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~ freedom to live the life you envision ~

Lisa Lesperance Kautsky, MA, NCC, NLC, LPCC

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WOW factor

The clunky old, white camp trailer sits on a small patch of level ground at the mouth of a canyon off a remote highway in western Colorado. At first light, I sit facing south, in wonder of the mottled auburn hues of the sheer-cliff walls of Wingate Sandstone that graces each side of the canyon. Fog mists the tops of the cliffs – below, the cliffs drop down, hundreds of feet into maroon-colored talus slopes, adorned by purplish-pinkish locoweed and bright yellow composite flowers. East of the trailer, a bank drops 8-10 feet into a wide, boulder-strewn drainage bed with a small stream trickling at its center, the product of the preceding day’s spring storm. Birds, on the other side of the streambed offer morning arias and a bluebird lands softly onto nearby sagebrush then arcs away flitting from shrub to shrub.

The spell breaks when I hear my camp buddy stirring, but he is absolved as seconds later I smell coffee brewing and suspect a latte is coming my way. I continue taking in the splendor of the canyon setting until Camp Buddy calls me in for breakfast: o a t m e a l. Camping makes every meal taste better, but I’m skeptical that my bowl of oatmeal is going to hit the spot. As predicted, my latte is heavenly, but as it turns out, the oatmeal surprisingly is not half bad. After camp dishes, we head up the canyon on mountain bikes. I lag behind as I stop to take countless photographs of the surreal landscape. House-sized boulders strewn here and there in the stream bed – some striped, others heavily textured – flamboyantly contrasting. Flower colors gaudily accent the maroon talus – orange, purple, white, yellow, scarlet – Disney colors. Further up, varnished canyon walls close in leaving a narrow slot of penetrating blue sky. Our wheels splash through drainage flowing across the road. Eventually, we turn around, and arrive back at camp, where we sit and discuss the off-the-chart WOW factor of this particular slice of western Colorado. Camping Buddy, who by nature is very judicious about ever acknowledging the WOW factor, keenly articulates praises of this grandeur, reinforcing my personal summation of WOW. We sit quietly for some time, in our camp chairs, in reverence of the beauty surrounding us.

The WOW Factor, or Sense of Awe, has actually become a topic of research in recent years. Greater Good Magazine (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/), an institution based out of UC Berkeley, responsible for some of this research, extols the benefits of a daily experience of awe, claiming that it may give us a sense of purpose, make us more generous, and/or may boost our health. Greater Good defines the Sense of Awe as “being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” A beautiful piece of art, witnessing impressive feats...there are different ways to get a sense of awe – you don’t necessarily have to go camping in some remote slice of western Colorado to get yours – but it doesn’t hurt!

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reader comments


Your pictures are wonderful, and full of color--Disney color. Thanks for sharing! D

Beautifully said! K

Glad to hear about the WOW factor. It's so important to be aware of it. Yesterday's WOW was the sunset - spectacular! Waiting for today's, knowing it will show up. These are bonuses, when you live a quiet, peaceful life. AJ

All I got from that is that you have a camping buddy aka your hubby who makes you lattes when you camp. I'm jealous lol -B

Cheers to a daily WOW Factor! It makes sense on so many levels. Thank you for the always captivating words and perfect pictures to complete a total package story!  K

Great Pics!!!  -N

Loved the blog, all around-:)  WOW!  -A

what a beautiful spot!  -L