Mountain Time

Gemma Jiang, PhD
4 min readMay 9
Robin’s Nest at The Pineola; Picture Credit: Captain Roger Chamberlin

Over the past week I have been enjoying “Mountain Time” while camping with my husband and our pup Sadie, amidst the beauty of spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I have always believed that “to think out of the box, one needs to first get out of the box”. The “box” here is the daily grind of a familiar environment and familiar rhythms. So often in academia, when a semester starts it is like a train leaving the station, you have no other choice but to run as fast as you can to catch the train and to keep up with the responsibilities. It often becomes exhausting. That is why I took this first opportunity at the end of the spring semester to take a vacation. Taking the time to experience a different rhythm has been very restorative and nourishing to my soul.

Vacation is all about allowing my body to cycle down, allowing myself to feel tired without having to justify the tiredness. It is not uncommon for my mind to make up a list of reasons to explain why I feel tired before I allow myself to rest. During my normal work routine there is always one more paper to read, one more email to answer, one more essay to write. But on vacation, I am able to turn everything off. Instead of a hectic schedule and hour upon hour of working, I sleep more, eat more, move more, and daydream more. Gradually I feel more and more in touch with my natural circadian rhythm. It is truly easy to live in a restful, restorative, spiritual state of being when I am “out of the box”.

I sometimes wonder if retired life may be somewhat like a permanent vacation. If so I can hardly wait to get to retirement. Then I wonder, if vacation would feel as good if every day were like a vacation. Is this lifestyle so charming in and of itself, or is it charming because it is set against an opposite rhythm, squeezed between hard work before and after?

This past week have been “participating in emergence” at its finest. We started out following our plans, then we let breadcrumbs along the way to guide us further. The best trips resulted from spontaneous hints we picked up along the way. We have met and talked with amazing local people and fellow travelers, enjoyed live music with random strangers, visited with friends and colleagues, spent star and moon lit nights among the pines around the campfire, and indulged in the finest local cuisines.

Gemma Jiang, PhD

Senior Team Scientist, Colorado State University; Complexity Leadership Scholar and Practitioner; also at