Seasonal Salon

A Very Personal Ritual

Goodbye, farewell, parting. Moving, returning, leaving. Grief.

I turn away from my friend’s shared sorrow. I swallow tears…again. I don’t want to go; it’s time to leave.

I savor each sunset on the mountains. I promise to remember the rainbow that fills the big sky. I weep as I drive along the San Juan Skyway, my vision blurring the familiar green of the LaPlata range of the San Juan Mountains, the snow-capped peak of Hesperus stretching above the tree line of dark green ponderosas and the golden leaves of aspen quaking, dancing. Each day, every vista continues to awe me, determined as I am to collect images so that I may never forget.

After nearly eight years in Southwest Colorado, in the shadow of the majestic Mesa Verde, I am still wide-eyed and awestruck by the beauty of this place of Hers. I gather in images and thread them into a tapestry of remembering. The purple majesty of the western sky at twilight that surely inspired Maxwell Parrish’s serene paintings. The patchwork quilt of crimson and umber, of gold and orange Gambel oak now covers mountainsides. The noble Mesa Verde gracefully emerging from the morning’s mist…she reaches into the azure blue Colorado sky.

A magpie flies by my window. He’s uncharacteristically quiet this morning as he settles himself alongside the rock garden lined with yellow rabbit brush and Russian sage. He flutters to the ground and tidies his tuxedo-like feathers before he is off again to join his flock chattering loudly in the meadow.

Our pair of bluebirds—the male is as blue as any sapphire—have launched their three babies and are free to venture about before they perch on the wire fence beside their house.

I stroll through our courtyard garden greeting the last of the sunflowers seeded by an anonymous bird; my eyes scan the bountiful yarrow and I try not to scold myself for neglecting to prune her browning blossoms. Rather, they reflect my own sadness in our leavetaking.

I am heartened by stalks of lavender, their purple blossoms—purple must be Goddess’ favorite color—persist even in these crisp mornings as does the salvia where the bees continue their industrious buzzing.

Turning my gaze toward the east, I am thrilled once again that snow has already begun its winter covering. Soon, but not before we leave, the grand LaPlatas will be cloaked in white. And though I cannot see the pointed peak of Sharkstooth from here, I smile at the memory of my first hike through the forest and finally breathlessly reaching the clearing at Her peak. I must have been crazy to attempt such a feat—still a flatlander not yet acclimated to the thin, dry air. But I did it! I hiked all the way up to that 12,000 foot peak. (Nevermind, it’s “not nearly the highest peak” say the guidebooks.)

One musing leads to another and I weave in the memory of a morning’s hike toward Bear Creek, on the west fork of the Dolores River. The trail led us into what surely was a cathedral—a grove of magickal spirit trees, their white/grey trunks reaching into the heavens where the heart-shaped leaves fluttered and, yes, hummed.

Grief takes many forms, but the sadness I carry through this leave-taking will be soothed by the tapestry of the silken threads of images I shall always hold dear.


Nancy VanArsdall is an ordained Priestess of the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. After thirty years as a feminist psychotherapist she and her spouse retired to Mancos, CO and have created a sustainable lifestyle in their straw bale home in the shadow of Mesa Verde. She has completed an historical fiction novel, A Thousand Tellings, based on her suffragist grandmother. She published Coming Full Circle, Honoring the Rhythms of Relationships, in 1996, available through RCGI. 

Category: Fall Equinox 2016