Bald Eagles, Blue Skies and Birthdays

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My birthday in Boulder: blue skies, bald eagles, and flat country roads where the Great Plains butt against the Front Range mountains. The alluring alliteration is mesmerizing as sentences form in my mind as I pedal, circles without end, along barely ice-cleared roads on this first bicycle ride of spring here in Boulder County.

What are the names of the peaks I see as I briefly divert my attention upward from the gravel-covered county roads to swell in their beauty? How high are they? Are they accessible by mere mortals? They draw my attention, their bold white distinct against the cerulean sky and the still-brown fields. I want to climb them, to etch them into my being, to write of their strength, their remoteness, and their impact on my imagination. Mountains can define us, contain us, and remind us of our mere humanness among nature’s beauty and harshness.

From the sublime to the simple: tiny yellow and purple crocuses sprout cheerily along the road’s shoulders through the tough mud and detritus left behind from the heavy snowfalls of winter. The trees are grey and scraggly, not yet covered with the vibrant shades of green still weeks away, even though the temperature is reminiscent of early summer, not the middle of March. Other cyclists pass me; their white legs and arms not yet brown from hours in the saddle in the high mountain air. Birds swarm from the clear ponds and rushing streams, startled by an occasional car on the roadway. A few pieces of ice still hug the shorelines of the ponds, not yet dissipated by the unexpected warmth.

We effortless move between California and Colorado, sometimes drawn by the weather, other times by the desire for mountain air or quiet, the stillness of our retreat beneath Dakota Ridge and the Sanitas Valley Trail elixir for our chaotic lives. We’re already engulfed in spring in California; winter lingers in Colorado. We follow the sun in reverse when we travel eastward at this time of year, enabling us to marvel anew as tiny leaves show their buds on deciduous trees while the pines sparkle with new growth and fields bear twinges of green between the sticks of last fall’s harvests.

 This is my first birthday without either of my parents to remember my beginnings. My father’s loving but playful, “You were something else,” greeting is missing. My mother’s cheery “Happy Birthday, Pat” message on my voice mail is silent, only a replay of last year’s message a reminder of her vibrancy. My friends wish me a joyful year as the earth makes another cycle around the sun. Others euphemistically speak of the passage of time, the dreaded chronological numbers of becoming older hidden, disguised like some wild but harmless uncle in the attic. Each son telephones me, dutifully, probably, but never lacking in his acknowledged love, even if we’ve spoken only the day before. My husband does his last minute shopping, always socks, sometimes earrings, but really, I do not need anything material, only his love.

I am blessed that my birthday coincides with spring’s awakening. I can feel the freshness in the air, see the colors emerging from the earth, and believe in the cycles of life. For this is the best birthday present of all, regardless of my age or the testing of my physical and mental abilities against earlier years. Birth or rebirth, I am glad to be alive to joyfully continue forth in this miraculous life of being human.