Reconnecting with friends and nature

Reflecting on our two months in Arizona, I feel thankful for the time spent with old friends and family. I greatly appreciate everything that Gary and Laura did(do) for us and I hope that it was also helpful for them to have us stay for so long. We enjoyed many desert walks/runs, rock painting, large amounts of research, political talks, in-depth conversations, warm dry air, and most of all forming a deeper connection with people I respect and care deeply for. The last week of our stay was busy preparing for Laura’s 50th Birthday bash. Friends and family from all over the country came together for a long weekend celebration, including close friends from Canada and even Laura’s favorite jazz group. It was a fun way for us to conclude our time, getting to know many of the folks important in their life, putting faces to names and stories. It was especially nice to reconnect with my sister who I haven’t seen in a year!

Despite all of the good things about being in Arizona, Alvin and I also were feeling a little depressed and uninspired by the time we left. We missed the snow and mountains. I have never spent the winter months in warm weather and as nice as it was not to be cold, to sit outside reading in 70 degree weather, and regain some color in my skin… I missed cross country skiing, snowshoeing, the sparkle in the snow, even the freezing feeling in my nose. To my surprise, we didn’t need to drive far North to find snow and mountains! A quick detour to Sedona revealed incredible sandstone formations. We took the scenic way, lucky to have a clear day for mountain passes, to snowy Flagstaff. After connecting with a friend in Flagstaff, we drove through the Hopi, Navajo, and Ute Reservations making our way slowly to Colorado, enjoying the beautiful scenery and making regular stops to learn about the place we were in and browse beautiful, hand-crafted native art.

A few days later, I enjoyed my first stay in a tipi in the mountains near Cripple Creek, Colorado, that Alvin helped set up with a friend a few years back. There, we shook off the depression and negative energy, healing our selves in the warmth of the fire and the solitude of the mountains. Over the next few days we enjoyed exploring various hiking trails around Colorado Springs before heading up to Denver to visit with one of my closest friends from college. Our stay in Denver was short but sweet and I loved catching up with Vicki and other folks from college (who knew so many people from Virginia would relocate to Denver?). Continuing our theme of searching for beautiful natural areas to explore and close friends to reconnect with, we made a brief stop in Eldorado Canyon before stopping in Loveland for the night to see Gunny, the owner of the tipi. Seeing that we were so close to the New Belgium brewery, our love for craft beer, and our desire to connect with them on the Western Hemisphere Project, we decided to stop in for a tour. Monday-funday!

After leaving Fort Collins, we drove North with plans to visit Tanka Bar in Kyle, South Dakota. Fighting a massive headwind, we made it as far as Cheyenne before we decided to pull off for the night. There’s an eerie feeling driving down the highway, noticing fewer and fewer cars, seeing the first tipped over semi, seeing the second, seeing another, and another, and another. Forget about my nerves, poor Fitzroy in the back, feeling every little movement of the van being blown down the road, shaking uncontrollably. Even when we stopped, the van shook like crazy. The next day, the wind didn’t let up and we decided it was too risky to drive against a massive side-wind to South Dakota and instead slowly made our way West, going with the wind, to Omaha. After a few packed days, trying to connect with as many friends and family as possible, we needed to head North, back to Minnesota for the Institute on Non-Formal Climate Change Education.

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