Winter Sunrises in Spanish Peaks Country Colorado

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Yesterday I started thinking about the many people who move here only for the summer, and miss all of this in the winter…

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I love a good snowy day…

IMGP6967and the mountains are so beautiful afterwards!

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A New Sunrise in Southern Colorado! So much to be grateful for…

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The clouds and sun had a special surprise for us this morning. Today we saw the brightest yellows and oranges at sunrise that I have seen so far! The sky was bursting with bright colors…

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.. begging us to come outside to enjoy everything it had to offer us on this glorious new day!

IMGP6935The Wahatoyas or Spanish Peaks were lit up like only nature can achieve, and we knew we had moved to the right place…

Finding home…

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Northern Thailand around age 19

When the full moon woke me up in the middle of the night this past weekend, I started thinking about all of the places I have lived and visited. Actually it all began with trying to remember exactly which years I lived in Colorado Springs. This may seem strange, but when I started writing down all the places I have lived or stayed at least a week or two, it added up to six U.S. states and ten plus foreign countries. I lived in four different towns before first grade. No wonder at the ripe old age of 60 I was ready to settle down and stay somewhere for a while.

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961My Dad was a college professor and back in the 1950s that meant moving somewhere new every few years. I guess that got in my blood, because I never stopped throughout adulthood. My Mom used to complain that she had erased my address so many times the paper was wearing thin. She knew even back then to write my address in pencil. I have lived in eight different places in Colorado alone, and moved numerous times within each of these towns and cities.

This didn’t start out as a life plan for me. Things just worked out this way. Wherever I went I would stay a couple of years and slowly the urge would arise to move on. I remember when I got my first professional librarian position at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the director ask me not to stay forever in my first job. He needn’t have worried. I was out of there in exactly three years.

I used to kid with myself about “Moving on to greater failures…” Of course it helped that I didn’t marry until much later, and never had kids. I simply had no interest in all that. I wanted to see the world, exploring both the world outside my door, and the more interesting one inside my own mind.

Laura and the dogs 1997

Sitting with Mica & Calla in 1996

I also picked up a few college and graduate degrees along the way. For quite a while I wanted to teach Chinese history at the college level. Then, after learning Chinese and getting an M.A. in Chinese history, I decided I was sick of China and university teaching was too limiting in its depth and scope. Since Naropa University was located right down the hill from University of Colorado in Boulder, I walked down there to find a whole new perspective on life and psychology, transpersonal psychology. This was my spiritual home, and I have been pursuing it ever since. This is something you can study anywhere and everywhere. Human and animal behavior is my thing…

Laura standing at build site before slab 2014

Creating a passive solar home from scratch!

But still in all of that moving from here to there, I never found a place I could truly call home. What does that mean? To me it means a place where you will die knowing that you truly belong. That place where you can see your ashes blowing in the wind, and know you are finally home.

I didn’t know how I would find that place or if it would find me, but it did. At first I did not recognize this Pinon-Juniper woodland looking up at the Sangre de Cristo mountains as my place. I only knew I was home after we built solar here and then got comfortable for a few years.

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The view from our front door

I know every morning when I go outside and marvel one more time at the perfect silence of the sunrises and sunsets here. I know when I work in my native plants garden, collecting interesting plants from around the region. I know when new birds stop by to feed and drink or when a stray Road Runner peeks in my window.

amazing sunrise on Comanche Drive

I know because every time I return home I think,  Wow! Do I really live here?

Buying a Home in Rural Southern Colorado

paula's ranchette

I have always found real estate interesting. I suppose it’s a part of my natural nosiness. I like to see how others live and what they choose. Mike knows the construction trade inside and out. That’s why we went with a friend to look at a small property yesterday. She wanted to get our opinion on a darling little ranchette not too far away from us.

This property is relatively new, well-built, nicely detailed inside and landscaped, with great views of Greenhorn Mountain and the distant Sangre de Cristos.

Buying in rural markets is so different than cities. Be sure and check what the property’s access is to water, electricity, phone service, and what kind of heating and septic system it has. This cute little ranch on a few acres has a giant garage and studio space, fully fenced, but it does not have access to water on the property. Most city people can’t even imagine that! Water will have to be trucked in.

Sunflowers on a county road

The good news about properties down here? The cost is about one quarter of what they might cost up north, near any metro area. I can see this property being priced at $500,000 to $600,000 if it was anywhere near the Denver/Boulder metro area. Access to jobs is everything in real estate.

The realtor informed us that sellers here usually have to accept contingencies on sales. Their average time on the market is about one year. We see many come down here, buy a house on impulse, and then need to sell a year or two later. Yes it is amazingly beautiful here in the spring, summer and fall, but the winters are so WINDY and can seem very long with most city distractions (restaurants, shopping, etc.) at least an hour away.

The truth is, most have no idea how or if they will adjust to rural life. My advice? Make sure you like spending a lot of time alone or are on the same page completely with your life partner. You need to get along very well in these circumstances. Make sure you enjoy nature, things like bird watching, plants, hiking, biking and lots of silence. If you have little appreciation for clean air, morning silence, amazing sunrises and sunsets and a pristine natural setting, don’t buy a rural home, especially if you crave any sort of human-based distractions.

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Our house being built in 2014 -2015

memoir of retirement 2016Mike and I left suburbia in 2014, after living in cities for most of our lives.      We wanted to try out solar living with spectacular views of Sangre de Cristo mountains. We moved here to live close to nature, to try out passive solar living, and to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives. We came in search of a far more quiet, peaceful, healthy and inexpensive lifestyle than cities could offer us. We have received so much more…            Would you like to know how we ended up here? The ups and downs of our year-long building process? My fears in our first year here? Why we love it so much now?

Please send me an e-mail to order your own copy — Laura Lee:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Three Years Later in Rural Colorado…

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Today we celebrate three years of living in this magnificent part of Colorado. Granted, this was not all a pleasant experience. In fact the first year and a half, from the time we decided to leave suburbia in Fort Collins until our home was completed here, were grueling. Some synonyms for grueling that describe my experience best: backbreaking, challenging, demanding, formidable, and sometimes hellacious. Building in rural areas is not for the meek, and building in mid-winter has its own challenges, but we lived through it and now we are happy as clams!

(Exactly how happy are clams anyway?)

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We moved here for a number of reasons. To live close to nature, to try passive solar living, to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives, and to find a far more peaceful, healthy and less expensive lifestyle than cities can offer us. We received so much more!

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The greatest gift for me is a sense of freedom and natural silence that I have never come close to in my previous life. I now live in the present, choosing each hour how I want to spend my day. I awaken to the birds singing with the sun pouring in, and go out to work in my fledgling garden of mostly native plants, most of which will be sunflowers blooming very soon!

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Then, if I feel like visiting friends, I drive into La Veta on county roads with wildflowers popping up everywhere. Yes, the dining choices are slim here, just one of the “conveniences” you have to give up to live in the country. Luckily I’m a great cook and prefer to eat at home most of the time.

The hardest part for me was taking the original risk. Letting go of our nice home in suburbia was not easy, especially after seeing the one hundred year old miner’s house we would have to move into in Walsenburg for over a year.

decking Comanche home with mountains in backgroun

Then there were the challenges of working with the local contractors and our builder here. Just getting them to come to work was often the biggest challenge! Here’s where we were one year into the build. But somehow it all came together and everything works today, so we have no complaints.

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I know we will face many more difficulties and much stormy weather up here, but at least we finally know where home is. For now, this is certainly where we belong…

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)Would you like to read the whole story of how we ended up here enjoying country living? Check it out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

Purpose is highly overrated

I was raised by a father who was full of purpose. Let’s face it, most previous generations thought the only reason they were here was to find their special purpose (Thanks Steve Martin in The Jerk!) I also used to think that meaning and purpose were important to find. But today, not so much.

got purposeDo you realize how many memes you can find if you search under “purpose” and then “images”?  There are thousands! But one that particularly struck me was:be here now purpose

 

Needless to say, retirement can bring up all sorts of questions about previous and present purpose. In the past my purpose was apparently to go to work and do my job. Regardless of how I felt about it, going to work did give me something to do with myself. I felt useful most of the time.

With retirement I have so much more time to think about purpose, and I have come to the conclusion that most of what we do everyday has little meaning unless it makes us feel good about ourselves.

passion and purposeNow I choose to error on the side of passion over purpose. I know for certain that nothing I will do today will change the world. Few will miss me when I’m gone, so why not choose a few pastimes that provide pure joy for me right now and indulge?

 

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My favorite at present is playing in my small and windy garden…We should have hundreds of native sunflowers blooming soon! We got 4 inches of rain this May!

Springtime Gardening near the Sangre de Cristos

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The West Peak is stunning in its new coat of snow!

Is there anything more wonderful than spring? Not for me! Especially this year when I finally have the ground prepared for my new wildflower garden! I’ve been in spring bliss in the past few weeks as I gather my precious new plants to decorate our Buddha garden. I enjoy Huerfano Nursery in Walsenburg and…

new plants at perennial favorites Rye

I finally went to experience Perennial Favorites near Rye, Colorado. That place is simply heaven to me, just as wonderful as I hoped it would be! My botany friend Jan says these feelings are in my genetics, with a famous botanist for a father I can’t help myself!

IMGP6036Here’s my small plot to plant and the lovely planting box Mike built for me this spring. I’m trying to grow a few native plants from seeds, plus I have purchased quite a few starters. The deer and rabbits are a concern, so I tried to choose ones they don’t like as much, lavender, penstemons, Blue Mist Spirea. As I took my walks around La Veta last summer, I noticed which plants were surviving the many deer prowling the streets there.

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I also took a few cuttings from a local cholla cactus. Love their magenta blossoms in JULY! It will be a few years before it blooms, but that’s what gardening is all about, tending and caring for your plants as they grow.

NM LocustAlso, I have a request for any locals reading this: Does anyone have seeds for the New Mexican Locust trees we see everywhere past La Veta on the road to Cuchara? I want to try growing them in our area! Thanks!  -LLC