I am thrilled that I have been contacted by several people who are wanting to contribute to 52 Beautiful Things over the past few weeks. I actually am starting a queue of contributors! If you are interested in sharing your journey in finding a piece of the beauty the world has to offer, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week’s post comes to you from Mr. Dean Miller, a writer working in Northern Colorado. Connections through the Northern Colorado Writer’s Group brought us together. Thanks for sharing your work and pursuit of beauty Dean! Read below for his experience with something beautiful this week.
Author: Dean Miller
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The drive across the Continental Divide along I-70 in Colorado is one of the most beautiful journeys one can make by car. Towering mountain peaks pocketed by patches of snow, even in late summer months, remind me that all things endure even when they change. However, the stretch through the Eisenhower Tunnel leading to the Denver can also be of the most frustrating stretches of highway to drive.
Such was the case on this day. I enjoyed the non-stop travel from Grand Junction, cruising along the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon, over Vail Pass and through the tunnel. All of us came to an abrupt stop four miles down the hill on the eastern slopes for the Front Range. Who knew why and that didn’t really matter. What was in front, and now stretching behind me, were cars nose-to-tail, sitting still; a 65 mph highway turned parking lot. To make matters more annoying, this was the fourth time in six trips that I had encountered these conditions.
There was no place to go, save the occasional 20 foot roll downhill every few minutes or so, progress like that of a distracted toddler. I only wanted to get home, not unlike everyone else stuck on the mountainside. Cars jockeyed for the best lane, sometimes stopping those behind, but opening a small portal for those in the lane they vacated. Another roll downhill here; a long pause there. After a while, I found a bit of happiness with each incremental move forward. Yes, that was it! Take in the small pleasure of knowing that no matter how slow I am going, I am moving forward, closer to my goal. The pauses in momentum only fortified the moments of progress.
The line of cars snaked ahead far enough to reach an exit that led to a frontage road leading through the sleeping mountain town of Idaho Springs. Taking a chance, I took the exit and headed down the pavement at nearly 35 mph, a pace which felt NASCAR-fast after crawling along for nearly 30 minutes. All went well until every other driver who shared my same great idea backed up in Idaho Springs.
My progress was again, snail-like slow, but I eased through town at a pace faster than on the Interstate. Looking around I saw the locals and others out enjoying the warm summer evening, filling the several small shops, pizzerias, and restaurants, or relaxing in the park. Near the south end of town, less than a mile from rejoining the freeway (and possibly another 30 minutes of “driving,”) a familiar site caught my attention. Sitting on the porch of a small home was a large painted ceramic pig, one exactly like I had painted for my mother over thirty years ago. Back then, mom collected everything “pig.” My girlfriend and I painted the set, a girl in a flowered dress and a boy pig in overalls and given it to her for Christmas. Nearly two feet tall, the pair sat sentry along the dining room wall of her house.
Behind me a horn honked, stealing me back from my memory and a smile. I hadn’t thought of those handcrafted pigs in decades. Rolling forward for 300 feet traffic stopped again. A busy restaurant was on the left and sitting by the entrance was an even larger hog statue, this one adorned with a chef’s hat. I laughed at the site and decided to call my mom. We talked about the pigs, both those I saw and the ones we had painted. We shared a laugh that stretched across the mountains and over one thousand miles.
Eventually traffic merged back on to I-70. A few stop and go miles later, I took a second, compulsive exit to escape the log jam of cars. Driving along Clear Creek, I meandered through the canyon at dusk, enjoying the “backroad” scenery for the first time. Spotting potential fishing spots, I wondered if I could come back some day to check them out.
As evening sighed into night, I headed north along the pastures and plateaus of the Flatirons, passing a sports stadium where I watched my daughter play her last college soccer game. Another memory brought another smile.
I arrived home after more than six hours of road weary travel, happier than when I left, thanks to a traffic jam that could have ruined a Saturday’s journey through life. After settling in at home I wrote the following, if only to remind myself that it isn’t the pace at which we move through life, but rather, that we take advantage of those times when we do slow down.
It starts today: here, right where you are. You don’t have to accept where you are, though that adds more challenge than is necessary. Yesterday’s journey no longer matters, except in recognizing that it got you where you are now, right here. Tomorrow’s destination (and your next starting point) is unknown. Therein lays the beauty of this voyage. Today you begin fresh, energized by the knowledge that all you have to do is choose and then move forward. Think about that, moving forward; if you are walking in the direction of which you face, you are making progress. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
Dean is a freelance writer, author, poet, and professional member of Northern Colorado Writers. He has published two books (essays, poetry, and creative nonfiction) along with one ebook short through Hot Chocolate Press. He is the creator of The Haiku For You Project and is the editor of the upcoming Anthology The Water Holds No Scars: Fly Fishing Stories of Rivers and Rejuvenation. His work has been published in nearly two dozen literature journals and online ezines. He lives in northern Colorado and works as an FAA air traffic controller.