Tag Archives: Colorado

Genes of a Gypsy

gyp·sy [ˈjipsē]: One inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life.

I would make an excellent Gypsy. In fact I am certain my Northern Irish genes contain a bit of ubiquitous “Traveller” DNA somewhere in the depths of that genetic spiral. And I am most definitely “unconventional.” If I had my way, I would be on the road full-time, taking photos and writing volume after volume about the people and places I met along the way.

Lucy soaks up the moonlight at Cave Lake State Park, Ely, Nevada.

A few months ago we purchased a 1956 vintage travel trailer that had been refurbished by a couple in Colorado. She is a beauty and her name is Lucy. The minute we towed her home I was ready to hit the highway. I created a portable solar generator that could power her lights even if we were camping somewhere off the grid. I began to research satellite internet, GPS communication enhancers and even switched over to Verizon so I would have more nationwide coverage for my iPhone. I felt this overwhelming urge to sell it all and burn some rubber on the path towards endless adventure and new discoveries.

Lucy at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, San Luis Valley, Colorado.

We had what I would call our “Gypsy practice run” in the month of August; almost three weeks of pure joy camping with Lucy in Nevada, Utah and Colorado. It all just felt so right. Spending several nights camped in different places while taking side trips to National parks, ghost towns, old mining districts and hiking trails. Wherever we went we met great people, some of them had the Gypsy gene themselves and were doing exactly what I wanted to do full-time. Oh how I envied them for acting on their dreams.

Lucy just outside of Moab, Utah.

For now I am back in the “real” world and submerged in the reality that is my current life. But as I sit here writing and glance out the window at Lucy as she rests in the driveway of this thankless city, I pause for a bit with a big smile on my face, a dream in my heart and listen to the whisper of the road that keeps calling to me. Someday soon that dream will be a reality. Someday soon.
For more on Travels With Lucy, visit my other blog: http://www.travelswithlucy.com

The Buddha’s Dharma

Buddhist Shrine

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo:  Buddhist Mantra Wheel, Crestone, Colorado.

Text at the base of the Mantra Wheel: “Do not commit any wrong, perfectly practice virtue, completely tame your own mind, this is the Buddha’s Dharma.”

Although I have read “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche, “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama and a variety of works by Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, I am not a practicing Buddhist.  I began reading about Buddhism partly to satisfy my inquisitive mind but mostly from a space of personal disillusionment with the hypocrisy I witnessed within the Christian church.  Since my youth, I have always been curious about the religions and philosophies that fell outside of our more narrow-minded Western ideology.  There was something inherent in the Eastern philosophies that rang my bell, especially within the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism.  The practice within Buddhism that spoke most clearly to my core was the act of compassion.

Though not a Buddhist himself, Albert Einstein understood the importance of our connection with and the need to exhibit compassion for the people and things of this earth:  “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”  How can one argue with such an intelligent man?

For me the premise of compassion should be the foundation of all religions, of all philosophies and belief systems.  When compassion is absent, we become nothing more than selfish, egotistical beings who would blindly sacrifice our world and those in it simply to fulfill our own desires.  I suppose our Western belief in survival of the fittest and the drive to obtain the almighty dollar no matter what the cost, has placed a bit of a chasm between our individual selves and our ability to relate to the “universal whole”.  I also believe that our Western philosophies and religions have played a large role in “othering” the people and things that do not fall into the accepted “norm” making it difficult to display compassion for those who fall outside one’s own belief system.

The Hindu Ghandi said it best when he stated: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”  I do not believe  “all” members of the Christian church are lacking in compassion and acceptance of those outside their belief system.  I still have faith there are Christians who are like the Christ that they follow.  The Christ who showed deep love, compassion and acceptance towards those who fell outside the accepted norm of his day.  The one who embraced the leper, the thief and the prostitute.  The same Christ who dared those who were without sin to cast the first stone.  The same man who challenged Christians to not only display kindness towards others but to embrace one’s enemies.  Perhaps he was tapping into teachings of a religion that existed for thousands of years before the advent of Christianity.  Perhaps Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism et. al. are bound more closely than we can imagine beneath all the modern-day politicized rhetoric.  Bound together by one foundation, one common denominator, the Holy Grail to cure all societal ills; Compassion.

“Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Stormy Dunes

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, San Luis Valley, Colorado.

When I used to think of sand dunes, I would have visions of souped up Baja Bugs flying high over the top of the Pajaro Dunes along the Pacific Ocean.  Or of Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia as he stumbled across the vast Gobi Desert with a camel in tow.  What I failed to envision was over 30 square miles of the tallest dunes in North America resting below 14,000 foot peaks of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains high in an Alpine Valley.  Who’d have thought?

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the San Luis Valley of Colorado is a place shrouded in mystery.  There are several theories that address how the dunes got to where they are today.  The most prominent being strong directional winds that blew the silt and sand from the Rio Grande River and its tributaries towards its current resting place.  It is also theorized that this giant sand pile got its start some 400,000 plus years ago.  Alternate theories touch on the truly bizarre from inter-galactic space travelers zooming through hyperspace and climbing out of “traversable wormholes” in order to  mine the silica; to something in line with the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites, and the Great Horse and Chariot Powder Theory…it’s probably better not to ask.

Whatever the truth behind these magnificent dunes, when one stands at the base and looks off towards the East at the rugged Sangre de Cristo’s and then looks up to the top of the tallest dune, you are driven to climb.   So you spend the next several hours huffing and puffing in the thin air.  You somehow manage to climb 750 feet up from the 8,200 foot elevation starting point, through unrelenting fine grain sand, just to see the view.  And once you finally arrive at the top, you experience a euphoria of sorts.  As your muscles spasm and your lungs heave, you cannot help but smile.  The view is spectacular and otherworldly.  The sand is warm and caresses your tired limbs and you feel a strange, light-headed endorphin rush.  All seems right with the world in that moment of accomplishment.  You are standing on the peak of the highest sand dunes in North America and you were not transported there through some obscure wormhole.  No, you reached the top of one of nature’s wonders by virtue of curiosity and the drive to experience something truly remarkable.  Whether you climb to the top or remain awe-struck by their beauty from the base, the Great Sand Dunes are destined to leave an indelible mark on your soul.

UFO Watchtower…Really

UFO Watchtower in Moffat, Colorado

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010. All rights reserved.

Photo: UFO Watchtower, Hooper, Colorado.

There certainly are a lot of mysteries in this world.  Things beyond human comprehension that do not seem to fall into the realm of logic.  Some of us toy with the possibility of a spiritual realm, using strange tools like EVP’s, IR illuminators and thermal imaging to try to capture evidence of the ethereal.  For centuries now, humans have been praying blindly by faith without any concrete evidence whatsoever, that something greater than themselves actually hears their pleadings.  If Christians can believe in a Holy Spirit and the resurrection, then why not believe in the existence of ghosts?  Alternately, there are those on this earth who doubt the possibility of anything beyond the concrete and the physical.  They choose to place all their faith in that institution called “science” to prove or disprove reality.  So if one’s faith is in science, then what of Quantum Physics with its invisible units of energy?  Our own planet is but a tiny grain of sand surrounded by a universe that stretches into infinity.  How is it that we as human beings became so egocentric that we believe we are the only planet with any form of intelligent life?

Whether you believe in the possibility of little green men with advanced technology traveling from afar to visit our world or you guffaw at the notion that there is any entity out there with an intelligence far greater than yours, all must pay a visit to the UFO Watchtower in Hooper, Colorado at least once in their lifetime.  Peruse the alien abduction books in the bookstore.  Pick up a glow-in-the-dark Alien Frisbee for the kiddies, then stroll through the Healing Garden and leave your own quirky offering at the alien shrine.  Before you leave you must stand for a while on the metal platform to soak up the breathtaking view of the Sangre de Cristo’s in the distance.  Take a few moments to look towards the Heavens, and maybe if you are lucky, you might spy something otherworldly in the sky.


Abandoned stone house

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo: Abandoned stone house in San Luis Valley, Colorado.

While driving through the San Luis Valley in Colorado last summer this little stone house spoke to me on many levels.  It was beautiful, yet broken.  The external structure was solid; created with care by fitting stone against stone with an array of well-placed colors and sizes.  It spoke of pride of craftmanship and the love of detail.  This was a house that was at one time loved by someone and filled full with life.  Sitting on several acres, it had unobstructed views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the white-capped peaks of the Blanca Massif in the distance.  The beautiful Rio Grande River twisted and turned through the deep canyon walls a few miles to the West and the New Mexico border was within walking distance of its doors to the South.  Shattered windows had once served as protection from the driving winter winds and the bitter cold.  I imagined children standing there, looking out at the snow-covered acres while sipping hot chocolate and warming themselves by a blazing fire.  I imagined Christmas celebrations, birthday parties, summer picnics, singing voices and babies crying.  And now it sat, abandoned; filled with shattered glass, bullet-ridden walls and a crumbling roof.  It looked so sad and all alone.

There in the San Luis Valley it still remains in lonely dignity, as it weathers slowly over time.  I may never know the truths of its past for certain, yet its essence in that moment when I stood before it has a place forever inside my mind.  This same house now sits proudly before me in a photograph and continues to whisper the secrets of its past.  Every now and then I make a point to stop and listen.  And sometimes I begin to hear the warmth and laughter of a better time.  A time when this now shattered structure was once a happy home.