adventure, nature

Purple Mountain Majesty

America the Beautiful

I’ve sung it a million times. It was in our repertoire when I traveled to other countries with a choir in my youth. A lovely melody (and much easier to sing than the national anthem.)

Of course I know the words by heart, but I hadn’t thought much about them much until recently. On a trip to Colorado, I finally understood one line in particular: “for purple mountain majesty.”

Funny, I had never really paused over that line before. Now, I find myself thinking it really doesn’t make much sense…

until it did, when I crested a hill on I-70, motoring my way west from Denver. The sun was going down and the steep slopes of pines had a faint purple cast, especially from the bare trees. I kept wanting to grab a photo. I couldn’t believe it, as I cruised along up and down the road. Purple mountains. Majestic, indeed.

It is such a refreshing joy to go somewhere completely different. To see a place utterly and fascinatingly new. It feels like my brain just grew and grew. New heights, new landscapes, new colors and atmosphere around every turn. Most of the time when we tried to take a picture, we knew it wouldn’t do it justice. It was all almost too enormous, too beautiful, too perfect to believe.

There was so much about Colorado that I marveled at and want to remember. But for now, I just want to honor those awe-inspiring mountains. They were truly a sight to behold. Worth singing about and sharing.

author moments

Symbols

Meaning is hidden everywhere. Places. Signs. Memories. That little park you pass on the way to work every day is the place where someone proposed. It is also the place where some friends had a huge fight. It’s the place where a kid broke her arm and ended up in a cast. Maybe it’s even the place someone first learned to drive, smoke pot, who knows. Countless scenes in countless stories have taken place there. All in the little park you pass each day without thinking.

Meaning, symbols, roadblocks are everywhere. We stumble over the hearts and sometimes heartaches of others without even knowing it.

Music is potent for memories with me. I grew up singing and listening to tunes all the time. Paul Simon, the Statler Brothers, and Dolly Parton on my parents’ 8-track tape deck in our conversion van. Show tunes and standards I belted out with our player piano in the basement. And then the love songs I would pine over each night, wishing in vain someone would dedicate something to me. It took decades for me to listen to the music of Chicago without bristling or quickly switching it off. Even today, there are songs I may never listen to again. Places I may never go. Overly sensitive? Perhaps. After all, it is just a place, a song, who cares?

Maybe I’m just too much. I willingly embrace being labeled sentimental. Someone watching closely may see the quick shadow roll across my face when that potent memory pops up. Most will miss it.

Just part of what makes me me.

For some people, cardinals are a special symbol. A reminder or even a visit from someone departed and dear. A symbol more purposeful than just happenstance…a place you used to go, a song you used to sing to. This is more of a sign. For me, it’s ladybugs. They always pop up at the most unlikely times. They bring me back to myself. A reassurance. A reminder.

Recently, someone new in my life called me ladybug as a nickname. And it stuck. Sometimes when she says it, it makes me smile, sometimes tear up, sometimes just makes me hold my breath an extra beat. She could never have known that ladybugs are so special for me. Just a sign that she has some role to play, a scene to share. A hand reaching out of the day-to-day doldrums to remind me of the bigger picture.

What it all means.