It isn’t easy to get to the Thousand Island area of the Canadian lakes, but happily we were invited by old friends to see their fabulous lake home there, and then enjoy their expertise as tour guides in Montreal and Quebec City. It was a delightful experience with good companions, and we were grateful for the opportunity to see these special places. We found Quebec particularly charming with its riverfront setting, an Old Town on two different elevations connected by a funicular, good cafes and shopping areas, gardens, funky districts with lampshade street lights, wall murals, and shiny tin roofs on old houses. It wasn’t quite fall yet, but chilly rain told us that change was coming, and the city lifestyle would be different soon.
I am enthralled with Richard Powers’ 2018 book “The Overstory”. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction so I’m not the only one who likes it a lot. I’m not finished with it yet, so can’t guarantee that it won’t let me down in some way before I’m done, but I don’t see how it could. The writing is gorgeous, the characters interesting, and the “overstory” itself is about trees.
I’ve always loved trees, but Powers has educated me immensely about them and their contribution to our life on earth. I’ve even been driven to look back through some of my photographs to see how frequently I focused on trees, and what miraculous things they are. Their variety, sizes, shapes, textures, and colors are only the visible evidence of their beauty; what they DO is nothing short of mind-bending. The recent news of the number of trees being lost in the Amazon and the devastating environmental effect of that loss to the world makes this book even more timely and important. And besides, it’s an imaginative, descriptive and thought-provoking wonder. It’s been a long time since I felt that way about a book.
You really have to want to see this place to go to the trouble of getting there; it’s off the beaten path in the southeast corner of Colorado. The drive from Breckinridge offered different topography and more wildflowers than we had seen elsewhere so the time passed quickly, but even when first catching a glimpse of the dunes, there are miles to go before reaching them. They sit against a mountain range with eerie visual impact that only increases as you walk through the grasses, cross the riverbed at its seasonal trickle and stand on the hot sand at their base to gape. It’s an alien world, and those little black dots seen here and there are hikers and sand surfers undertaking moonscape sports. Clouds casting shadows change the landscape and make the dunes look particularly dramatic, and they must be spectacular at dawn and dusk, and when the river runs high and the cottonwoods share their color.Rain teased us as we left the park, and we finally aimed our compass towards home.
Whether by God’s hand or man’s, I am in awe of the visionaries who created the world I am blessed to see. The Colorado countryside from Vail to Beaver Creek to Frisco to Breckinridge is awash with interesting towns, dramatic scenery, summer craft markets and flower combinations worthy of gold medals in any competition for creativity. I’m glad it is only my job to appreciate and not judge a winner among them.
And what a difference! We drove this morning from cloudy Aspen to sunny Avon, the long way. When extra miles mean Independence Pass (the highest paved state highway over the Continental Divide in Colorado, at 12,095 ft), one will be challenged not to shout out either from terror or glory. The road is too narrow in some places for two passing cars and hairpin turns without vision is common. There is evidence of avalanche damage in many places and falling rock is a frequent hazard. But to reach the summit, beyond the tree line, is glorious. Descending to Twin Lakes and back to “normal” scenery isn’t too shabby either.
It took us five hours to drive from Durango to Carbondale, CO, but you can see why…switchbacks and no guard rails and changing weather and too much to see makes for wonderfully slow going.