Wishes from the Colorado mountains
Mountain cabin. Nighttime. Stars spilled across the sky as carelessly as flour across a granite counter top. The Milky Way herself, visible as a faint luminescence spread as if with a butter knife. I've been coming here since I was a little girl.
Tonight we are roasting marshmallows under a clear sky.
"Look," I say. "A shooting star."
I make a wish, change my mind, make a new wish, go back to the first wish, realize now that probably neither will come true, and give up in confusion.
I look down again at the glowing coals. Evaluate if I want to roast another one. Readjust my weight on the seat. Flames lick at logs now blackened. Later, my husband and I will heat well water on the stove and stand here next to the fire, pouring water over our bodies, cup after cup, until we are clean again. The logs crackle loudly and turn black, inevitably loosing structure in the extreme heat.
It's never quiet in the mountains. Driving up from the city, you at first think that it is. But there are the callings and whirrings of birds and grasshoppers (or hopper-grasses as I once called them), the rush of the stream as it speeds over rocks and toward its canyon descent, the different sounds of the wind as it moves through grasses or willows or aspen leaves. The wind, after you've been listening for a while, seems to move in rhythmic waves, soothing as a song I remember from childhood.
Now that I no longer live in Colorado, I only come back maybe for a week each summer. I miss my mother so much. She was the one who helped build this cabin for us, stapling wood floorboards while still pregnant with my sister. She led us on hikes over passes and up mountains with names like Mummy, Emmaline, and Comanche. She taught me to fish for rainbow trout and to make lemon slushies out of alpine snow.
As a mother now myself, I better see how she used this place to forge my sister and me into the people she imagined for the world. Up here, I am reminded of how little I need, really. And of how any decision, no matter how seemingly small, can change your life. Whether you read the map right. If you rushed coming down the mountain and risked an injury for which there would be no easy help. How much GORP you packed and did you remember a rain jacket.
I am also reminded of the songs she taught me, so many hiking songs. It was my dad who told bedtime stories and sang us ballads to put us to sleep. But it was my mother who sang the repetitive, upbeat ditties that got us to our next camp site on our tired little legs.
I am confident now, even when I'm afraid, because of her. I am grateful now, for simple things like a warm fire and hot water, because of this place. With such bountiful riches and the determination to experience them, perhaps I don't need much in the way of wishes after all.