It’s been all dirt work around our home lately! My brother John, a self-described ‘dirt guy,’ came in Sunday and he has truly spruced up our sky garden area.
After proper leveling, provided by John, we added pavers and gravel to the lower-level of the garden to give it an even finished look. More plants to come in soon around the bird bath…And so many native plants are just starting to bloom after that big snow last week! We also put in a few new trees. Perfect time for my parents to visit today.
John is a man of very few words. He always has been, but even more so since he lives alone along Oak Creek near Sedona. When I asked him this morning why he likes to work in the dirt, he answered: “It’s organic.”
For my birthday this year, I decided to go up to Fort Collins and Denver to spend time with family and friends. I had a wonderful time feeling special, but am always shocked by the culture shock of returning to city life. The first thing I always notice is how bad the air begins to smell just north of Pueblo, because the air does not “smell” down here. That is also where the highway driving suddenly switches from a casual, comfortable feel to what I call “Get the hell out of my way!” driving. Luckily we missed any major traffic jams up north, but the only way I can explain it, from the perspective of one who never needs to sit at stop lights is, the roads are INTENSE up there! The cars are so close together on the roads and it feels scary.
The other culture shock for me is that up there we see so many young people! We don’t have a lot of them down here. The average age down here by the New Mexico border is around 54. Everything feels a lot more rushed and modern up there. There are of course hundreds of restaurants and shopping options compared to our county, where you can count the total restaurants on ten fingers.
Yes, we moved from one of the riches counties in Colorado to one of the poorest five years ago. My Dad (age 90) asked me how I was feeling now about that choice while we were up there and I had to think. As he pointed out, I had never lived in a place like this before. I have been cursed my whole life with the ability to see both sides of everything, and that can be truly exhausting. However, after a few days up north, I have to say I love not smelling the air or hearing traffic all the time. Our solar foothills home was the perfect temperature when we got back here, with no heat running the whole time we were gone. It felt wonderful to just walk in the door!
Sitting in my bed this morning, gazing out at the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, that’s a tough act to follow. The silence down here is perfection for me now.
As I prepare to pen this final post of the year 2018, I would have to say my heart is filled with gratitude. My life has been blessed with a wonderful family who all still live. My Dad, at almost 90, is as healthy as I might hope for, and my Mom, although she struggles everyday for clarity, is as generous and loving as ever.
My brother who lives in the woods in a lean-to, loves his life at age 65. He knows exactly what it means to live “wild and free.” Talks with him always remind me of Henry David Thoreau. He shares his own version of genius with the rest of us.
My sister is an international star in the field of long-term care, who else to manage my parents’ many health concerns? Diane knows what she’s talking about when it comes to end-of-life issues. She teaches us all what she knows.
And finally, as I look out over our majestic fields of snow, I love where I live with my favorite people and pets. The sun struggles to come out and warm our passive solar home today, reminding me everyday how dependent we are on its power and warmth.
I am forced to ask everyday: How did I ever get so lucky?
Those of you who come to this area just for the summer are really missing out on the best sunrises and sunsets! This week they just keep getting better…
This is the daily view from our home.
Some have suggested that it is the strong winds here that create the complex cloud arrangements over the peaks at dusk. I don’t know…
I just know I love having front row seats to this kind of momentary natural beauty!
Last night I was sitting in my living room trying to resist taking one more photo of our sunsets. I mean, how many do I need? But then this happened right at the end of the day. See what I mean? Who can resist taking a picture of that?
Who can resist feeling gratitude when we are given such fantastic gifts each morning and evening?
Lately I have been observing how generational our belief systems can be. For example, as a middle boomer, born in 1955, most of my life I have taken a narrow view of what a good work ethic looks like. Most of us were raised to believe that being busy each day and having something to show for your efforts, especially MONEY, is a job well-done.
That is exactly how I approached my new writing career back in 2005, when I began freelancing. How much I made each year was my measure of success, and I fought very hard to make some bucks. But in the long run, this way of thinking wore me out. As I learned more about the history and importance of this marvelous time called “midlife,” I wanted to teach others how life changing it can be. What I was learning was more important than money, it was life saving for some who struggle with self-respect and self-doubt as they age.
This is what I learned from changing my perspective on the ways we choose to spend our time as we age:
Midlife and especially retirement is your time to learn something just because you have always wanted to. It’s time to follow your fantasies and dreams for once in your life, while releasing expectations and, of course, guilt.
Be grateful each day that you now have the time and money to do something completely different! How many individuals in the history of mankind have had this privilege? Very few. Most previous generations didn’t live past 60!
After taking my writer fantasy for a spin for ten years, we decided it was time for my husband Mike to experiment with one of his childhood fantasies. He had always wanted to construct a passive solar home positioned just right for fantastic views of the mountains. In the process of planning this new adventure, I found a great cartoon in New Yorker Magazine that shows a man visiting a guru at the top of the Himalayas.
The guru’s punch line? “The meaning of life is having a spectacular view.”
After we created our new passive solar home, I was then able to construct another lifetime fantasy of mine, a foothills garden full of xeric plants that love this high, dry landscape as much as we do. As I wrote this, we got our first snow fall! Yippee!
Because of what I have learned about midlife and the amazing experiences we have had in the past 15 years, I can highly recommend that you ask yourself today:
What perhaps irresponsible, but joyful dream or activity have you been fantasizing about forever? Time’s a wasting! Do it TODAY!
Life is too short to wait!
What does following what may seem to some like one crazy dream feel like?
I’ve been enjoying a Louis L’Amour novel this fall, while also indulging myself in some amazing quaking aspens.
Up above Cuchara near Cordova Pass…
and up by Blanca Peak! Now is the BEST TIME to see these beauties!
Have you ever read the novel Conagher? A friend bought me a copy and said I had to read it, so I did. She said it reminded her of her dilemma since she moved here a few years ago. She loves the silence and isolation of her new life in the mountains, but sometimes craves companionship with someone special.
I thought Mr. L’Amour only wrote about the men of the West, but this novel is about a lonely female settler in rural New Mexico in the late 1800s who finds an ingenious way to connect with lonely cowboys. She even finally finds love way out in the middle of nowhere and just by chance. I love Mr. L’Amour’s descriptions of the beautiful but lonely West. Here’s a few lines from the main character Evie:
“She never tired of the morning and evenings here, the soft lights, the changing colors of sunlight and cloud upon the hills, the stirring of wind in the grass. Out here there was no escaping the sky or the plains, and Evie knew that until she came west she had never really known distance.”
I find it interesting how this character somehow captures my own feelings after just a year or so of living here, giving a marvelous explanation of how one adjusts to the silence and beauty of this powerful and yet desolate landscape:
“Evie Teale suddenly became aware of something else. For the first time she was at peace here, really at peace. She had believed the land was her enemy, and she had struggled against it, but you could not make war against a land any more than you could against the sea. One had to learn to live with it, to belong to it, to fit into its seasons and its ways…”
I heard the most amazing statistic the other day on the PBS News Hour:
Creative artists experience 73% less memory loss and Alzheimers than others!
I believe it too! For me, creativity has been the key to maintaining the memory I have left after a traumatic brain injury ten years ago and 2 or 3 concussions.
Photography, writing, interior design, and gardening are the areas I love to explore in a creative way. Creativity seems to truly relax my mind and let it flow in its own way.
The wonderful monsoon rains we have been experiencing since our Spring Wildfire the week of the 4th of July have done my garden a world of good! Plus Mike has been helping out building retaining walls in the garden.
right on the edge of a hill facing the Spanish Peaks, so we have to build it up or it will all wash away eventually.
I’m now working on rebuilding the garden after the terrible drought we had here all winter and spring. I took another trip over to see my friends at my favorite hangout, Perennial Favorites near Rye, Colorado. They pointed out a few plants that seem to not interest the deer around here, so now I have a lavender Hyssop plant, Russian sage, only the yellow yarrow not the other colors, etc. They were so kind. They gave me two free plants because of our evacuation situation.
With all of the the rain we’ve been getting (over 3 inches so far this month!) and the cooler temperatures I enjoy working outside again. I have new garden hope!
Being evacuated from our lovely new home in southern Colorado last Saturday, as the “Spring Fire” raged west of us, was a first for me. What should I take? What would I really miss if I never saw it again?
The irony was not lost on me. Four years ago we got rid of most of our personal belongings to move down here from Fort Collins. At that point I felt like half of the selection at the local Goodwill was mine! We moved from a 2,000 square foot house up north, into a 1,000 square foot rental in Walsenburg for a year, while building a 1,400 square foot passive solar retirement home in the foothills.
We have been in our new home less than three years now. Within that process I have learned so much about non-attachment. It is true. Clearing out the space around you does help you to clear your mind. We usually choose to keep things around that remind us of our past loves, trips, and lives.
So what did I quickly pack into my car last week? All of my pictures and journals going back decades, my books, an ink painting I picked up at the Great Wall of China, my cloisonne ginger jar from China, clothes I like to wear, my entire desktop computer, a big Chinese lacquer box and quilts my Mom made. I wanted to load up my Mom’s hope chest, built by her in 1950, but it was just too heavy for us to lift.
Driving away from our new home was devastating. We had struggled and suffered so hard to put this new home here in the Colorado outback. Were we really going to just leave it here to burn?
As you can probably imagine, this week has provided gigantic ups and downs for me. Just a few days ago I watched as tremendous plumes of smoke rose up near our new home. Ask Mike. I was one hot mess!
Now that the smoke has cleared, literally, I can feel nothing but supremely fortunate to live in a country that takes care of us when we are so terribly vulnerable.
We spoke to one of those great Forest Service men in Walsenburg yesterday. He was explaining where the fire is now and then my friend ask him how we might make donations to help their cause. He said, “We can’t take tips, this is our job.” His partner came over and said, “Just keep paying your taxes…”
Four years ago, on June 17th, Mike and I sold our nice home in suburbia and left behind everything familiar to us. After living up in the Fort Collins area for the past few decades, this move felt like a gigantic leap of faith.
Here’s a photo of our past home in south Fort Collins. In the past four years it has increased in value more than $100,000! Wow, the prices of homes up in metroland are growing by leaps and bounds!
After over a year of emotional and financial struggle, we triumphed over a million difficult challenges to create this passive solar home west of Walsenburg Colorado. We have been quite happy living here for the past few years. Retirement agrees with us, and especially in such a quiet, natural part of the West. BTW, passive solar works great down here!
Most of my worries about moving here never came to pass, and other completely unexpected problems replaced those. The biggest challenges for me have been health-related. My body made a quick decision to start falling apart soon after age 60, creating new opportunities for compassion towards others who suffer. And the truth is, I have met so many here who have been forced to retire early because of health concerns and disabilities.
Huerfano, meaning orphan, is a poor, rural county down near the New Mexico border, with a total population of around 6,500 and an average age of 54 years. With few good jobs and an abundance of natural beauty, the Huerfano attracts those with less money and more appreciation of rugged country and rural life. We live on three acres in the Pinon-Juniper ecosystem right around 7,000 feet elevation.
Judging by the rapid increase in traffic in Walsenburg, the many homes sold here in the past few years, and how crazy Highway 160 has become in the summer, it looks like this area has been “discovered” by those living up north in metroland.
We have found this area to be slow and quiet, especially in the winter, and windy as hell. If you hate the wind, don’t move here! The slow country ways are what now attract me. I can go into La Veta and always see people I know. I like that.