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The seasons: rockies autumn.

Ruminations on the meaning of life and other minor matters amid the splendor of the high country.

A hotel in Portland, Oregon, seems a strange place for a story like this to hatch. But a few months back, photographer Tim Christie and I were there for a writers' conference and got to talking about the western high country and how it pulls and prods us. He was born and 'drug up' in Montana and Idaho, but is still "blown away by this country," to use his words, a fact clearly reflected by the photos on these pages. I survived an upbringing in New Jersey before moving to Virginia, and have felt the sensual allure of this up-and-down land since my first visit there many years ago.

What is it about the Rockies that calls to some people? Whatever it is, autumn is when that call takes on an almost irresistible clarity.

Tim says you can sit on a hillside in that rugged, rumpled country and become "awfully darn philosophical" about things like how we humans--despite our best efforts to wrap our lives in plastic and overdose on the one-eyed monster in the livingroom--are tied to the land and its processes.

Processes like the coming changes mirrored by the forest, the canvas on which autumn is painted. Those gorgeous golden aspens bring both peace and unease to the human visitor. We sense that after a time, winter of one kind or another will blow into our lives, and things will change--for a time. There is an urgency to get ready, to line our nest, to harvest the bounty, to fill the larder.

Park yourself on a slope amid a Rockies autumn, and you cannot help but be dazzled and daunted and somehow enriched by the sheer enormity of that country. Perhaps a passing storm spawns a rainbow that bisects a darkened slope and seems to lavish its riches on a copse of yellow trees. If you are very lucky, a cougar will melt into your view, the personification of regal stealth.

The majesty and mystery of the land are manifested too by the creatures that inhabit it: the shambling grizzly, unchallenged king of the wildest places; the moose, whose homely looks and ungainly gait are somehow subordinate to its massive form looming above the frost-colored brush. And what visitor to the high country in the fall has not felt his skin prickle at the eerie sound of a bull elk's mating bugle ricocheting off the ridges?

And then there is the human animal, who comes to the mountains to prey, or pray, or wax philosophical about his/her role in the ethic of the land.

For whatever reason we go there, the land fills us with itself, and we celebrate its spirit, and ours.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:autumn in the rocky mountains
Author:Rooney, Bill
Publication:American Forests
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:A new way to see our city forests.
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