Ancient History

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Driving through the Colorado mountains during a late December dusk

Telephone poles stride cliffsides, up and down and impossible. A man teetered at the top, not well-paid as he strung wires across chasms. My eyes follow the poles as they skip up steep hills chained together with lines of communication. They veer off toward a range far in the distance and my eyes lock on the rocks. They are covered in snow. Bushes grow out of cracks.

There are signs that tell us to watch for falling rocks. There are signs with pictures of cars about to be hit by boulders. There are signs that warn of ice, snow, snowpacked roads, blowing snow, bridges, avalanche areas, and animal crossing areas. I look into the brush for elk eyes illuminated by headlights. The road unrolls, every corner turn a triumph against the assault of dire signs.

Ears pop. The baby screams and falls back to sleep, equalized pressure as timberline is reached. It’s abrupt—the line of life and death is startling. Growth halts dead in it’s tracks. The sun setting to the west unleashes a shadow never seen in the flatlands. The shadow creeps up the mountains before us, to the east. Their western faces frown as night exhales a creeping grey veil.

Corners and corners, switchbacks and hairpins, passes passed and passes yet to come. Runaway truck ramps remind us we could runaway, screaming brakeless down and down and down.

The kids count off tunnels ’til home. I have to think—how many have we been through tonight? I lose count. At the tip top of our trip the tunnel is two miles long under the continental divide. Just think, kids, all the water on grandma’s side of the tunnel goes to the Pacific Ocean. All the water on our side goes to the Atlantic. Yes, even when you flush a toilet.

We are a bead on a string of road. The mountains wear us well.

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