Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of September 28, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,
QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

ABOVE THE TREE LINE
On Nevado Toluca Volcano above Toluca, México, México

Immediately I pack things up, wet as they are, and hike a mile or so to an exposed, boulder-strewn slope with abundant sun and wind. Soon all my wet things are spread on pink rhyolite boulders flat against the cold but intense sunlight, with the wind whistling and whooshing all around.

The clothing dries fast but for the rest of the day every half hour I need to turn and fluff the sleeping bag. By the time slate-gray clouds start boiling over the ridge above me, cutting off the sun, the sleeping bag is crisp and dry.

On that isolated slope there's so much sun and wind that somehow as my stuff dries out, so do I. Hours of cross-legged perching on a pink, hippopotamus-size boulder becomes the ceremony needed to formally make the transition from my Sierra Gorda Life to what comes now.

You can see the view of the volcano from my pink perch below:

Nevado Toluca

In that picture the cluster of white buildings to the peak's right is the ranger station near where we spent our first night. Notice how the tree line begins just below the station. Nearly all the vegetation from the tree line to where only bare rock outcrops is covered with clumps of clumpgrass, probably the genus Trisetum. Each clumpgrass tuft is topped with open panicles of straw-colored, fruiting spikelets the size of mosquitoes. Buzzy sunlight explodes in each of the millions and millions of spikelets on that slope as cuttingly thin, icy wind shakes them as if trying to get the attention of the whole Universe. Immobile on my boulder, painfully blue sky above, hard cold wind, and all these hysterical, sun-exploded clumpgrass spikelets...

A picture loses the animation and you can't see how sunlight erupts in the spikelets, but there's a picture taken upslope from atop my pink boulder below:

grassland on Nevado Toluca, Mexico

As with my sleeping bag, atop that boulder throughout the day I get lighter the way that mud gets lighter as it turns to dust; like the wet clots inside my sleeping bag, now my interior clottings of Sierra-Gorda routines, job descriptions, co-worker and friend interdependencies, institutional status... all come undone, shatter, blow away in icy wind as ebullient sunlight imparts its paradigms to me.

And the main paradigm the sunlight shares with me is the one based on the fact that pure, joyous sunlight is a concoction of a rainbow of colors: Diversity refines itself into brilliance: Empathy and love for all things reveal unity.