Have you ever been wild and free?

Emma Thompson in The Children ActI watched an amazing film last night, and this question came from it. “The Children Act” is one of the best films I’ve seen in years. My gift to you this holiday season is to tell you that you must see it. There is nothing simple about this multi-layered plot, which investigates the complex emotions of human existence and relationships. Emma Thompson also delivers one of her best and most heart-felt performances in this film, which caused me to begin to ponder, when in my own life have I truly felt wild and free?

I have known only fleeting moments of “wild and free” most of my life. At the time I called these glimpses “zen moments” when everything seemed exactly as it should be. I loved that feeling of  finally being in the right place at the right time to experience this golden moment.

Then, in a shocking revelation last night, I realized that it is only now, in my sixties, that I regularly feel both wild and free. Now I can finally stop thinking about how others might judge me, and simply make my own choices. Everyday I again choose to be me, feeling safe and nurtured enough to reveal my authentic self, handing myself more freedom. What a refreshing way to live…

snowy Winter Solstice

I gave myself freedom in the past few years. That’s pretty wild, isn’t it?

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Local Talk by Me!

Mike on old tree up at build site 2014

MIKE NEXT TO ONE OF OUR FAVORITE TREES!

I would like to invite any of you who live here locally, to my presentation at the La Veta Public Library this Thursday at 2PM. My theme is “What’s it like to move here?” We can discuss the ins and outs of moving to rural Colorado, how passive solar works, and anything else that comes up!

Louis L’Amour and Golden Aspen, Autumn in Southern Colorado!

I’ve been enjoying a Louis L’Amour novel this fall, while also indulging myself in some amazing quaking aspens.

aspen 2018 near Blanca Peak

Up above Cuchara near Cordova Pass…

back of Blanca Peak with golden aspen 2018

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.

Conagher book

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:

Sunrise through snowy trees January 2018

“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…”

How does change & trauma help us grow?

Less than 2 years ago I wrote this about my own life goals.  Back then, I didn’t mean what needs to happen in the next year or two, but what needs to happen for me to feel satisfied in the long run. I wanted more love, acceptance, appreciation, access to pure silence and to be surrounded with solar warmth,  natural beauty, music, wildflowers, peace, contentment with ever increasing relief from guilt and shame.

So what’s different now? I would say my greatest achievement has been acknowledging how much built-in shame and guilt I have lived with for years, and also how clarity and awareness can help me let that go. I used to think I was probably stuck with this feeling, and unable to free myself from its grip. But with time and introspection (and much encouragement from Mike!) I have found my way out of most of my guilt about just enjoying my life and feeling good. I do whatever I choose everyday now, and that my friend is a gift.

To what do I attribute so many changes in my internal dialogue?

brain puzzleI spent years studying the way our minds work, both through personal counseling and graduate-level training at Naropa University. What a gift to understand so much about the human behavior we are surrounded with everyday. Nothing like a higher level of “people skills” to help you understand the true motivations of yourself and others. I would add that my traumatic brain injury in 2008 has played a role. Shaking up so many brain connections really does change you, and it takes a few years to fully experience and get comfortable with your mind’s new openness.

Sunflowers on a county road

With a major change in lifestyle from city busy to rural quiet, I have changed immeasurably. Now, with the luxury of so much more time to myself in nature and the quiet, I continue to learn more about myself and my apparently endless capacity to learn and grow. Moving out of the city was key to seeing beyond the limitations of urban life. City life can keep you so busy worrying about the next thing, that you don’t have time to be present with anything that’s happening right in front of you. I had to leave the city to learn about living in the present.

first view of Spring Fire Wed. towards Mt Mestas on June 27th

I am still processing the results of our recent trauma here in southern Colorado, when some complete idiot one county west started the Spring Fire, which consumed over 107,000 acres near us. The evacuation was shocking. Talk about a sudden life event that makes you consider all of your past decisions and future plans! The randomness of it all confounds you. Is it really simply weather and wind direction determining whether I have a house still? I found there came a time when I lost all composure. I could no longer pretend this was not happening to me and my home. This experience I did not choose, offered me new opportunities to explore deeper levels of that old “illusion of control” we think we maintain over our life.

NICE view of sunflowers in garden and Spanish Peaks summer 2017

I have been transfixed by a quote from Arthur Rosenfeld recently.

Perhaps you will also find his words insightful:

“…we all know how this ends, so rushing through life is senseless. As our inner life grows ever more luminous, the chatter of the speed-and-greed world slowly fades, leaving us with greater peace, tranquility, quiet and contentment.”  

Creativity and Memory Loss

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.

IMGP7191

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.

cloudy Spanish Peaks with snow and garden

Our yard is 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.

nice garden scene at comanche drive

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!

BEAUTY is the GARDEN where HOPE grows!

Day 5 of Evacuation for the North Spring Fire in Huerfano County Colorado

It has certainly been a wild ride for us here in southern Colorado since June 28th! We live north of Highway 160 not too far west of Walsenburg, and were evacuated to a friend’s home in La Veta on June the 30th.

The greatest challenges for us have been worrying too much and finding very little good government information to reassure us. Yesterday I learned that our part of the fire has its own name (North Spring Fire) and finally this morning we got some solid information on structure protection west of our home. It seems they are finally getting the resources they need here to truly do their jobs right. I feel so much better about everything now.

I’m beginning to truly appreciate the level of organization, and the number of men, machines, and planning involved in mounting an operation like this. Multiply that times the number of fires in the West right now and that is the BEST EXAMPLE I CAN THINK OF OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.

Next time you think you can go it alone, consider situations like this.

I’ve been locked out of my e-mail accounts for now, but I am posting relevant information on my Facebook page. Thanks so much for your interest and concern.

Retirement in rural southern Colorado: If you don’t take the risk, how will you ever know?

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.

906 Deer Creek Lane front view

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!

morning sun on comanche drive

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.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

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.

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

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.

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

Laura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. She has produced four books and one workbook on personal change, midlife psychology and how country living changes you.

Don’t miss her new one: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado