Taking the Polar Express to Christmas Memories

We have a strong Christmas tradition at our house. On the snowiest day after December 1st, we get out our old copy of the film “Polar Express”, make some hot chocolate and watch again the story of keeping the magic alive. Each year we seem to see new details that we have never noticed before. This year this quote really struck home for me:

“The Thing About Trains…It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to GET ON…”

I already had the theme of transformation on my mind before we started watching. How much had our lives transformed themselves since we started watching this movie? What had brought on these major changes and how did we have enough faith to believe in those dreams? We had followed our dreams all the way south to Walsenburg, and then built a new home because we believed so much in harnessing the power of the sun to make our lives better. Mike had so much confidence in his ability to construct a exemplary passive solar home, and I believed in his ability to make our lives better.

Granted, our first year here was rough by any standard. We could find only one place to rent in Walsenburg for that year and it was a hundred years old and mighty crusty. Building a house is always messy, and especially in mid-winter in a rural area with few qualified workers.

We gave up on the idea of having a Christmas tree that year, because our stuff was scattered everywhere and we didn’t have room for one anyway! We just hung our stockings on the wall and called it good.

But the house did get finished eventually, (in July) and we moved in August 1st 2015. The next Christmas was a delight! We were able to go out and cut our own tree on our land. What a beauty!

As the years go by, holidays like Christmas can become a touchstone as we think back to many previous and precious holidays with friends and family. I was inspired to look back at so many old family photographs this week. I wanted to put together a special baby brag book for my Mom to fill her with joy, because she has always LOVED KIDS!

Just to remind her of past holidays with her kids (as little ones), her grandkids and…

…our special addition Nicky, who arrived in August 2021!

Imagine magically walking into your own future…

Last night I had a strange thought: What if we had been able to magically walk into our present home and living situation without having to create it from scratch? I’m certain now I wouldn’t have believed it, but it would have been so reassuring to see our success! I see now I had far too little faith in my husband’s power to create what we have created here, out of one big dusty lot. Talk about a difference in visualizing and believing in our power to manifest it!

As I meet others who move down here to create new lives for themselves, I am constantly reminded of my own trials and tribulations when we first decided to move here to build our passive solar home over seven years ago.

Our sad little rental in Walsenburg for one year…

When we first moved into a rented dirty, dumpy 100-year-old miner’s home in Walsenburg in 2014, I was simply depressed. All I could think about was:

“How long was this going to take? Would it be as nice as we hoped? Was this a good idea or not?

First we had the slab, which took months to get approved and created properly for passive solar…

I had no idea how much work it is to create a home from scratch, even if you don’t actually build it… A million trips to Pueblo’s Home Depot and Lowe’s, 5 million decisions just about every day for a year or so, not to mention arguments with the builder about so many things, especially when is this house going to be done? I learned that the builders own your home until they leave!

But we kept at it through just about every obstacle imaginable until one day we had this…

When we finally moved in on the 1st of August 2015 we were practically paralyzed with the feat we had just completed! Did that really happen? Is this really where we live now? There were still a million little details to work out, like the smoke detector that went off at 4 in the morning soon after we moved in, but we were home at last!

I couldn’t wait to get started on my new foothills garden, which also took a few years to developJune 2019

  • Want to learn more about this kind of experience? I kept a journal leading up to our move from the suburbs of Fort Collins, to a three acre lot west of Walsenburg Colorado. Our new home is passive solar and this journal covers the full construction process as well as our thoughts after we moved in. My memoir is available on Amazon or just contact me directly if you wish to buy a signed copy from the author herself! — MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Winter Solstice 2020

Tomorrow, Monday the 21st will be the darkest day of our year. This is the day with the fewest hours of daylight, marking the start of astronomical winter. After this solstice, days will begin getting longer and nights shorter as spring approaches.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin word sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”), because at the solstices, the Sun appears to stand still. The seasonal movement of the Sun’s daily path (as seen from Earth) pauses at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction.

The Winter Solstice in Human History

The winter solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle for most ancient cultures back to the neolithic. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter food reserves. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this.

This is attested to by physical remains in the layouts of some ancient archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and ceremonial structures in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. The primary axis of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset at Stonehenge.

In the midst of gathering darkness, light becomes ever more valued…

The winter solstice was immensely important, because the Ancient ones were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months.” In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast, before deep winter began. Most domestic animals were slaughtered because they could not be fed during the winter, so it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready to drink at this time.

For me, this Winter Solstice has even more meaning, following one of the worst years in American history. This Solstice gives me hope that next year will be so much better in so many important ways! 🙂

Photos of building passive solar in Colorado in the winter: Deck the roof, not the halls!

My intuition told me to go back and look at some previous photos from six years ago, when we were building our passive solar home in the foothills of southern Colorado. Sure enough, December 17th six years ago was the day we put decking on our roof.

Unless you’ve built something yourself, you may not appreciate the idea of “drying in” your structure, but this is major, especially in the middle of winter in Colorado.

I remember when we drove up here, there were workmen all over the top of our house in very cold weather, working their asses off! Our contractor brought all his friends over to work on a Saturday to get this done. What was amazing was how comfortable they all seemed up on that roof! A snow storm came in later that day…

But the roof got covered and we were halfway to being dried in.

We got so excited about the smallest progress back then, after taking five months just to get approval from the county and our slab poured properly for passive solar heating! They forgot the insulation for the slab at first, but Mike got on them for that!

The windows came next! It was finally looking & feeling like a home!

But there were still a million more details to work out…

but we got her done and moved in on the first of August 2015.

Then we rested while staring out at our spectacular view, for months, none stop! We cannot get enough of this even years later. The silence is magnificent!

Leaving the city behind for a new, rural lifestyle – My Colorado experience

Six years after leaving the suburbs of Fort Collins (50 miles from the Wyoming border), for a new lifestyle west of Walsenburg (50 miles from the New Mexico border), I feel I have a good sense of what that kind of major change feels like.

The first thing you must do if you are considering a similar change is to let go of any idealized illusions you may have about finding pastoral perfection. You may eventually find it, but it will take some work!

Think of this move as a complete ‘leap of faith” That’s what it felt like to me! And in case you didn’t get the memo yet, in this lifetime, perfection is a mirage… I didn’t have any delusions of grandeur, I was just plain scared. What if I hated it??? It was definitely a precipitous move on my part. I just didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand, Mike was certain this was the right move for us. So we did it anyway, with all of my anxieties and fears fully intact…

When we arrived in Walsenburg with our full-to-the-brim U-Haul truck, we moved into a century-old miner’s home, the only ‘decent’ rental in Walsenburg or La Veta in June 2014, and yes, it was as dirty and disgusting as it sounds. Then we started to work on finding an architect and a blueprint for the passive solar home we had been planning in our heads for years. We had already bought a few acres of land twelve miles west of town on a hill overlooking the Spanish Peaks. But because there was only one building inspector for the WHOLE COUNTY…

it took over five months just to get a proper heat-absorbing slab on our land.

But after ONLY eight more months, our 1,400 square foot passive solar home was completed! Building in this rural area is DIFFICULT and agonizingly slow! Did this surprise us? Somewhat. Timing was the source of much of our frustration and stress.

Our view of the Spanish Peaks the day they put up our roof!

But we (and our relationship!) survived, and the final product was as close to perfection as I have ever experienced. We joked around about the following cartoon before we moved down here:

But, as it turns out, this is actually true for us. For months after we moved in we would sit and stare at the mountains right outside our windows, drinking in complete silence and serenity every time we looked out.

It felt like we had moved into a deluxe foothills retreat as nice as anywhere we had ever stayed before. Almost daily I experienced inexplicable fear that the resort management would be coming around soon to kick us out!

With Mount Mestas to the west.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Looking to learn more about our big move to rural Colorado experience?

Check out my memoir here!

Send me an e-mail and I’ll give you a great price on a copy of your own: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Building a Southern Colorado Foothills Garden From Nothing – Summer Solstice 2020

So we have been living in rural southern Colorado for six years now, after a precipitous (on my part!) move down south from our nice home in suburban Fort Collins in June 2014. It took over a year to build our passive solar home here, because building in this rural area is DIFFICULT and agonizingly slow! Then came the garden…

Here is where we started out in 2015. Empty ground, which quickly turned into volunteer sunflowers and weeds in our first year here.

Four years later we are here.

The reason my garden is named after my brother John is because he came up from Arizona for a few years in a row to help us finish the hardscaping. He was here when we laid concrete out there. He was here the next May to help Mike lay out the stone walls…

John & Mike (above) finally laid down the gravel last May. Mike has also put his heart and soul into this project! And I should add, none of us have good backs in our mid-60s!

What a satisfying achievement though!

Through a few years of testing out a number of different native xeriscape plants, I have narrowed my selection down to those that actually survive the winters here and that terrible wind we get regularly.

Lavender and Spanish Peaks 2018.

Now I know what type of lavender luxuriates in this climate…

I also know Penstemons LOVE it here, as well as many kinds of birds, lizards, beetles, and butterflies!

A native Showy Four O’clock, Blue Mist Spirea, Yarrow, Red Knight Knautia and Catmint thrive here!

There have certainly been a number of frustrating moments in this process, but I love my garden now. It gives me GREAT and continuous JOY, especially in the spring & summer months…

BEAUTY IS THE GARDEN WHERE HOPE GROWS!