The female mosquito lives approximately 50 days, while her male counterpart only survives 10. The painted lady butterfly, who spends summers fluttering among the Rocky Mountain wild flowers, has a life cycle of one year. The blood-sucking Rocky Mountain wood tick lives up to three years in the wild, and can survive 600 days without feeding. The life span of the deer up here is two to three years, mountain lions and coyotes live about 10, moose can live 15 – 25, and bears up to 26 years.
All of these sentient beings take what they need to survive, and leave the rest. The larger animals also leave footprints, fertilize the landscape with their waste, crush grasses and break branches as they move through the dense underbrush or bed down for the night. They leave a narrow wake.
In contrast, the life expectancy for a woman in Colorado ranges from 67 to nearly 90 years. I’ve been known to eat more than I should, put another log on and open the windows to listen to Pan Handle Creek, and more than one head of lettuce has sadly wilted in my veggie crisper – a despicable carbon footprint. While I’m keenly aware of the impermanent nature of our time in the Rockies, I find myself driven to leave some kind of lasting mark. I want to clear the land of dead wood, stack cairns, and build a stone path from the river all the way up to Moon Temple. I dream of one day building a garage with a couple of guest rooms, and inviting guests to enjoy a hearty breakfast before they hit the trails or spend the day writing in this inspiring environment.
None of us are guaranteed our next heartbeat, but if statistics bear out for me, I have anywhere from 10.5 to 32 years to fulfill these dreams. And then the hill will be overgrown and covered with the skeletons of our now-standing aspens and lodgepoles, the stones will creep and tumble down to the river under the hooves of large mammals and the freeze and thaw of winter, and the foundation of our establishment will crumble to dust in not much longer than it took for me to make my minuscule mark.
The Rocky Mountains were created over the span of 25 million years, beginning 80 million years ago, rising up from tectonic plates that are over a billion years old. In that context, not only my little mark, but the mountains themselves, are nothing but “a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass.”
I learned this week that the sciatic pain that has been dogging me since a fall on the ice last February is the result of six bulging discs, one of which is compressing the nerve. I haven’t spoken to a doctor yet (and that’s a for-profit healthcare story I may write about another time), but the diagnosis was devastating. Why? Because it may limit my tiny mark in this place I love. Oh, how we form attachments in this life. There is a possibility that my mobility will dramatically change within my lifetime. Or maybe not. I really don’t know.
Today, I am typing by the open window while raindrops hit the decking outside. I just put another log on the fire.
Copyright © 2018 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.