The gnarled ancient oak sits leaning into the river bank covered in a heavy crust of moss. Holes peppered it's bark from years of worms, woodpeckers and carpenter ants. Limbs bent and twisted, reaching to dip over the cool crisp runoff from the mountains surrounding the placid lake. A slight breeze teases the leaves but is not enough to stir the branches. The majestic tree has lined this shore for years, watching life progress at a steady, sedate pace. Boats carrying passengers of all ages and nationalities passed this shoreline bringing settlers to the surrounding area. Homes dot the landscape clinging precariously to the mountain side, blending into the landscape beside aspen and evergreen. Once there were only a scattering of log cabins hidden deep within the peaks. Now rustic contemporary homes surrounded by wrapped porches gaze out over lush foliage admiring the visage of the ranges weaving through the countryside.
Seasons change the views as Spring growth, moves to the heaviness of Summer, the beauty of Autumn flora and white of the Winter. Cubs alight from the dens of their mothers as the cycle of life renews. Nests are built for both squirrels and birds high above the ground where predators lurk. Puma teach their young to forage while rabbit and otter instruct theirs to evade. A lone eagle circles above peering down at the bighorn sheep scaling the shale, negotiating the precipices of rock it calls home.
I too walk these paths, venturing into wilds, climbing rock, stretching muscles and mind as each focus on their tasks. The air is raw with the chill of the approaching changes of winters arrival. Autumn graces the leaves that crunch beneath my feet, mixed in with the cushion of pine needles. Century old aspen are bare, dead from the bore beetles that have destroyed acres of these stately timber. Blue laces through the tan of the wood, marbling like an artists watercolor. It will take years to clean the forests of the dead wood to allow nature to replenish. Controlled burns will need to happen to achieve the renewal of life. I run my hand over one such beauty, with the white smooth bark standing tall beside me with its leaves of brown. Newer growth, not damaged, is dressed in an array of yellows and reds in bright contrast to the brown.
Life must change. Nature evolves taking with it the strong as well as the weak. Trees like the oak leaning, dipping into the lake withstand while others as old and proud whither from natural selection. I too will eventually whither and die like the aspen, replaced and replenished as settlers have been over the changes of the seasons. It is only right. While I can enjoy, embrace, value what surrounds me, I will. I will not grieve but rejoice over the sapling I notice clinging and in the fortitude of my old friend as he stands against the lake, bearing testimony to the ages.