We woke with the sun and the bluest sky. The sky is brighter and bluer when you are in the mountains. The hot dogs taste like steak and the sun is hotter and the water colder.
We woke with the sun and began running the narrow dirt road up the side of the mountain to the reservoir. Branden sang ACDC as loud as he could, between gasps of air, and I ran circles around him. Ever since I accused him of only pretending to enjoy running to impress me while we were dating, he has made more of an effort. Hence the ACDC.
I have never seen more shades of green. Light green of the aspens, lush green of the pines, bright green of the grass, yellow-green of the moss–everything green. A waterfall ran down the side of the cliff to my right.
I jogged in place while Branden ran 20 yards ahead. Pretending like I was on my high school track team, I dropped my hands to the ground and started sprinting after him. His ACDC stopped as he surged ahead, and all I could hear was my breath, now harder and faster.
Ten minutes later, we reached the top. The sun and surrounding mountains reflected off the clear blue lake. Massive pines lined the water, and we ran for another mile in silence. The trail took a sharp turn and the thick trees dissipated for a moment. I stopped in my tracks. Gold danced on the completely still water. The snow-capped mountains reflected brilliantly off of the gold and blue. I could not breathe in that moment.
Later that day, we drove up the other side of the mountain, on a rocky, steep, off-road trail. A grove of thousands of aspens lined both sides, and little bluebells danced beneath. We drove slowly and looked at the carvings of different sheepherders who had left their mark on the land. Marcos, Peru, 1962. Ron, 1973. Juan, Peru, 2013. I began to imagine the stories of these men. Why they came here, what their lives looked like, how they survived on this mountain, what their families thought of them.
We made it to the top, again. Except in the mountains it is never the top; it is a single peak but never the absolute top. We stepped out of the car and spotted a herd of elk running along a mirroring mountain. We looked up and saw more peaks, and more peaks, and more and more. We stood in a sea of land.
Charlotte played with the grass. She grabbed and tried to eat it. Branden lectured me on all of things anatomy and I tuned out and started a yoga routine.
I thought back to visiting this same piece of land when I was five years old. Fishing in an over-sized t-shirt with my dad. When I was seven years old. Pulling down unsteady pines in our campground with a chainsaw and a truck. And then, when I was twelve. Riding a motorcycle and a four-wheeler for the first time. And when I thirteen, princess lessons with my cousins. And when I was seventeen, whittling a piece of campfire wood all day for my boyfriend. And when I was twenty-three, my baby, fascinated by a piece of grass.
The land always changes. It takes years, tens and hundreds and thousands of them, but it changes with the storms and the sunshine and the water flow and the wind and fallen trees and tumbling rocks.
In a few weeks from now, I will visit my grandfather’s land once again; the pristine and majestic thousand acres of undeveloped beauty. I will be different then; I will have changed. Next year, I will come back and ride a horse on that same trail and it will be different and I will be different. Ten years from now, I will be molded into something else and fifty years from now, I will be entirely transformed.
I am not good at change. I like rigidity and schedules. But as we ran to the lake and the beauty took my breathe away, I thought that maybe I should start to like change. If the land never changed, I would not have seen what I saw.
I am not good at change, but maybe every year I can leave my mark on a tree and see where I have come. Kaylee, Kennewick, 2011. Kaylee, Brazil, 2013. Kaylee, Mapleton, 2016. And then I can look back and see, tree by tree, that I am different, and that is good.
Charlotte will play with grass only for a few months. Branden will be in PA school for a short two years.
This moment passed, and now today I am changed.