There are going to be long stretches of time when it's really just Adam and me, alone in our car, listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Listening to each other breathe. Playing Bananagrams one on one. So, I'm relishing all our time for socializing that I can. We've been using the time in the States nicely to catch up with friends, and Colorado seemed to hold the highest yield.
We had a great time with everyone, but I was especially struck by the profound diversity of work done by our pals. Coming from San Francisco, where everyone I know either works in tech or is an independent bookseller, it was fascinating to get to tour the Rocky Mountain National Park with an ecologist. I don't think I'd ever even met an ecologist before.
Megan is the wife of one of Adam's best friends from high school, and my new favorite tour guide. She's an ecologist with University of Colorado, who's currently studying alpine plants, and more specifically, an alpine flower Moss Campion.
Moss Campion is a cushion plant, with charmingly small pink flowers. They're cute, a point Megan returned to, again and again as she pointed different plants out to me. A tiny succulent. A yellow daisy-like flower called The Old Man of the Mountain. Alpine wildflowers are, almost ubiquitously, adorable and delicate, miniatures of those we have in more hospitable climes. And Megan's affection for them is contagious.
It is worth noting that if you ever have the chance to take a tour guided by an ecologist you should do that. Secondly, I hope your ecologist is as patient as Megan was, because I basically spent all day pointing to things and asking "how old is that?"
Which, as it turns out, is an endlessly fascinating question when it comes to alpine wildflowers. Due to the harsh climate, plants grow a glacially slow pace. Moss Campion, in particular, are shockingly long-lived. Megan pointed out one plant to me, about the size of a silver dollar. It was, she guessed, around thirty. Our age. Larger cushions, she estimated, were more like fifty years old. Or a hundred.
"It's humbling," Megan said, to work with plants that are so old. "You know? Respect your elders." It's clear that Megan does.
You can learn more about Megan's work, and its relationship with global warming, here.