Perhaps some of you may recognize the title to this post. Wallace Stegner was a western writer and native. This is the title he chose for a collection of essays on living and writing in the West. One of the opportunities I had this semester was to become reacquainted with one of my favorite writers. I adore his poetic use of language and descriptions of the Western landscape. So much so that I wrote my senior thesis/capstone project on the West and issue unique to the West. Forgive me for neglecting the blog this last month; I was absorbed in research and writing! Here is an excerpt from the essay:
There is a place just beyond the 100th meridian that is the land of the sublime. Valleys give way to towering granite peaks shaped by millennia of freezing and thawing waters. In Colorado, Mount Bierstadt is one of the monolithic slumbering giants that guard this unforgiving wilderness. Bierstadt’s spine surfaces from the sodden, willow-covered Guanella Pass rising above the burgeoning alpine tundra like an ancient, barbed sea serpent. As I crested this singular behemoth in a land of behemoths, I attempted to pilfer oxygen from the diluted atmosphere; the blood throbbed in my ears creating a cacophony equal to the lamenting keen of the wind. Standing at 14,060 feet above sea level, Bierstadt is neither the tallest nor the most handsome mountain in the Rocky Mountain West, but it is the peak from which I first contemplated what it is to be “Western.”
If an American is asked to define the boundaries of the West, he or she may identify the area on a map west of the Mississippi River. Certainly this is accurate if one is standing on the east bank of the Mississippi. However, the landforms, topography and climate that characterize the West are distinctly different from those of the Midwest and the Pacific Crescent. Wallace Stegner, an award winning writer and western native, defined the boundaries of the West as those stretching from the 98th meridian to the coastal ranges and from the 49th parallel to the Mexican border (45). The western landscape is varied and diverse encompassing the granite spires of the Tetons to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Stegner wrote, “The western landscape is more than topography and landforms, dirt and rock. It is most fundamentally, climate – climate which expresses itself…as atmosphere, flora, fauna” (46). Walter Webb, a distinguished Texas historian, stated the West is “a semi-desert with a desert heart” and has a soul too black to be truly converted (Reisner 5). The aridity of the West, caused by the rain shadows cast by mountains unites the varied sub regions of the West.
As I contemplated what it is to be a “Westerner,” I realized it was the land itself that defined its people. Stegner ruminated, “Whenever I return to the Rocky Mountain states..the smell of distance excites me, the largeness and the clarity take the scales from my eyes, and I respond as unthinkingly as a salmon that swims past a river-mouth and tastes the waters of its birth” (Stegner xxi). This euphoric feeling of being “home” is allusive and impossible to label. Alex Lowe, a mountaineer and Montana native, said that his “heart sang” when he was the mountains of the West. Perhaps it is the extremes in weather and topography or the pockets of wilderness in the West that refuse to be tamed that still capture the minds and hearts of people the world over.
|Perfect "Down" as Cash waits for a treat.|
|Lazy Saturday reading time|
|"Help" from Miley|
|Cash with Darcy, the manager of the Doggie Daycare where Cash plays|
Despite my dreadful neglect of my husband, dogs, Cash our foster, and rescue work, none of them were far from my mind. Cash’s behavior continues to improve, bit by bit. We keep circling the idea of adopting him, but the result would be an end to our ability to foster other dogs. We have fostered with four dogs, but that was when 3 of our dogs required minimal exercise (they were all seniors). Exercising two high energy dogs is manageable, but three high energy dogs are more than we feel we can handle. So we just keep thinking it over. Miley adores Cash, he learns quickly, and is very fun to have out on walks and trails. I cannot wait for camping season to start to see how Cash does. He is such a smart dog! Cash has been busy the last month working on new training including down, stay, touch, and wait. Stay and wait are the hardest for him, and "touch" is by far his favorite!
|Cash enjoying a nap in the sun|
|Kind of adorable, right?|
|Ohh...spotted something! Is it a squirrel?|
|Keeping my big ears on the job!|
|"Sit" well of course, esp if there are treats involved!|
|"Work" with Miley and Savina|
|Going into a "down"|
|All the way!|
|Miley and Cash "helping" Kevin with the new girl...the bike.|
|Not a great picture, but Cash with our nephew Ryder playing in the back yard.|
|Both "kids" trying to squeeze through the same space:)|
|Post Cinco de Mayo dog party...Cash's fav buddies, Max a male English Mastiff puppy|
|More of Cash's friends. Rigo the GSD is Cash's second favorite dog after Miley.|
|The small lake. We still cannot figure out how he turned the faucet on!|