Bricks and Passages

Mesa Verde National Park - Visitor Center

Love the Stripes at Mesa Verde Visitor Center © 2013 Bo Mackison

Day Three – A Colorado Day

37˚ at 5:40 am, I unpack the trunk to find my sweatshirts,
truckers start their engines and let them idle over breakfast
the couple in the next room search for their car keys.
Back and forth bickering, truck fumes. I grab my coffee
and a couple of hard-boiled eggs and pull onto the highway as the sun rises.

Mesa Verde National Park is only minutes east, and the new visitor center
receives last-minute grooming for a Memorial Day Grand Opening,
I overlook the bright exhibits on prehistoric dwellings and pottery,
my attention captured by dizzying stripes of light/shadow,
building, bricks, benches, steps.
Each stripe marks my time, passage on a sunlit day.

I follow the self-guided tour of Spruce House,
an Ancestral Pueblo dwelling abandoned in A.D. 1300.
Imagine life on the edge of a rock cliff with toddlers and elders,
and give thanks for the salad and iced tea I order from the Spruce Tree Cafe.

I meander through the gift shop, the museum, explore the ancient diorama,
and leave Mesa Verde — Green Table — hours later than planned.

Colorado Mountains

Spring Melt in Colorado Mountains © 2013 Bo Mackison

Durango is a city I yearn to explore, park my car, walk the streets,
peer in the galleries and visit the breweries, perhaps next year.
Deer and elk crossings, lights flash red and yellow,
I head out-of-town on Colorado 550.
Later I read there are 638 mountains in the Rockies over 13,000 feet.
I won’t claim – neck craned, muscles in spasm – that I saw all those peaks,
but I saw enough for one day.

It is spring thaw, the melt flows over the roads,
waterfalls course along the sheer rock walls, mini avalanches slide across the two-lane road
and snow plows patrol the passes. The scenery is mesmerizing,
I stop at the pullouts constantly as I don’t chance a glance while driving
these no-guard-rail curves and to let my courage catch up to task ahead.

Ribbons of rocky earth alternate with snow pack on the peaks,
stands of fir poke sharp greens into the blue skies,
clouds that peek over the mountain tops are
white as white – glaring white, brilliant white, white of purity.

The high country ponds are frozen and
roads to summer retreats with inviting names are still impassable,
hidden from civilization. Some aspen are greening,
and black tooth-pick lodge pole remnants
stand as reminders of the Missionary Fire of 2002.

Hairpin Curve on Highway 550, Colorado

Hairpin Curve on Highway 550 © 2013 Bo Mackison

A hawk’s shadow crosses the road and glides towards the San Juan Mountains.
Coal Bank Pass 10648 feet.
Hairpin turn at Lime Creek.
Molas Pass 10910 feet.
Sultan Creek.
The Colorado Trail.

Red Mountain Pass 11,108 feet.
Road as slalom, blinking avalanche warning signs,
rock slide mitigation crews clear the road,
we alternate driving the cleared lane which hugs earth, drops into sky.

It is still breathtakingly beautiful.
I practice deep breathing techniques. To calm my racing heart or to increase my oxygen levels?
No matter. I descend into Ouray, and follow the Uncompahgre River,
frothy brown and wild, into the valley.

The next morning, a jovial park ranger and I speak of Colorado 550,
“yeah, highest passes, drop-offs, most difficult maintained road in the state.
Maybe in the country. You drive that, you drive anything.”

Perhaps he was being kind in his attempt to legitimize my feat of courage.
I smiled and nodded. I accepted his announcement as truth.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Gandalf says:

    That must have been hair raising and breath taking at the same time. Way to go.

  2. Susan Vial says:

    The stripes in the top photo really pull you into the scene. Mesmerizing.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Aren’t those lines fascinating? I often find myself more enchanted by the play of the light and shadow than by the impressive buildings!

  3. You certainly picked a good route to take home!

  4. That last photo does a nice job of capturing the fun of mountain roads.

  5. Such gorgeous views and images. I miss Colorado. I might have to find an excuse to go there again.
    You are a brave woman, Bo. Way to go getting through that mountain pass. 🙂

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I only saw a bit of the state. I too want to go back and explore. there were so many places I wanted to visit, but the weather kept me driving. Next time…

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