What I’m seeing

Shift-change time in the Wattenberg field

Cows bellow, dogs bark, a freight train bleats its imminence in the South Platte Valley below us as geese honk while flying, in spear-tip formation, northward, in search of bedding ground, for a night.

From the north, from the sky, Boeings drop, solo and with precision, toward DIA, to deliver cargo and passengers, for some to call it a day, for others just a stop along the way.

In the sky, the sun drops below the continental divide, the enveloping evening glom paused briefly by pink trim on the lenticular clouds, spooning above the Front Range like layers of down comforters, then boisterous November orange, a last shout of the sun before surrender to night.

Only a truce with night is found in orange sodium-pressure lights blinking on in distant yards, then white lights on drillings rigs, one, two and three, like giant Christmas trees, and beyond, below the darkening mountains, the twinking of exurbs and suburbs, an agrarian landscape shifting in time, rig by rig and house by house, into industrial and residential.

On this country road, a farmer draws a wagon of coiled hay bales, wide as oil tanks, the fall harvest now ready for winter, a sign in his yard telling truckers No Jake Brakes and stop—yes stop!—at the stop sign.

In this shift-change time, a pickup truck rumbles by, drowning out the bellowing and the barking and the hollering, its destination unknown, here in what geologists call the Wattenberg field.

— Nov. 26, 2017, Allen Best

Raging against the dying light

At breakfast this morning in Grand Junction, the three of us—Rod Proffitt of Pagosa Springs, Ken Neubecker of Glenwood Springs, and myself, the oddball without a hot springs in my backyard—discussed briefly the mass shooting at the Walmart in metro Denver.

It was in Thornton, Rod said.

My day was frenzied but good. Near Paonia, on a mesa above the North Fork of the Gunnison River, I talked energy with somebody who understands the great upheaval now underway and the wonderfulpossibilities; and then in Frisco I talked about transportation with a ski town mayor with a vision.

Only then did I have time on my hands, so I took the long way back to Denver: Past Keystone and up the Snake River to Arapahoe Basin, which has already cranked its bull wheels for ski operations on mostly manufactured snow.

Luck was with me still. At Loveland Pass, the bending light rays suffused the clouds with yellow, orange, and red. I paused, both to take photographs of this spectacle and to remember days past.

One autumn day in 1998, before the snow arrived, I took a lady with me and met two others at the pass for a hike along the continental divide. I think Grizzly Peak, one of the 13,000-foot mountains just short of Grays and Torreys, was our designation.

The ladies were two women from the Vail area, Jean McGuey and Elke Nall, with whom I had hiked frequently on mountain club and other excursions. My lady was Francy Pass Lady, the springer spaniel that Sara had insisted upon getting and I fell in love with, despite myself. It was a good day, although I could feel a bit of the difficulty in breathing that now make oxygen bottles de riguer from Dotsero to Lookout Mountain.

But I am alive. Elke died the next summer and then Jean in I think it was 2004 or early 2005. Fancy died in 2006. Cancer in all three cases.

I took photos of the sun’s light fiercely reflecting off the clouds along the divide, then began descending the pass and into the dimming light. The lines of Dylan Thomas came to mind:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Home again, or at least the place where I live, Cathy was glad to see me but said there had been sadness on the campus today. A maintenance man at the University of Colorado-Denver died last night. She had know him a bit. He was joke-cracking and very pleasant man, she said. Last night, he had been shot at a Walmart in Thornton.

He was 66, about the same age as me, but he did not go gentle into that good night. He had no time to rage against the dying of the light.

— Nov. 2, 2017, Allen Best