Colorado State of Mind

As you cross the state line into Colorado something washes over your body. It's a thin film that exposes whatever idea about exercise or the outdoors you might have previously held as a farce. For me, vacations used to entail sitting quietly, reading a book or watching television or sleeping late. Occasionally, I would rise from the indention I created on the couch and go for a short walk or bask in the sunlight. If I was ambitious I would play golf or even make it too the beach for a brisk, but short, walk; serious outings generally revolved around food or shopping. However, all of that changed when we crested a hill and saw the purple snow-tipped mountains of Colorado jut into the horizon. Suddenly, the sky was bluer, the air more crisp, and with each breath we wanted to be outdoors, moving amongst the hills and trees. Vacations became destinations where we were compelled, no propelled, out into a new world. You don't just drive I-70 through the Rockies, you experience the mountains as your car thrusts you from valley to canyon to mountain pass. Your body itches and twitches as you take in the landscape. It has nothing to do with boredom or uncomfortability; rather you see a hill and want to climb it to discover what new views it holds or you discover a small creek that winds through a valley and you want to see where it takes you. I have never thought of an interstate as magical, but when you are on I-70 and you hit Vail Pass a novel view of the world explodes before you.

Just as my mind is growing and stretching from the theological explorations that doctoral work holds, my body is also experiencing new things again. I now weigh the same as I did on the day of my graduation from college, over ten years ago. I get up early and exercise almost every morning and am in better shape now than in any time in the past ten years. I awake each morning with a satisfying soreness that has more to do with pushing the limits of my body than with the inevitable creaks and groans that come with age (though there are those as well). When I lived on the east coast I was resigned to the idea that my waist size would inevitably increase an about an inch every two years. Today, I am swallowed by my pants and shorts; the thin layer of fat that occupied my waist has been eaten by that same Colorado film that pushes me towards the fresh air and mountains.

When I reflect on these physical transformations it pushes me to think about my life on the east coast, especially the pervasive mentality towards a sedentary lifestyle. What made it so easy for me to sit, rather than move? Furthermore, what is it about my life now that makes me more motivated to move? There are a number of easy things I can contribute as answers. I don't drink soft drinks anymore (I have had maybe six in the nine months we have lived here). I don’t eat at fast food restaurants as regularly as I did in Richmond. I cut down my caloric intake and introduced more fruit and vegetables into my diet (though not nearly enough, my wife would say). I eat several small meals throughout the day and one big one at dinner time. I exercise regularly. I see vast numbers of people exercising on a daily basis, riding bikes, jogging, or walking. I don't see nearly as many overweight or obese people on a daily basis. All of these things have contributed to my physical transformation over the past few months. However, I can think of two other reasons that are less obvious but equally important.

First, there is an aesthetic, a sense of beauty, at work in Colorado that I have not experienced elsewhere. I grew up around the mountains on the east coast, but no mountain range has ever captivated me like the Rockies. Where ever I wander I want to see the mountains. Their beauty beckons me, drawing me in like a moth to flame. Whether it is the sheer face of a canyon in western Colorado or the gentle rolling foothills that are closer to home, I find myself wanting to explore and touch the beauty that constantly befalls my eyes.

Second, I believe a satisfaction with my vocational pursuits has contributed to my physical changes. I believe that I have found my home, theologically and vocationally. I thoroughly enjoyed my work with the counseling center and congregation in Richmond, but I always felt like I needed something more. Here, I am satisfied in my own skin. I am writing about things that matter to me. I am exploring my creative side, examining the dark corners of my theological structures and bringing to light novel connections. I am comfortable enough to be me and to let others be themselves.

I hope that I will never again underestimate the power and feeling of a vocational home. My very life depends upon it, and it is from this home that I draw life and power. I won't be a sophist and say that Colorado is perfect; nor would I admit that it is a panacea for all that ails the world. However, for me, at this moment in time, it provides the shelter, the container, that allows me to reach out to a weary world and try and make a difference...



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