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March 7, 2013
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Coping with transition

I took a stroll along the Roaring Fork River recently to get some fresh air and mull over the past few months.

It has been a long, busy winter, and I've been looking forward to springtime and the outdoor opportunities that come with the warmer weather.

But there was a cold bite to the wind, and snow was in the forecast.

I looked down and saw small icebergs floating in the current, sinking my Titanic-sized hopes for spring.

All it takes is a few warm afternoons, and I'm ready for float trips and grilling out at Two Rivers Park.

But, as anyone who lives in Colorado knows, no two days are alike in early March. One day the sun is shining and you want to dust off the camping gear, and the next it's dumping outside and you're headed for Sunlight to get in some turns.

It seems like just yesterday that I was monitoring the wildfire situation in western Colorado, while working the night desk at the newspaper.

Last summer felt impossibly hot to me. I would take my dogs on frequent sojourns into the high country in search of the relief offered by cooler temperatures at elevation. I couldn't wait for winter's icy embrace.

And now, after a mild - but at times chilly - winter, the Jeep trails leading toward the Flat Tops cannot thaw out quickly enough.

It was not always like this, constantly looking ahead to the next season. There was a time when I lived so much more in the moment ... we all did.

When I was a child, growing up just outside of Chicago, each season offered endless joy and wonder.

It seemed as if golden summer lasted forever, with warm evenings spent watching fireflies dance across the darkening sky; and fall, with its vibrant colors and the wonderful smell of burning leaves, was a time of great joy and nostalgia; winter was full of adventure, hiking out into the woods and following the tracks of unknown beasts; then spring, with all of her powerful thunderstorms, the green skies alive with lightning and the song of nesting birds.

Though the seasons may change, it is we who are in a true state of constant flux. The stresses of life, especially during these tough economic times, can make us forget our connection with Mother Nature. But it is exactly within her arms that we can find the peace and beauty to re-establish that connection.

Transition stages in life can be difficult, whether they involve employment, relationships, relocation or something else entirely. Whatever the situation may be, it's at these times that we must return to nature to make sense of the ever-present changes in our lives.

I think of friends struggling with depression back home, and wish I could project a mental image of our beautiful rivers and mountains back to them. To let them see the innocence in the eyes of a bear cub as he looks at you with curiosity and then hurries off to catch up with mom. To see the blazing rainbow of colors down the side of a trout, just prior to a smooth release back to its watery home. Or to allow them to stand in awe at the base of Hell's Gate, near Hagerman Pass, a great gray giant standing watch over the forest below.

These are the things that anchor us to this amazing place we call home.

And as I look down into the gin-clear water at the stones, I realize where I should be - standing among them with a fly rod in hand and life's baggage cast aside. I can watch for rising trout dining on this afternoon's insect hatch, and be one with the river. I can let my stress flow downstream and out of sight. I can simply be.

As I turn back toward home to grab my fishing gear, light rain begins to fall. But by the time I get home, the winds have picked up and I feel it getting cooler outside. I decide to hold off on fishing for this day and instead take my dogs for a muddy romp about town.

Later that evening, the pouring rain transforms into silver dollar-sized snowflakes, covering the soggy ground outside and bringing winter back to Glenwood Springs.

- Collin Szewczyk is outdoors editor for the Post Independent. He's still trying to explain to future wedding guests that bears are not blood-thirsty monsters that are hell bent on eating Midwesterners. He can be reached at cszewczyk@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Mar 7, 2013 01:15AM Published Mar 7, 2013 01:12AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.