And that's important - at least to me. Being a monk away from his monastery is very much being a fish out of water, at least for this monk. Everything I did this summer was really wonderful, but when I got home on Wednesday afternoon and went into Church for Vespers, and the Officiant sang "Oh God, make speed to save us" and the choir responded: "Oh Lord;, make haste to help us" I knew I was where I belonged. 45 years of Gregorian Chant really gets under your skin, not to mention into your soul.
Which is not to take away from my time in Colorado. It was so great. Mountains feed my soul, and I got plenty of feeding. My friends John and Stefi were determined to show me every mountain in Colorado, and they made good progress on their project.
It began with my bedroom, which had an 180 degree view of mountain peak scenery, with a view straight up to the Continental Divide. They live at 9,500 feet, and the weather was perfect for a vacation - warm enough for a short sleeves when the sun was out and cool enough for a fire when there were clouds. Dry. Glorious.
We went over/through so many mountain passes that I lost count. But some were unforgettable - Cottonwood Pass, at 12,400 feet particularly, in the middle of the "Alps of the Rockies" with truly extraordinary views on either side. On one side you look into ranges of dark, bare peaks and on the other side down to a beautiful lake framed with mountains all around it.
We hiked up to St Marys Glacier at 10,000 feet. There were people skiing on it - in late August. I met a very friendly Golden Retriever named Milton who was dragging a 5 year old boy behind him, and I put my hands on an actual glacier for the first time. Another high mountain lake, fed by the melt from the glacier, deep blue and perfect.
We drove down the high plain behind the Front Range - a large sweep of range land where cattle are fattened up during the summer months, framed with mountains on either side and occasional rock "castles" and other formations.
I saw an actual ghost town - Nevadaville. Being Colorado it was a mining town, of course, and some of the mining works are still there, and though most of the houses have been pulled down, the foundations are still visible. It started to fail as the mines played out in the 1920's and the Great Depression finished it off, even though five or six houses remain and the old Masonic Lodge still stands.
And we saw innumerable small places with quaint "Old Towns", varying in loveliness and tourist appeal depending on circumstances - Idaho Springs, Leadville, Crested Butte, Georgetown, to name just a few. One of my favorites was Redstone - a social experiment that dates back to the 1880's. It was a mining town and John Cleveland Osgood - at the time the 5th richest man in the United States - built a town for the miners who worked the mine that he owned. He built 84 small houses for the families, complete with steam heat and plumbing, which at the time was unheard of, and a lodge for the single miners which is now an inn and spa and which serves (I can testify) very nice lunches.
And every evening we came home to our house in the mountains where the deck offered incredible views of a star-filled sky, shooting stars and Venus setting over the mountains shortly after sunset.
One night we played a game of Washers with one of the local guys - you throw metal washers about 3 inches across at a board that has a hole in it and hope to get the washers either on the board or through the hole in its center. The scoring rules are very complex and I'm told that the whole experience is helped a lot by not being entirely sober. And we also explored an old cemetery not far from where I was staying, with graves dating back into the 1870's and '80s. The mining settlement which the cemetery served is long, long gone, but the graveyard is still there, and still in use, buried itself on the side of that pretty remote mountain.
It was an adventure filled with wonder (who knows how many times I said: "Oh, wow!"), with beauty and with the deep silence of places that truly are far away from the normal noise of contemporary life. John's father describes Colorado as "one picture postcard after another". That's as good a description as I could come up with. "Rocks and trees" the locals say. That's another one.
A great, great time. I'll be thinking of it for a long time.
And now it's time to settle down to the ordinary routine of life and prayer and ministry, knowing that this summer of teaching in England and Kansas and of roaming the mountains of Colorado has changed me, and deepened me, and given me more to take with me into my monastic life. No doubt I'll be referring to this time again as I go along.