Bearings

When I was growing up, we had a joke in our house and, later, among backpacking friends to not ever take Pikes Peak for “granite.”  We made the play on words because of the pinkish-hued rock that comprises the Peak and, by extension, much of the surrounding area.  My childhood home on north Cascade Avenue had a big bay window on the west side that opened up a wide vista of the mountain. We could observe the Peak’s changes throughout the year – when it was snow-capped in the winter, to the pink granite rock above timberline in the summer time.

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It was there, everyday: steady, secure, visible.  If we set our bearings by telling people to “head toward the mountains,” or “if the mountains are on your left, you’re heading north,” then Pikes Peak became the heart of the GPS system that was the front range.

As I grew, though, I did come to take the mountain view for granted.  It was just there, everyday.  When I moved away for a short while in the 1980’s, though, that pink beacon stayed with me.  It was part of me.  I always felt just a little disoriented without it as I navigated streets of my new homes.

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Since returning to my hometown, I have renewed those vows to not take Pikes Peak for granted.  I look at it every day.  I love it in different light.  The early morning sun hitting the summit first, then, as the sun rises, the light spreading down the mountain.  The granite lights up pink, then the hues of green at tree-line, then the entire mountain is lit up and the day is well underway.

I love it at dusk, too, when the backlit mountain reveals the orange and blues of sunset.  When the light filters through the valleys and foothills of the front range.  Each day seems to be brand new from sunrise to sunset depending on season.

I was recently in New York City and had a view of the Statute of Liberty from the office in which I was working.  I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty before, a couple of times.  From Battery Park, then up-close as a tourist, a visitor to the area. Walked around the perimeter of its base. I came to appreciate the massiveness of Lady Liberty, the enormity of the torch she holds.

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But the view from the office was different. It was from a different angle, up higher, with a long stretch of the Hudson River framing the Statue.  It wasn’t a tourist’s view.  It was more-or-less an every day view.  One that could be easy to get used to.  From this distance, I couldn’t read the inscription about huddled masses. About tired and poor. Couldn’t read the words, “yearning to be free.”

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But those words are there. And while they don’t form the basis of policy, they shape the spirit of the country. Or they should. Lest we take them for granted.

One Response to “Bearings”

  1. I love the way you move from Pikes Peak to the Statue of Liberty. That was a surprise! But the idea of not taking the beauty of the mountain and the meaning of the statue for granted ties the two together beautifully! Thanks for sharing, Vince.

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