I spent a couple of days this week on the east side of
to punch walk a project. It was a good trip, great even. I always enjoy Denver and have always had a strange affection for the place. I rarely spend any significant time in
the city but I’m in love with the landscape that surrounds it. There’s something about being in a
wide open space, right? The
sky seems bigger and it gives me a giddy positivity that fills me with an
almost childlike exuberance. It’s
euphoric and I feel like I have to soak in as much as I possibly can in
whatever time I have there. The
euphoria fades eventually, but the renewed belief in possibility remains even
after that natural high subsides and I fly home. I’ve written about this feeling every
time I’ve been out west and at least once publicly on this blog. I
don’t think I’ve ever really understood though what exactly precipitates this
heightened sense of awareness and to be frank, I’ve never fully allowed myself
to embrace it either. Denver
I don’t (at least in recent memory) take vacations in the conventional sense. The half-truth that I’ve always convinced myself of is that I take mini-vacations on every business trip. I believe that it’s crucial when you visit somewhere that you immerse yourself in whatever the local vernacular is. In small ways I usually do exactly that but too often the local vernacular for me is confined to the local dive bar and that’s a damn shame. Sure there is value in even that but it doesn’t show a true picture of anything – realistically it usually only shows me the negative of a place. Further exposing the flaw in taking such a limited sample is the nearly certain sense of emptiness I feel after experiencing said local. Agreed, few things are better than one’s own local dive but what makes that cool is that it’s yours and that it’s in your neighborhood. All others in comparison seem sad and pathetic. This, by the way is exactly I’m sure what everyone else thinks of my favorite haunts. These realizations persuaded me to choose a different path this time and it made a world of difference in my psyche during and post site visit.
Ten minutes from downtown
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Strange name, no?
Apparently until the late ‘80s, the Denver government
manufactured nerve gas and mustard gas and napalm and all sorts of horrible
chemical weapons on these beautiful 17,000+ acres. In 1986, it was
observed that the lack of human intervention (for obvious reasons) had created a
sort of involuntary park. In ’92, President Bush signed an act that placed the majority
of the site under the control of the Fish and Wildlife Service ensuring that
the damage to the land caused by our desire to amass weapons of mass
destruction would be remediated and the over 300 species of wildlife, many of
which are unique to the area would be protected and restored to their native
state. Who knew he was such an environmentalist? U.S.
Regardless of its history, the time I spent on the Arsenal this week is something that I will cherish forever. That memory is doubly significant – I not only reconnected my spirit with the natural world but more importantly I didn’t do the same dumb shit. As I searched for a viable alternative to my pattern of engaging local dysfunction Sunday afternoon, it occurred to me that the emotions I feel when I’m west of the Mississippi are connected not only to some romantic notion of Jack Kerouac’s bullshit vision of America but are more so related to the overwhelming sense of promise and hope and beauty that I’ve always seen in nature. Perhaps it was the latter that guided me to where I landed. Perhaps it was Hair Nation on XM, a guilty pleasure that I don’t indulge often. Perhaps it was random chance that I found myself dumbstruck watching the late afternoon sky dance and morph and melt into a million divergent unusual colors with every passing second. Perhaps (and I’ve never said this out loud) it was God saying, “hey…still here bro.”
Regardless of why I happened onto the property I thankfully had the wherewithal to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity it presented. As I think a direct result of that experience Sunday, my confidence and productivity were through the roof Monday morning. I did (10) hours of impeccable charming architect with the client without a second thought. Trip last, this blog would have been a diatribe on the pitfalls and obstacles of being an architect – this trip, I was just some guy out west.
The Arsenal is only officially open on the weekends so Monday afternoon I wiggled out of the requisite client dinner and hopped the fence. I was rewarded with more amazing than I could have ever hoped for. I just wandered across this rolling prairie and for the first time in far too long truly experienced the local. Looking up and realizing that you are surrounded by a herd of deer who are not impressed with your presence is humbling. Seeing bison in their natural habitat stirred images of Native American purity. Hearing the call of unknown birds in the moonlight on the walk out was stunning. Being alone in this magnificent landscape was overpowering and awe-inspiring. There were great spans of time where I was convinced that there was no other person alive on earth – and I was cool with that. I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted to stay there as long as I could.
Tuesday was a repeat of Monday. Self-assured. Confident. Strong. Complete. I bugged out early so I could steal a few moments from nature before my flight.
I get that this all sounds very Alexander Supertramp and I am willing and able to accept that ridicule. I wouldn’t trade those two evenings and a minute of the next afternoon for anything in this world though. I’ve written enough ineffective words to describe these three days – here’s a visual.