora and fauna.

But i like to travel, too.  I enjoy seeing different parts of God's good earth.  This summer I've seen the Carolina coastline, northern Ohio farm fields, and Colorado's mountains.

Yesterday I did something I would not, on my own, choose to do.  I went on a ride at Colorado National Monument.

Now unlike the the Washington Monument, which I have seen many times whilst in DC, there is no ... um... monument at Colorado National Monument.  There's no stone spire there, no man-made monolith.  Instead the whole place is a geologic monument.  With sheer cliffs dropping 2,000 feet.

That last part is why I would not choose to take a ride there.  I'm not a big fan of sheer drops of 20 feet -- let alone 2,000 feet.  But my sister Julie and her husband Dave wanted me to see this particular part of their state and my sister Linda who is almost as heights-impaired as I am, said she was game, so off we went.

I was fine at first.  Didn't really think much about it.  But they kept talking on the almost 2 hour trip from Montrose to the park entrance about how it wasn't so bad and which side of the car I should not sit on and how I could keep my eyes closed on the way up, if I wanted.

All that made me a mite jittery.  So did, upon our arrival at the park entrance, Linda saying, "Okay, let's switch seats."  She said it was so I could have the best views for photos, but it was really because she wanted to be on the side of the car facing the solid rock walls instead of the sheer (I have I mentioned that the drops offs are sheer?) drop onto the rocks below.

I was still pretty much okay.  Until a car pulled up next to us.  The driver and passenger looked up at the roads clinging to the side of the rock face, looked at each other, looked up again, looked back at each other ... and turned around and left.

I took a deep breathe, we pulled up to the ranger station, got our sticker and started up a gentle climb.  I looked at the map the ranger had kindly given us just as the road took a decided un-gentle angle of descent and all guard rails disappeared (to make it easier for the car to plunge all the way to the bottom of Fruita Canyon I guess).  According to the map, ahead lay Dead Man's Curve.

My goal was to make it there -- and past. 

My hands were sweaty, my breathing shallow.  I wanted to lean to the inside to "help" keep the car on the road (unknown forces were probably at work trying to suck us off the road).  I wanted to close my eyes.  But instead, I reminded myself to breathe deep.  I sat back.  I wiped my hands on my shorts.  I stole small glances out the side window while Julie and Dave "ooohed" and "aahed."  I admitted to myself and them that I was scared.  And I told myself that soon I would be at a place that was more comfortable to me than an automobile climbing along the edge -- and would be witness to some vistas that I'd never witness any other way.

Like life, I thought.  I'm in the midst of a sort scary trek now... after having left a long-term, solid, well-paying, fulfilling position with a wonderful organization to do ... to do what?  To find another  solid, well-paying, fulfilling position with a wonderful organization?  To write, edit, speak, lead retreats, consult with churches? 

The road I'm on looks pretty scary in some ways.  But the safety of the flatlands is behind me.  I'm on the climb.  The cliffs look pretty sheer.  But, like yesterday, I'm in good company.  Many other of God's children are traveling similar paths, and some are with me on mine.

And, like yesterday, I have a driver and guide who's trustworthy and knows the terrain, even if I don't.  So, like the old gospel hymn says:
I'm pressing on the upward way
New heights I'm gaining every day;
Still praying as I'm onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Now, if I can just make it past "Dead Man's Curve."

-- Brent


Friar Tuck said...

Having spent my years of ordained ministry in Montana, Colorado, and now the Black Hills, I can certainly identify with your story. Having grown up in Oregon and Alaska, I can attest to the fact that there are a lot of roads like that out west too. My wife loves them. I freak out. Even though I am definitely not a flatlander...

RantWoman said...

And you think it would be better if you did NOT freak out?

I am enjoying your ride hugely which may or may not be heartening