Written by Katie Huber, UW-Madison junior
Edited by Madeline Heim
Before I had reached my first birthday, my parents boarded a plane with me from Chicago’s O’hare to the much more compact and efficient Steamboat airport. It was a flight that became routine for my family. Each Christmas day the five of us – my parents, two brothers and I – would venture to the snowy wonderland that is the Colorado Rockies. The fresh, cool air of the mountains was invigorating and promoted an atmosphere of liveliness. These winter break trips were vibrant and fast-paced. We zipped out of bed early each morning and prepared to ski until our legs burned and our cheeks were rosy and rawly dusted with wind. Evenings were loud and filled with family and warm food and gathering by a fire to recount the day’s most monumental wipeout. Sleep was cozy and heavy, and the trip always hasty. The flight home never ceased to alert us that we were thoroughly exhausted and in need of another vacation.
And then eight months would pass, marked by the distinct chaos of every day life.
August in Chicago would present itself with its sticky humidity and buzzing, swirling bees. We would load up our car for our next expedition to the mountains, and slowly climb higher and higher above sea level to our second home. By the end of the 16 hour drive, my body would ache for a less confined space- for biking and hiking and for swimming in the cool, untainted river water. The Colorado sun would soak into every parcel of my being with its avid warmth. The days would again be spacious and long and occupied with a thousand-and-one activities. And I loved it.
But this last summer was particularly different… not in an inferior way.
We had wandered from the hustle and bustle of the ski town to Lake Catamount for the evening. The dark, thunderous clouds of the day were swept away, leaving only white, feathery wisps speckled above us, and the lake had settled as a sheet of glass before us. As the sun began to dip into the mountains across the water, we pulled the car over on the side of the road and trekked through the tall grass to the shoreline.
And now, we were still. The quiet was deep and peaceful, and most of all it was grounding.
When I was little, someone once told me “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Standing under the expansive, kaleidoscope sky of Colorado, I finally felt the true value of this wisdom.
It is blissful moments like these that I wish we could exist in forever. It is also moments like these that make me appreciate the chaos of these trips to Colorado and the chaos of our lives. We are uncomfortable with silence because we know how truly big and speechless the sky is and just how small we are. In these moments where the sun is setting and you are surrounded by memories and people you love, embrace this rare and beautiful lack of sound. Simply listen.