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On Interstate 80 in Wyoming between Cheyenne and Laramie you’ll find a spindly Limber pine growing out of a rock. According to legend, it’s been a source of interest since surveyors for the Union Pacific Railroad first saw it in the spring of 1868. These days there’s a fence around it and a sign for interested travelers who stop for a look.

Here’s what the sign says:

“This small pine tree that seems to be growing out of solid rock has fascinated travelers since the first train rolled past on the Union Pacific Railroad. It is said that the builders of the original railroad diverted the tracks slightly to pass by the tree as they laid rails across Sherman Mountain in 1867-1869. It is also said that the trains stopped here while locomotive firemen gave the tree a drink from their water buckets. The railroad moved several miles to the south in 1901 and the abandoned grade became a wagon road.

 

In 1913 the Lincoln Highway Association was formed To procure the establishment of a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Lincoln Highway was an instant success in a nation enamored with the newfangled automobiles and eager for a place to drive them. The Lincoln passed right by Tree Rock as did U.S. 30 in the 1920’s and Interstate 80 in the 1960’s. At this place the road was approaching the 8835-foot Sherman Summit, the highest point on the Lincoln. The view of the surrounding mountains was like nothing that westbound easterners had ever seen. Still they noticed the little tree, which became the favored subject of many early postcards and photographs. It still is.

 

The tree is a somewhat stunted and twisted Limber pine (Pinus Flexilis), a type of tree commonly found in this area where ponderosa and limber pines dominate the landscape. The age of the tree is unknown, although limber pines can live as long as 2,000 years. The tree grows out of a crack in a boulder of Precambrian era pink Sherman granite formed more than 1-4 billion years ago.”

 

I used to think this was an amazing story, and a great lesson about compassion and survival.

I do have fondness for those railroaders who watered that little tree. On this particular stretch of highway you have to be tough to survive. The wind blows like crazy and the elevation makes it cold much of the year.

Recently I began to view this tree as a metaphor for life.

My life to be precise.

I thought about the hard things. The struggles. The areas where I haven’t gotten enough of what I need.

The good news is I’m not a limber pine stuck in a chunk of granite, trying to suck nourishment from a rock.

I can move away from everything that holds me back, stunts my growth or just doesn’t nourish me.

But I don’t always.

There are times when I’ve stayed with a job or a project or sometimes even a friendship that depleted me.

I stuck it out because I thought it was what I was supposed to do.

I didn’t want to be a quitter-someone who didn’t follow through.

Can you relate?

These days I have a different outlook.

With each passing year I realize more sharply that life is precious and wonderful.

And we are here such a very short time.

I don’t want to waste even a moment of it.

No more trying to find life from a tiny crevice in a rock when there is lovely, rich, life-enhancing soil available.

What about you?

Are you trying to get by on too little that nourishes you?

If so, I hope you’ll join me in getting our roots into the most life-enhancing, soul-nourishing venture we can find.

I’m eager to know what yours might be.

And I’ll keep you posted on mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread. Places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

~John Muir

I am tied to the land.

There are places that I’ve visited since I was a child. I need them as much as I need oxygen and water.

And if for some reason I’m not able to make at least an annual visit, I feel it in my heart and more important, I feel it in my soul.

 One of my heart places is Vedauwoo, an area of rocky outcrops in Wyoming between Cheyenne and Laramie. The name is an anglicized version of an Arapaho word that means “land of the earth born spirit.”

My husband and I had taken a drive earlier this week to see some of the spectacular fall color. And to get me to Wyoming and Vedauwoo for a soul vitamin.

We weren’t disappointed.

It was a glorious day with the sky full of dramatic clouds.

Vedauwoo was nearly empty, which made it an even more powerful experience – to be alone in all that beauty.

We found plenty of color in the aspen, willows, shrubs and grasses of the area.

It was truly beautiful.

I got some great photos that I’ll likely share sometime down the line.

 

But as we were leaving I saw the landscape that I captured in the photo above.

It took my breath.

It filled my heart.

I wanted to cry at the stark and profound beauty that is Wyoming.

 

Talk about a soul vitamin!

 

Do you have places of the heart? I’d love to know about them. Leave a comment if you want to share.

If you’re looking at the title of this post and wondering if my spell checker is on the fritz, it’s not. Vedauwoo is a place in Wyoming between Laramie and Cheyenne. It’s part of the Medicine Bow National Forest, and is made up of Sherman Granite that is 1.4 billion years old.

Vedauwoo (the term is an anglicized version of an Arapahoe word meaning “earth born spirit” is one of my heart places. It’s where I spent my birthday this year, and many past birthdays as well.

Going to Vedauwoo for a summer picnic has been a tradition in my life since I was a little girl. Those days my parents would handle the picnic fare. My father would cook hamburgers over a fire in a big cast iron frying pan. He’d also make hash brown potatoes that were the best in the world, in a cast iron Dutch oven.

I still yearn for the taste of both, cooked by him.

Rounding out the picnic would be watermelon, doughnuts, and maybe baked beans. I can’t remember ever having a vegetable of any kind, but surely there was something. My mother was one of the early “eat you vegetables” kind of parents.

It was this annual childhood routine that became imprinted within me such that now if I don’t make it to Vedauwoo sometime in the summer or fall, I can feel it within my body. I know it sounds kind of over the top, but it’s true. If I don’t get to Wyoming I miss it as much as I would miss water or food. It’s part of who I am.

The novelist Carson McCuller says, “To know who you are, you have to have a place to come from.”

I come from Wyoming and am proud of it. Wyoming is in my blood, but more than that it’s in my psyche. I’ve said in my introduction for this blog that I am a western girl, through and through. There is something about the wide-open spaces of the west that fills me with peace. My husband teases me about blissing out as soon as we start the drive west from Cheyenne.

He’s right. All that rolling prairie does calm me. I stare out the window of the car and lose myself in the swaying grasses, blue sky and a horizon that stretches out far beyond what the eye can see.

Twenty or so miles out of Cheyenne, the terrain begins to change. Small boulders dot the landscape, growing larger the closer you get to Vedauwoo. The rocks look soft and round and remind em of my grandmother’s dinner rolls, rising on the kitchen counter.

And all these years later, my heart quickens and my soul issues a sigh of contentment as we pull into the picnic area.

It was a perfect day – a perfect birthday.

Do you have a heart place? I’d love to hear about it.

Tomorrow a story about the wildlife of Vedauwoo.

And thank you to all of you who sent birthday greetings my way. I appreciate it so very much.

And I appreciate you!

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