Dear Pikes Peak,
Ah, you’re a clever one.
Sure, you’re “just a mountain” (a fourteener at that)… But you’d be surprised how famous you are compared to many other fourteeners in Colorado (for my non-Colorado friends, that’s a mountain that’s at least 14,000 feet elevation…) Not only that, but it’s almost as if folks in the Front Range see you as a person. I mean, everything is about “Pikes Peak”… Our homes were only worth anything if we had a “Pikes Peak View”… and there was “Pikes Peak this” and “Pikes Peak that…” In fact, you were even my (and probably everyone on the Front Range’s) compass. As long as I could see you, I knew my direction. But if it was foggy or there was a storm blocking you, who knew east from west and north from south?
For 14 years, I lived beneath your shadow. I was proud of you, actually. Yeah, yeah, your mountain is nice, person… But we have Pikes Peak. And it’s true… You are indeed beautiful. I came to even see you as part of my identity. Whenever we would travel, we knew we were getting close to home when you came into view… You were a beacon, even letting those of us on the eastern side of you know about the weather. You stand proudly against the plains and the other (beautiful but shorter) mountains. And cyclists and potential Olympians train near you…
But you also lie.
Zebulon Pike, for whom you were named, never even climbed you. And I’ve watched as thousands of people, many of whom I knew personally, scraped and scratched to remain living within your shadow, as if there was no where else on earth worth living…. I’ve was there when 9/11 occurred, and the four military bases in your shadow were on high alert; I was there when the “housing bubble burst” and many people lost their jobs, lost their businesses, and lost their homes; I was there when furloughs of the military and civil service workers took place years later…. And yet, we all hung on. We hung on for you, Pikes Peak, and we continued trying to “live the dream”…. But as you stand there proudly, do you tell of these trials?
In your shadow is great beauty, and some of the people I love most on this planet.
But in your shadow is also great darkness. Church upon mega-church sit in your presence, “Christian organizations” formed near you, and proud “good ole boys” continue to pretend they are “family friendly”… But they lie, too.
For 14 years I’ve watched how they ignored a building where women and men and babies enter, and some never come out (alive.) I’ve watched how they pretended, with their home school groups and minivans, and others with their mansions and their Lexuses… Pretending that they were doing something about the darkness in the town you overshadow. I watched, as you overshadowed a town who became more obsessed with puppy dogs and pot smoking then LIFE itself. Even my life.
You sold out, Pikes Peak, trying to act like Denver to the north (whom you couldn’t compete with), and lifting your nose south at “those poor Mexicans” in Pueblo, stuck in the middle of mediocrity, multi-level marketing parties, manicures, and upper middle class homes. You, in all your grandeur, could not stop the videos from being recorded of the fancy little killer who sold baby parts under your nose; you couldn’t inspire the tens of thousands of church-goers and bible thumpers and people with money and means to actually stand for life and end the atrocities, instead of simply paying their safe little tithe; you couldn’t boost jobs for families…. And you had most of your overshadowed town distracted with granite countertops and stucco homes and pursuit of living in better and better neighborhoods…. feeling nice and safe among the deer and the skiing and the pretty scenery… comfy cozy, pretending that “all is well” within their families and marriages and coddled children….
When hidden beneath you is a town that largely became apethetic, in the middle, like you.
But I forgive you.
Because, I was part of that culture. I pretended, too… I became disillusioned with constant prayer and actively standing up for life, I became disillusioned with the church; and I, too, pursued a big and beautiful farm, I escaped the town and hid on the eastern plains from the actual battle, I built up a ranch and focused on animals and my own life and the lives of my children, and I dreamt of bigger and better and self-sufficiency out in the country. I looked at the people instead of God, and I occupied myself with everything but the battle, just like the townspeople that I accused in my heart.
I finally tired of the “pretend” game near Pikes Peak, and I found a small church in Denver where no one was pretending. It was real, and true, and I began to convert. On our way to church every Sunday, I saw that in Denver, there were many “fourteeners” and that there was no one particular mountain that gathered all the glory. There was no need for a show there in Denver, in that small community, because there were all kinds, all races, and the people in our little community were only interested in the real person behind my smile. There were no judgments, no sense of “social classes,” no trying to impress anyone… And while those who lived beneath your shadow didn’t come the day my children were all received into that church, new “family members” quickly “filled the gap”… to a point where my whole life would begin to change, and I would see what was love, and what was the fear and the obsession with “safety” that I would leave behind in the shadow of Pikes Peak.
Why do I forgive you?
Because I know your real name. Your real name is “Tava,” meaning “Sun Mountain,” named by the Ute Native Americans well before gold-rush folks settled near you. When I think of your real name, I not only forgive you, but I think of you with affection. I think of the ones I deeply love who still live beneath your shadow, the ones who changed my life, and where I found life-long friendships that expand beyond time and space. I think of how you showed me the “sun,” the light, and how I got to enjoy many many moments near you….
And I think of how you pointed East…. How, because of living beneath your shadow, I was compelled to seek out the Eastern Faith, and eventually move east, where I and my family were being beckoned. I would not have found any of this, had I not lived within your shadow and in humility beneath your grandeur and the situations that unfolded around you…
And so, I forgive you and thank you, Pikes Peak…. Or better yet: Sun Mountain.