I love a good gift shop and am willing to buy something that doesn’t smell of “you can get this anywhere.”  Rocky Mountain National Park (near Estes Park), has such a gift shop in their visitor’s center, so, a friend and I each bought a copy of A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird.

Isabella was a British woman who spent the summer of 1873 going all over the state of Colorado.  She was quite the explorer and was on her way home from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii); the book resulted from letters to her sister of her time in Colorado.

Isabella’s journey was 800 miles long, and much of it on the back of a borrowed bronco named Birdie. I spent part of my summer driving various friends around Colorful Colorado, same, same, but different.

a few excerpts:

All the women work in this region, so there is no fuss about my working, or saying, “Oh, you mustn’t do that,” or “Oh, just let me do that.”

Same. This is one of the things I love about Colorado.

Upon arriving in Fort Collins, a military post, she wrote, “The settlers have ‘great expectations,’ but of what?  These new settlements are altogether revolting, entirely utilitarian, given up to talk of dollars as well as to making them, with coarse speech, coarse food, coarse everything, nothing wherewith to satisfy the higher graving if they exist, nothing on which the eye can rest with pleasure, The lower floors of the inn swarms with locusts in addition to thousands of black flies.”

Wow. That’s a strong opinion! Coarse everything? I hope she’d describe Ft. Collins with other words today.

I must take up my narrative of the nothings which have all the interest of somethings to me.

Same, regardless of who you are or what time period. Our narratives are made of nothings, but they have all the interest of somethings to us!

An American is nationally assumptive, an Englishman personally so.

She said this several times. Again, this was in 1873, long before much of the modern history that has formed both cultures, so maybe what forms us goes deeper than we realize.

While I’m not sure that everyone will want to run out and buy this book, it offers a gentle reminder. It is a rare treat to see that land you are so familiar with and feel a part of, in an earlier form. These kinds of books exist for all places, but aren’t flashy and forward thinking, so they are not likely to jump out at you. Go looking for one from your neck of the woods, I’m sure it exists, and read it this year.

Amy’s interaction with nature. Not quite like riding a bronco for hundreds of miles, but it’ll do!

What had captured my eye?

Really, you have to understand how unusual it is to have a marmot this close!

What gems have you stumbled upon in recent months?

Leave A Comment

  1. Amy F. September 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Indeed, it’s’s a wee marmot! Cute! (Maybe it has not developed a fear of or caution for people yet). Fun for you! My marmot “gem” was seeing a “marmot crossing” sign near where I live and then, lo’ and behold, seeing an actual (big ol’) marmot!
    And, I must say that I read the same book by Isabella Bird a few years ago. Enjoyed it as well. :) The book gem (rather, author) I ‘stumbled’ upon was Willa Cather, earlier this year. (Writes mostly about CO/NE.) Now I’ve gotten her most major works free on Kindle. Wheee…

    • Amy F. September 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Haha, extra ” ‘s ” there!

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      Amy September 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      Amy, I am so impressed that you read this book!! Woot, woot, you go girl!

  2. Loren Pinilis September 6, 2012 at 1:18 am - Reply

    Ha, that sounds like a fun read. Life was a lot different back then – and yet so very much the same.

  3. Joy September 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    Enjoying your blog for the past few months…and thanking you for the book recommendation! Found it on, just now, for kindle reading.

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      Amy September 8, 2012 at 6:13 am - Reply

      Joy, yea! I love hearing from you and I’ll be curious to know what you think of the book :). And thanks for letting us know we can get it for free!! Yippee!

      • Joy September 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm - Reply

        I found you through some other cross cultural blog–we are in Asia, too.

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