When I was probably 4 years old my mom encouraged me and my older sister to start a nature box. She bought us these white cardboard-like boxes with outlined pictures on them meant for coloring in yourself. They were crayon boxes to be quite exact. The type you take to grade school to hold your pencils, glue, scissors, and saved pieces of candy. We used marker to color them in, mine of course never made it inside the lines. That box held some of the finest treasures any young girl could hold. Pine cones, leaves, rose rocks, dried flowers, seashells, fuzzy cotton, feathers, and lots and lots of rocks. It grew quite heavy, and was never big enough. It sat on a shelf for a while in a safe place. Every once and a while I'd get it down and look through it, taking each item out one at a time, inspecting it carefully and remembering where I was when I got it, who was with me, or how the air smelled. As I got older I quite adding to the box and instead kept it in my closet with other special, saved things. I had it up until a few years ago, when I pulled it out and for the first time what once looked like treasures now looked like a pile of ugly rocks and some crushed brown leaves. The story tied to each token was lost in my memory. I've gotten rid of A LOT of things in the last 2-3 years, that being one of them.
I've learned a lot in recent years about letting go. And with that comes trying not to be afraid and living in the moment. Today all of this, even my nature box, came full circle.
I was rudely awakened by the alarm around 1:30 am. I had prepared for it the night before: went to bed fairly early, laid my clothes out for the day ahead, and packed a small bag. But even so, the sound of bells ringing was still alarming. And no matter how early I'd gone to bed, 1:30 in the morning will always come too soon. The plan? To drive 45 minutes to Mt. Engineer and hike it (over 4 miles round trip) in the dark to be at the top by sunrise. With the moon a few days shy of being full and the summer heat having melted almost all of the snow, the conditions were perfect. Or so they seemed the night before when my boyfriend had unknowingly convinced me to go. He has this way of always inventing adventurous, labor-intense things for us to do together that I gruel at the sound of. Even though, deep down I know the end result will be worth it. And this time was absolutely no exception.
I didn't bring my camera, which I slightly regretted. And words can't describe the beauty of what I saw. But, I will say that I had the most incredible morning, partly because of my boyfriend's motivation and also because of mother nature. The hike was difficult for me, physically and mentally. I'm not in my best "mountain woman" shape and the thought of a bear eating me in a dark forest for breakfast was terrifying. It was cold, and very steep. I had to trust myself and not be afraid. But mother nature prevailed as usual to say, "I told you so." She knew all along if I could make it to the top she'd make it worth it for me. And she was right.
As the sun rose over the top of the mountain I found myself almost holding my breath. The warm light made the bright green valley below glow with shades of pink and orange. I could see the top of every mountain in sight. Stunning.
It wasn't until the walk back through the lower valley though that I started to think about my childhood nature box. While in search for the tiniest pine cone I all of a sudden realized that the world was now my nature box. Full of any treasure I could bestow.
To my boyfriend who had made this hike 15 times before, I'm sure it was almost old news. But to me, the entire experience was like holding a handful of jewels. Except this time I didn't need to put them in a box in my closet. I felt like royalty. And my kingdom, right outside my back door.
My Oklahoma roots and deep love affair with Montana will forever run in my blood. But I can officially say today for the first time since my move, I fell a little bit in love with Colorado.