Life is either a daring Adventure or nothing

         Let Us Have Faith

Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature,

nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits

in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. 

Helen Keller’s unique poetic lens captures a quintessential snapshot about how we choose to see the world. For some, it’s a dangerous place to be conquered and tamed. A world filled with boundaries and walls built with a false promise of security. But then there are the free spirits who embrace life and seek the daring adventure!  

Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan, June 1888.

Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan, June 1888.

Keller contracted a severe illness -likely meningitis or scarlet fever in early childhood. It destroyed her vision and hearing leaving her in a world of isolation. Without the gift of sight and sound, she learned to communicate and became the daring explorer seeking new adventures. She taught us that boundaries are acts of self-imposed isolation.  We can choose to limit ourselves or live a life of infinite possibilities.

Helen Keller, 1912. Library of Congress

Helen Keller, 1912. Library of Congress

Keller never saw or heard nature’s glorious gifts.  Never to rejoice in hearing the eagle’s piercing song or dazzled by its fearlessly swooping and somersaulting in the skies whilst chasing its prey. To never behold the awe-inspiring grandeur of the snow capped Rocky Mountains and see the endless bejeweled skies of Colorado and Montana.  To never treasure indelible memories of the sweeping Great Plains blanketed in shimmering snow, silently twinkling like diamonds against a clear night of heavenly stars. The moon hanging so low in the evening sky yearning for you to reach out and touch its magnificence. To never witness the imperious snorting wooly buffalo thundering in unison with clods of earth and dust flying into the air across the vast plains. Or to smile with anticipated pleasure guided by the rushing credenza of the swift flowing mountain streams.  Filled with clear pebbled bottom pools sheltering the leaping trout wriggling around the large stones in search of a Rip Van Winkle nap. To never see the splendid noble red man dressed in nature’s beautiful softly tanned skins embroidered with beads and porcupine quills. Wearing a crown upon his proud head is nature’s headdress with long waving eagle feathers swaying in the wind.Minnesota h. society_000008

Let Us have Faith, in a sense, illustrates Roe’s choice to live the extraordinary life in the far West. Before euro-american civilization conquered the West.  And before progress barreled along on the rails of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroad; blaring its high piercing whistle of the bellowing steam engines  -hailing its’ heart rending speed into the pristine wilderness.

Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, WHJ-10278

Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, WHJ-10278

Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife, 1871 – 1888 seizes a timeless snapshot of the far West; but more about an adventurous life. With all the gusto of an explorer, Frances Roe is tested by mother nature. The blinding fierce blizzards, suffocating sand storms, and bursting skies unleashing torrential downpours; and hail so enormous to shatter every window pane and leaving piles of ice rocks in all the officer’s quarters.  She shares the excitement of riding her horse out on the Plains-

 The day was glorious–sunny, and quite warm–one of Colorado’s very best, without a cloud to be seen in any direction. We went up the river to the mouth of a pretty little stream commonly called “The Picket Wire,” but the real name of which is La Purgatoire. It is about five miles from the post. We started back on the road to the post in unusually fine spirits. 

Suddenly sweeping down upon her and fellow military officers was a suffocating sand storm. Nowhere to find shelter, their only protection was to stay together riding tightly through nature’s storms:

Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, January, 1872

 Almost immediately, however, Lieutenant Baldwin said, “I do not like the looks of  that cloud over there!” We glanced back in the direction he pointed and seeing only a streak of dark gray low on the horizon, Lieutenant Alden and I paid no more attention to it. But Lieutenant Baldwin was very silent, and ever looking back at the queer gray cloud. When about two miles from the post, Lieutenant Baldwin, who had fallen back a little, called to us, ‘Put your horses to their best pace–a sand storm is coming!’…So, without once looking back to see what was coming after us, Lieutenant Alden and I started our horses on a full run.

Well, that cloud increased in size with a rapidity you could never imagine and soon the sun was obscured as if by an eclipse. It became darker and darker and by the time we got opposite the post trader’s there could be heard a loud continuous roar, resembling that of a heavy waterfall.

Army Letters...Officer's Wife, SandstormJust then Lieutenant Baldwin grasped my bridle rein on the right and told Lieutenant Alden to ride close on my left, which was done not a second too soon, for as we reached the officers’ line the storm struck us, and with such force that I was almost swept from my saddle. The wind was terrific and going at hurricane speed, and the air so thick with sand and dirt we could not see the ears of our own horses. The world seemed to have narrowed to a space that was appalling! You will think that this could never have been–that I was made blind by terror–but I can assure you that the absolute truth is being written. 

Lieutenant Baldwin’s voice sounded strange and far, far away when he called to me, ‘Sit tight in your saddle and do not jump!’ And then again he fairly yelled ‘We must stay together–and keep the horses from stampeding to the stables!’ He was afraid they would break away and dash us against the iron supports to the flagstaff in the center of the parade ground. How he could say one word, or even open his mouth, I do not understand, for the air was thick with gritty dirt. The horses were frantic, of course, whirling around each other rearing and pulling in their efforts to get free.

We must have stayed in about the same place twenty minutes or longer, when, just for one instant, there was a lull in the storm, and I caught a glimpse of the white pickets of a fence! Without stopping to think of horse’s hoofs and, alas! without calling one word to the two officers who were doing everything possible to protect me, I shut my eyes tight, freed my foot from the stirrup, and, sliding down from my horse, started for those pickets! How I missed Lieutenant Alden’s horse, and how I got to that fence, I do not know. The force of the wind was terrific, and besides, I was obliged to cross the little acequia. But I did get over the fifteen or sixteen feet of ground without falling, and Oh, the joy of getting my arms around those pickets!

The storm continued for some time; but finally the atmosphere began to clear, and I could see objects around me. And then out of the dust loomed up Lieutenant Baldwin. He was about halfway down the line and riding close to the fence, evidently looking for me. When he came up, leading my horse, his face was black with more than dirt. He reminded me of having told me positively not to jump from my horse, and asked if I realized that I might have been knocked down and killed by the crazy animals. Of course I had perceived all that as soon as I reached safety, but I could not admit my mistake at the time without breaking down and making a scene. I was nervous and exhausted, and in no condition to be scolded by anyone, so I said: ‘If you were not an old bachelor you would have known better than to have told a woman not to do a thing–you would have known that, in all probability, that would be the very thing she would do first!’ That mollified him a little, but we did not laugh–life had just been too serious for that.

…When we met Faye at our gate, just starting out to look for us. He said that when the storm first came up he was frightened about me, but when the broad adobe house began to rock he came to the conclusion that I was about as safe out on the plains as I would be in a house, particularly as I was on a good horse, and with two splendid horsemen who would take the very best care of me. My plait of hair was one mass of dirt and was cut and torn, and is still in a deplorable condition, and my face looks as though I had just recovered from smallpox. As it was Monday, the washing of almost every family was out on the lines, about every article of which has gone to regions unknown. The few pieces that were caught by the high fences were torn to shreds.

The book of selected letters are the quintessence of her free spirit and strength undefeatable in a country with few boundaries beyond the sky, mountains, oceans and nature’s unpredictability. A wilderness that had not been broken and tamed to assuage man or woman’s impermanency. A land not yet fully mapped and divided by man’s boundaries in his narrow pursuit of manifest destiny. She makes clear in her preface all that came into her own life was not imaginary but the soaring flight of her daring adventure,

Perhaps it is not necessary to say that the events mentioned in the letters are not imaginary-perhaps the letters tell that!  They are truthful accounts of experiences that came into my own life with the Army in the far West. 

American writer and anthropologist Carlos Castenada said, “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Frances Roe chose the daring adventure instead of security back East! Essentially, she too, was the Lewis and Clark of women explorers surveying new terrains and finding a certain freedom far beyond the gender restraints of civilization. Just like the wilderness, civilization had not yet conquered and broken the adventurous women of the West with grit! So too, her free-spirit soared in the presence of strength undefeatable.

* See links, sources and publications for more information