America The Beautiful

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks of political ridiculousness topped off with the S&P downgrade, one would not look at America and say “What an inspiring country”. I sure haven’t been feeling that way myself, but today I was reminded of just how inspiring this country I live in can still prove to be despite the people leading it.

Today I visited Pikes Peak just a few miles west of Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is not the tallest 14er in Colorado, but it’s probably the most famous. It’s where, over a hundred years ago, Katherine Lee Bates, a teacher from Wellesley College stood and became inspired to write the poem, America The Beautiful. After returning from the summit, she remarked to friends that countries such as England had failed because, while they may have been “great”, they had not been “good” and that “unless we are willing to crown our greatness with goodness, and our bounty with brotherhood, our beloved America may go the same way.”

That sentiment may sound familiar: “and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”. Some of our politicians could benefit from visiting and pondering the same perspective I enjoyed today of our country and the potential for greatness it still has if we could just get our act together.

I would gladly pay the $34 roundtrip for all of our Congressmen to fill the train to the top. I’d even throw in a few oxygen tanks to aid dialogue in the thin air.

At times the Congressmen might feel like they can’t see where they’re heading, that they might run straight off the edge of the mountain into nothingness.But the tracks built long before will hold them and before they know it, they’ll be staring out at the same view I saw today of a beautiful country with limitless potential for not just greatness but goodness and brotherhood.

A different perspective

August 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

photo: Mt. Quandary (http://tlmathews.com/blog)

Some weeks I do lead me to other things I’d like to try. Last week I went on some beautiful hikes in the foothills and in the mountains, admiring the still snow-tipped peaks from afar. While they’re beautiful to look at from afar, you can’t help but wonder what everything must look like from up there. It would truly be seeing Colorado from a different perspective.

Mountains have always infatuated me from afar. In the Summer of 2000, I spent 2 1/2 months in India and Nepal traveling. I didn’t venture out on any serious mountain treks, but I did take a flight from Kathmandu to see Mt. Everest. It was monsoon season that time of year, so it was the only way to see the infamous peak other than climbing it.  I didn’t have any illusions I would ever be be climbing it much less making it back that way, so I wanted to at least get to see it with my own two eyes.

While our tallest peaks are half the size, known as “Fourteeners”, they still provide a dramatic backdrop to the plains and a formidable challenge. There are a total of 53 peaks above 14,000 feet in Colorado representing a wide range of difficulty.  The youngest person to climb all of them was Megan Emmons, in 1997 at age 7! My 6-year old nephew loves to declare that girls do boring stuff, so I’ll have to be sure to share this with him.

I don’t plan on climbing all of the Fourteeners this week, but I’m hoping to try a couple of the easiest ones. Mt. Bierstadt is only an hour away from Boulder and considered one of the best to try first. I’m also hoping to try Mt. Quandary with friends this coming weekend. To start off, I’m planning a visit to the most famous of the Colorado peaks, Pikes Peak, (by car) to take in the view. It’ll give me an idea of what I’m up against in terms of the height.

My one fear is that my intense fear of heights will paralyze me at various points along the way. I supposed I’ll keep Sir Edmund Hillary’s words of wisdom in the back of my head “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

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