(Made summit on 09-30-2019)
Jumbo seemed the obvious choice for my 8-er. It’s one of the most visually prominent land features around Paonia. Its western side presents dry, Juniper scrub and enticing red cliffs to our valley’s residents. This side is accessible via a system of trails winding out of the Apple Valley neighborhood. It’s a popular mountain biking area.
One section of cliffs has been said to look like a face wearing sunglasses, though I had interpreted it as a goddess figure from certain angles. Either way, the mountain has personality.
From town Jumbo has some communications towers plainly visible on what looks like the top. This was a promising clue as my climbing partner and I were working out a route to the summit. If there are towers up there, Julia and I decided, there must be a way up.
Let me back up. I mentioned the trail system on the west side, right? Well, rumor had it we could get as high as the “Grassy Knoll” on trail, and maybe we could scramble to the summit from there. It sounded difficult, uncertain, and possibly treacherous. Hmmm…
DeLorme’s Atlas of Colorado shows some sort of trail going up from the road out past Minnesota Reservoir. The Atlas is not super detailed and sometimes is unclear as to what exactly sort of path we are talking about. However, if my calculations were correct, we could head up that way and follow trails all the way. It could be long, but it was unlikely to be dangerous.
We couldn’t seem to find anyone who had actually been to the top. “How can something so popular be so mysterious?!” asked Julia. The Forest Service office was no help. We couldn’t find a map that showed more pertinent information. This was going to require some reconnaissance.
We set out on the first mutual day off we could muster. A rainbow touched the mountain from our starting point and seemed to bless our intention. Here’s where the interpersonal part of the terrain made things interesting. I had once driven my little car as far as the Minnesota Reservoir, but it was not a feat I cared to repeat as far as the road conditions were concerned. J’s car is far better for this sort of driving, but it’s not a 4X4, and I knew she tends to be more careful of her car than I am.
Since I didn’t know what shape the road is in beyond the reservoir, I suggested we park there and try a trail I had partway explored before. It led up a draw above the reservoir and looked on the map like it would intersect the main summit trail. If so it would also cut off some of our hiking distance.
Well. We put in a good effort, but we didn’t ever find that “summit trail”. Our trail petered out into braided ribbons of game trails and enough dense brush to have J’s inner-dad-voice warning of hidden bears. We turned back.
It looked like Jumbo was not one to reveal its secrets to the faint of heart. “It’s going to make us work for it,” said Julia.
It was several weeks before we found another workable day. Again the interpersonal terrain came into play. I had suggested a joint expedition between Julia and I and a couple of friends: C and S. Okay, so I admit part of the reason I proposed a joint expedition was in hopes that we could use their truck, in case the road got worse. Awkwardly, however, C ended up having a schedule conflict but said S was still up for coming along. So we became a trio for the one exception to me duo-climb perameter. (I explained our predicament to S and held faith that at some point on the way up we would “just know” it was time to separate so Julia and I could have our duo-summit.) Turns out we couldn’t have used their truck anyway. Der.
Still it was nice to have S along. We talked about the cliffs appearing as either a face or a goddess. Julia said she always felt a masculine presence from this mountain, while mountains and the land in general have a feminine presence. During this gender-fluid conversation it started to seem appropriate that I had both a male and a female climbing partner along. I relaxed into the inevitability of what was. Okay then.
There were some other amusing details adding to the overall mystery. Just before we set out, we finally talked to someone who’d been up — on an ATV. This only served to further confuse things as he apparently didn’t remember well, telling us the road gets so bad he wouldn’t bring a Jeep on it. His advice to “stay left” was good though.
We just didn’t know how far it was going to be, and when we came upon this sign, we got a little worried….
Did the decimal point fall off?
It turns out that what looked like a trail on the map was actually a road — a very good road — all the way to the summit. We parked probably four miles away expecting the road to get bad. Ha! But we did get our exercise. Only the summit itself was anticlimactic: a gentle rise in the road. Probably this explains why so few have been there. Turns out the towers are quite a bit lower than the top. Now we know.
It was a lovely autumn day, Aspens turning and everything. Great views all around. Julia and I both found our homes from the mountain’s-eye view, adding to our internal maps of place relationships.
I found it interesting to notice how difference in elevation can seem greater when looking down than when looking up.
After the summit ritual of song, photos and offerings, we took a brief rest and snack break and started our descent.
My listening with this Peak had given me to walk softly and go slowly, to be in contact with every step along the way. I wore my elk skin moccasins and did my best to slow down. I considered walking in silence, but it felt more in the flow to allow the meandering of our conversation. It also felt like our chatter would alert any animals of our presence and avoid startling Julia’s bear. (We saw a variety of tracks.)
It was good to feel my feet upon the earth. The rest of my offering I keep between me and the mountain.
It’s like color theory. Well, my own personal soul-based color theory. People I have the closest relationships with are primary colors, like my mom, dad, and brother. Then there are secondary colors: my nearest aunts, uncles, cousins, and my grandparents. Tertiatry colors are those who are related but not in contact with me as much. These two goats showed up in bright primary colors to my soul’s eyes. Even their brother and the other kids born that spring were secondary. I felt like we were heart family. I wanted to know them when they got old.
“These little cuties are going to grow up into goats!” warned my logic brain. “Yeah,” replied my heart. “I love goats!” I could honestly say I loved my daily life working with the herd, doing farm chores. They had taught me so much. Even the difficult parts never invoked the dread response I had watched my dad go through every Sunday before another week of work.
I knew this dread intimately myself from most jobs I’d had. I learned well: I must be doing something “right” if it’s hard. “That’s why they call it work,” I can hear my dad say. A friend recently pointed out to me that I also use this barometer on my intimate relationships, to stupidly-long-term unsatisfactory results. What a relief it would be if it didn’t have to be that way! (Pause to breathe deeply and let that sink in…)
So since my heart was all in, and I’ve been trying to learn to be guided by my heart, there was nothing left for me to do but buckle down and figure out where we were going to live. The sheer terror of having two beloved beings dependent on me with no home, no income, and a huge life transition looming over me was minor compared to the shock and grief I felt at the idea of them riding off in the back of some stranger’s pickup truck, never to see each other again. It tore me up. “OK fear. You’re on. Let’s do this.”
Somewhere along the line, my dear friend, teacher, and healer, Deanna, lightly threw out the idea of, “Bring a few goats, come live with us and help us build our house!” I thought, “Does she mean it?” Deanna is a founding member of the Mesa Life Project, an intentional community seed sprouting just over the Grand Mesa from where I live now. They live on a rental property just down hill from the land they own and had just gotten a loan approved to start building a house on their land. At the time they expected to move up onto the land in a year or two.
These folks are family of my heart, and the vision they hold for this village-to-be resonates deeply with my own vision for living on the land. I had already been contemplating my place within this tribe for years and participating where I felt called. Mesa Life had felt like a potential future home for Eric and me, especially since I met him at a ceremony on the land there. At one point we considered moving there together. Deanna’s suggestion was not completely out of the blue. Some part of me has always been longing to live with them.
It took me awhile to navigate the question of whether I could actually come and bring goats. It was part of the community vision to raise animals, but it was assumed to be sometime down the line once they had the house finished and moved up to the land. I was in the midst of ending my intimate and business partnership with Eric, they were just starting to dig the foundation to build the house, and we all were preparing for a major ritual event on the land. Life was hectic, chaotic and full.
Somehow we managed to meet and come up with a proposal for creating a space for the goats at the rental and a plan to house me and explore our relationship moving forward. I felt ready to dive in. These were things I had been craving: creating a foundation with like-minded others to build a life together and a sense of moving forward toward my dream.
The pressure of the timing was intense. My deadline for moving the goats was mid-August, but I had to have a bulletproof plan in place by the end of June. The Mesa Life ritual was in early July, and we would all be wrapped up in that for almost two weeks out of contact with the outside world. I didn’t know who would be available to help me and how we would get a home set up for my goats by mid-August. I had to come up with something to tell Jeanne. She was giving me a chance, but her bottom line was firm.
Finally I presented her with our proposal. She cried, saying it just wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t connect with her tears. I just kept hearing some inner voice saying, “These are my goats.”
I left for ritual space with the uncertainty of ever seeing my goats again. They were posted for sale. Jeanne had exacting standards, but still, they were livestock. Whoever bought them would own them. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for help. I wrote Jeanne a letter pleading my case. I didn’t know what else to do.
My prayers were amplified by the ritual that held us. I went in knowing I had done my best. The shortcomings of our situation were obvious. It would take a scramble to get things set up for goats at the rental. I had meager money, resources, and physical strength to do it all myself, and no-one in the community had extra time to help me. The reality of the one couple who wanted goats was raising a three-year-old and starting a school on top of everything else. Even if we could pull it together, we’d be moving to the land in a year or two and have to start over. The land was wild and home to predators. A neighbor had recently lost a goat to a bear, and Jeanne had heard about it. If we were to have them there, we would need some livestock guardians, and I knew next to nothing about that…
The prayer shifted to “May these goats find the best home for them, where they will be safe and all their needs will be met. And if possible, may I at least be able to visit them.” I had to surrender them to the hands of Great Spirit.
It broke my heart wide open.
Returning from the ritual I was scared to learn whether they were still at Jeanne’s....
They were! Jeanne and I had a really good talk — mutual respect and understanding prevailed. No-one had enquired about the goats who met her standards.
I still had a chance for a miracle...
We’re on the land, Mesa Life. A group of women, possibly the same group as for the 2019 Sacred Emergence. It’s a retreat of some sort.
We’ve each been assigned a woman to contemplate and then write 4 assignments for her on 3X5 cards. I am writing cards for Jane.
The dream opens on me writing out cards #3 and #4. #3 says to go to the altar to Minerva and to gaze upon her beauty. The altar to Minerva is a mirror with part picture, part 3-D sculpture around an oval where one sees her own face in the mirror, sort of like those tourist photo-op boards people can peep through and take on a persona. Minerva’s dress and wild brown hair, surrounded by vines and plants. Card #4 says to write a description or poem to the beauty of the Minerva you see there.
When I go to give these two cards to Jane, she says she doesn’t have the first two. I say I remember giving them to her, but she still doesn’t have them. So then I’m trying to remember what I wrote on them, wracking my brain, until it occurs to me to just write them again from this present moment. So I get still to find the inner guidance I can offer for Jane. The first thing that comes is “I want you to write a list of 100 things you like about yourself.” So that is card #1. At this time I don’t remember what went on the second card.
I had to look up who Minerva is. She’s the Roman counterpart to the Greek goddess Athena. "Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, commerce, handicrafts, poetry, the arts in general, and later, war." from https://www.ancient.eu/Minerva/