Mental wellness, Earth-spiritual practice,  Ecosexuality, Poetry.

Sue Westwind writes from America’s prairie woodlands.

A sinuous hulk on the horizon, stark contours to its gray lift, its body hovering over the oak-trimmed prairie. So much sky above calls attention to this butte where no such thing belongs. But wait, it’s manmade. A working quarry—sand, gravel, and rock—piling its dredge and baking in the sun. Its height dominates the flat hectares of farms, pastures, rural schools. From this distance, it impresses. Then Colorado comes to mind.

I wish I was a painter. I would paint this fake mountain if I could, this truck-pushed, bulldozer-sculpted hill of earthy particles at the far edge of Big Bull Creek Park, a far, far cry from foothills or peaks. I would show how like human skin it shines, all the way to its flat top, flesh ashen or sienna as the sun sinks toward it, flesh under lavender clouds that will tower as the light recedes. Somehow, my brush would ask how could such a thing cohere to grow so commandingly tall?

I’m grieving real mountains. Their beauty confronted me one summer, but I had to release their hold forever. To see a facsimile, even manmade and contrived with such scrapes and shoveling of earth, a thing that bumps so broadly into the sky—this crystallizes my grief that the Rockies and I won’t be more than casual friends.

In Colorado’s searing August a man and I sipped beverages and waded clear rivers strangely close to berserk fires, taking refuge in a suburb that obscured foothills with a curtain of ash. We left thankfully, traveling east through endless metro as the flames stepped up their assault behind us, until drought turned to verdant field. We were explorers on the easy side of brave, fortunate tourists returning home. But we knew what we left behind.

In sight of the quarry, I thought about how three years after my husband’s death I’d gone to check out Colorado as a new residence, and what it might be like to household with this new man. But the fires rattled me, and the man eddied in bitterness, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to take it,” he said, “if I really said what I think!”

The mountainous longings in me burned at the stake. The smoke held back the sun, even as the crags leaned in to say welcome and stay. The man’s proximity to family brought out his demons. My longings for him were incinerated as I tried so hard to listen, to see where I might atone, to process his verbal slaps, clean up the excrement upon my visions and schemes for our potential life that would ease these mountainous longings. It was too much. Now it’s finished.

I face that there is no repair possible between him and me, seeing this quarry-concocted bump on near horizon, a mountain with not a root into the ground. A counterpoint to park planning with its woodsy trails and rope-swings for littles. I imagined showing this place to the man, then remembered we were done. For an hour I scratched out words onto journal pages in sight of the quarry’s sensuality and severity, with its long inclines of hard bits that can never hurt from this distance.

Sensuality and severity: not a mix destined to balance anyone’s scales. I wanted real mountains because they stand firm and enclose me while their tops afford platforms from which the heart can fly. I wanted the man because he was an arbor of grace where to rest and reflect, a teacher who could instruct just by being another human with his own life, outside of my head. Eventually, the severity in his character flattened me.

He went too far, and once I spit back with fire, we were left only with ashes. It happens. We are all likely to step into the backdraft of being unkind. Perhaps relationships are a waiting for the last straw, the scales to tip. We are always wondering about the other: how long will you tether me to your esteem? It’s not an arc-line accomplished by intention alone, but renewed by deed based on this contract:

When mountainous longings meet their mentors, the soul’s betrayal can be that high and wide. I won’t be able to return to this newly found, butte-overseen tangle of trails and tallgrass until the essence of the man’s condemnation fades. But until wildfires penetrate this far into the heart of our continent, the quarry will daily plunder until exhausted it stands, waiting for green to grow a bandage over everyone’s pain.


Sue Westwind

Writer interested in the earthspiritual and eco-erotic, who seeks to learn and share ways we can solve our mental health crisis through alternatives to medication that heal mind, body, and spirit.


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