Back to reality, strange as it is…

everyone seems normal until youThis is your brain on drugs, prescription drugs… After a few days of very strange brain sensations and a few wild hallucinations (both visual and auditory!), I’m finally starting to feel ‘normal.’ I’ve been struggling with the extreme brain craziness of withdrawal from Paxil, which I really cannot recommend to anyone!

Interesting how doctors don’t tell you about this ahead of time. I couldn’t have imaged anything like this from simply stopping a pill…Post Script: 30 days later feeling much better, but I had to fire my doctor over this one.

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Then yesterday I went out into my garden and found the stupid deer or rabbits had chomped off two of the plants I’ve been carefully nurturing all summer. GRRRR… but my garden has mostly just been taken over by SUNFLOWERS EVERYWHERE! Funny how the deer don’t like them…

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We are experiencing the total invasion of three foot sunflowers everywhere here at the Navajo Ranch in southern Colorado!

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Sometimes it feels just like that scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ where they find themselves surrounded by poppies!

I had so much FUN meeting a few new women at a friend’s party yesterday. Most of them live in La Veta, so I got an earful of stories and anecdotes about living there. I love La Veta, and I’m so glad it is nearby, but I have never wished that I live there.

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I figure if we came this far to get away from the noise, traffic, pollution, and problems of other people, why move in right next to them?

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Is Walsenburg a good place to retire?

I noticed this question under the list of searches that brought readers to this blog… It reminded me of a enjoyable conversation I had yesterday with a newcomer. She was wondering herself about the pros and cons of moving here. There are so many dimensions to that question. Here are a few:

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Our hundred year old rental in Walsenburg, where we lived while building a new home

First of all, it depends on where you plan to move. Walsenburg is one of the oldest towns in Colorado, and unfortunately it looks it. Such a strange mix of very old, rundown homes right next to nice, well-kept ones. There are certainly a few slum lords in this town.

The good news is homes are still quite inexpensive (less than $100,000) there. The bad news is you will probably have to spend quite a bit to update your home, possibly starting with your connection to the town’s water system! If you don’t mind putting lots of sweat equity into your new home and you realize it isn’t easy to find dependable employees to work on your projects, come on down! BTW, rentals are extremely difficult to find in Walsenburg or La Veta. Especially ones you could stand to live in. Walsenburg has two full-size grocery stores, the only ones in our county, and only a few decent restaurants. It also contains the ONLY STOPLIGHTS IN THE WHOLE COUNTY!

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The view along Highway 160 west of Walsenburg!

I cannot honestly recommend Walsenburg as a nice place to live. However, as you progress west of there on Highway 160 and see the tremendous view of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains ahead of you, you will then understand why many are moving here for the geography alone! We moved here to enjoy passive solar living in a rural setting, with endless blue skies, strange and wonderful rock formations, and that still unspoiled frontier feel.

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Too bad we didn’t get a view!

Navajo Ranch, located in between Walsenburg and La Veta, offers incredible views, plus phone, electricity and good, dependable water available to all the lots. This is where we chose to build, with no regrets two years after moving up here! The lots are still inexpensive and the quiet is wonderful…

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One of my favorite cottage gardens in La Veta!

If you prefer to move to a quaint small town, choose La Veta, only about sixteen miles west of Walsenburg at around 7,000 feet elevation. La Veta still has that small town feel with around 800 year-round residents, however it almost closes down in the winter months. Both La Veta and Cuchara, eleven miles further south on Highway 12 and at 8,600 elevation, attract many families in the summer, but they go back home in the winter months. You will find lots and homes much more expensive as you proceed up to La Veta and Cuchara.

And remember, not everyone can breathe above 6,000 feet.

A major part of my discussion yesterday with my new friend was about making friends in this area. I made only one friend in Walsenburg in my year living there. I found few open to friendship of any kind, and some downright mean. La Veta seemed more open to new people, although some only acted friendly at first. This bothered me a lot when I first moved here three years ago, but now I have developed a couple of good connections with women in La Veta and in the Cuchara area. We have concluded that new people, especially single women, are seen as a bit suspicious around here.

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We found our place somewhere over the rainbow…

Surprisingly, I don’t think much about friends anymore, because I enjoy spending time at our wonderful home alone and with Mike. Everything about this place seems right to me now…

To learn lots more about my transition from wondering if I made a mistake by moving here to loving it, check out my new book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

 

“Don’t spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now, was once only hoped for.”  — Epicurus

Naturalist report from Spanish Peaks Colorado

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In a summer of many terrible wildfires in the West, we are fortunate to have received over 12 inches of precipitation from March through June in our area. How do I know? I measured every inch of it myself for COCORAHS. We are also fortunate to have such vigilant volunteer fire fighters patrolling our area at all times.

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Our temperatures are not too bad at 7,000 foot elevation, and our solar home is keeping us nice and cool this summer. The highest temperatures here have been in the low 90s and our well-insulated stucco home hasn’t gone up past 76 degrees inside yet, with no need for AC. Every room has a ceiling fan when more air flow is needed.

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Our greatest surprise has been the plethora of different birds stopping by our bird feeders this spring and enjoying our bird bath. Mike also built a bird house to Blue Bird specs this spring, and we did have a few Mountain Blue Birds check it out…

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but in the end a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers laid eggs inside. We were thrilled to watch them so close to our home, bringing bugs back for the babies to consume. Mike looked inside the nest a few times while the parents were away.

Then we were so disappointed to find they had all flown the coop while we were up in Fort Collins this past week! In fact so many of the birds we’ve come to expect at our feeders are not around anymore…

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I had another surprise in my garden recently. I LOVE to see so many lovely cacti (common name Cane Cholla) around this region. This photo was taken along I-25 on July 2nd on our way up to Fort Collins. I read that if you cut off a small section and stick it in the ground, it will begin to grow immediately, so I tried that this past May.

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The other day I was messing around in my native plants garden, and was shocked to find that my tiny seedling was already flowering! You go girl!

IMGP6233Keep your eye out for a major bloom along I-25 north and south of Pueblo soon!

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All in all, I am quite pleased with the turn out in our new native plants garden in the southern Colorado foothills. Note the Mirabilis Multiflora that volunteered to bloom right in front of Buddha… Life is good!

My 4th of July Trip Down Memory Lane

I lived in Fort Collins and Loveland Colorado from 1995 until Mike and I moved south in 2014. I moved to Fort Collins with one husband and left with another. The divorce in 2001 was brutal for me, not because I lost a love, but because I felt like a loser afterwards for a few years. Of course, it did not help that I lost over 75% of my income, but loneliness was my major issue.

I felt certain that I would spend the rest of my life alone.

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We went up to Fort Collins this past holiday to visit old friends. I got up early my first day there and visited some of the places where I lived, like Horsetooth Reservoir.

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My first husband and I purchased a log home overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir, Lory State Park and the Bellvue Dome in 1995. Early in the morning the air is so cool up there, and the reservoir looks fantastic! I was surprised to see how the hillside leading up to our log home has been transformed into a bevy of large, luxury homes. When we lived there most of the houses were old and rundown.

Old Town in summer with flowersEveryone says home prices in Fort Collins are through the roof now, and I can see why. It really is beautiful…for a city. It felt a lot like Boulder did decades ago with all the hip, outdoor-types moving in. I enjoyed how green it was with flowers everywhere.

The next day I drove down to Loveland to see a friend, and had a look at our past home on Morning Drive. I’m sure glad we didn’t stay there long! It looked so crowded in, and it’s only a block or so from a major highway leading up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Overall, I enjoyed visiting my old haunts. I felt somehow stuck in my past for a day or two. Then I returned to our fantastic new home in the foothills of southern Colorado, and knew I was home.         The cool, quiet of nature suits me just fine!

My theme song now!

memoir of retirement 2016Hello and welcome to my world. I’m new to southern Colorado, and recently compiled a book about the ups and downs of moving from Fort Collins Colorado to west of Walsenburg to build a passive solar retirement home:           A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.     Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my other books…   Cheers, Laura Lee  (email: 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.

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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.

Welcoming Spring to the Colorado Foothills

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Spring can be subtle here at 7,000 feet, especially when we have had so much heat and so little moisture this past winter. Talk about mild, we have had only two decent snowstorms since October and very little measurable precipitation. But there are some much welcomed changes to observe.

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First of all the type of birds appearing at our bird feeders are changing. Not that I’m able to identify many, but I do know when a new one flies up.

Rocky Mtn. BluebirdAnd we see the Rocky Mountain Bluebird coming by more and more. Such a beauty! Mike built a bird house for these. Sure hope they make use of their new accommodations! And there are a few other newcomers to our feeders. So nice to see…

 

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In spite of the very dry conditions, I am beginning to see little patches of green along the county roads and subtle suggestions of future wildflowers.  These lands are used to drought. Mike recently carved an abstract piece of art out of the base of a Pinon tree that we had to cut down to create our new home. The base is only a little over five inches wide and yet Mike was able to count 196 rings! This short tree was almost 200 years old, but most of the rings were impossible to see without extreme magnification.

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Oh, and here’s a photo of his new piece. He calls it Rabbit-Hawk… 

Arrival: The pros and cons of seeing your future

One consequence of moving to a rural part of Colorado is the delays in seeing the latest movies. This has been a bit difficult for me, because I am a great fan of cinema! I admit my favorite aspect of going out to see a movie is to lose my present self in someone else’s life. I love the “fly on the wall” aspect of experiencing someone else’s reality, but in this case I felt like the canary in the cage. Funny, with my lifelong breathing difficulties, I have often compared myself to the canary in the mine in the numerous polluted situations I have found myself in.

amy-adams-in-arrivalLong story short, we finally had a chance to see Arrival last night, a quite cerebral approach to alien invasion. Number one I LOVED that the scientist, the linguist with all the answers, was played by a woman, and specifically by Amy Adams. I think it’s about time women played the smartest person in the room, and I’m also happy Ms. Adams finally got a demanding and serious role to play.

One of the points of this film seemed to be the greatly undervalued communication tool of emotions. By having a wise woman play the great communicator, I felt that intuitive wisdom as well as intellectual power were brought to center stage. This is a position I have fought for since way back when I hoped to become a college professor in the 1970s. I found universities so limiting in terms of valuing the whole person or professor. This is one of the primary reasons I gave up on that goal.

But the real point of this film is the simple question:

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If you could see your future, with all of its phenomenal beauty and raw tragedy, would you still choose it?

This question brings up all sorts of interesting life contradictions. If I had seen my future in the past and tried to change one part, would the other parts have stayed the same? In fact, as I age I see almost every aspect of my life in terms of contradictions. If I choose this, what happens to that?

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Choosing to leave behind the lifestyle I had lived for most of my life a few years ago, was a very difficult decision for me. When you choose something life changing you are almost always crossing a bridge you cannot go back across. This filled me with anxiety. But the true contradiction is that you can never know what will come of this difficult choice, unless you choose something different and then see how it goes.

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                    A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)