In the past year or so, in times of pandemic and forced introspection, those are the best times to re-think your dreams. I meet many down here in rural southern Colorado, who ended up here because in their 50s or 60s they spent some time reviewing their life, and decided that they were finished with cities.
I have found this place to be a magical alternative to city life.
My husband Mike had been dreaming about just such an existence for decades when we moved here in 2014. I was a bit further behind him in dreaming big enough. I couldn’t visualize it like he could. I worried about the isolation. I had never lived so far out of town in my past. It was a new experience for me. But it didn’t take me long to appreciate the morning silence, the birds, the plants, the beautiful weather, the snow…
Only certain types of people appreciate these qualities, mostly the quiet types who find it easy to entertain themselves with numerous avocations. I was never a big shopper. I didn’t go to bars or restaurants much. I have always found my own mind fairly entertaining with the assistance of books, movies, etc. And we are total weather watchers.
Watching the ever-changing clouds and weather over the Spanish Peaks is a lovely pastime.
So you see, the kind of people who move here and stay are very self-selected. They have chosen to check out of “normal” American life, where buying the next cool thing is their goal.
Not that we aren’t always re-thinking our dreams, and we know we have the freedom to follow new ones here.
I enjoy listening to a music channel on Direct TV named “New Age.” That got me thinking, what does “new age” even mean? The first person to coin the term was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder of the Theosophical Society, in the late 19th century. She announced a coming New Age as a form of Western esotericism, but the term “New Age” has antecedents that stretch back to southern Europe in Late Antiquity. Following the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, new esoteric ideas developed in response to the development of scientific rationality. What is “esotericism”?
Esotericism is the state or quality of being esoteric—obscure and only understood or intended to be understood by a small number of people with special (and perhaps secret) knowledge.
Skipping forward to the Baby Boomers, the “New Age” burst into public consciousness in a buzz of media attention around crystals, chakras, reincarnation, and channeling in the 1980s, but had its immediate roots in the 1960s counterculture. “New age spirituality” is actually a descriptive category in religious studies, appropriated by practitioners of a kind of spirituality that sprang up in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the USA and Britain.
So then, what is spirituality? One definition is that it involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than yourself, something more to being human than pure sensory experience. That greater whole is cosmic or divine in nature. An opening of the heart is an essential aspect of being spiritual.
An open heart is a state of being where you feel open, accepting and expansive. Love flows through you without obstruction. Many long to experience an open heart, but at times we may feel too scared and vulnerable to reveal ourselves in this way, especially to ourselves.
This reminds me of a special meditation taught at Naropa Institute (now University) in Boulder Colorado, where I studied for my masters in Transpersonal Psychology and Counseling. At that time, meditation was an important part of my training, and one meditation was to open your heart to all of the pain in this world at this minute. Quite the challenge. Feeling compassion for the entire world of suffering is life changing, so is feeling complete compassion for your Self in this moment. If you were raised like me, to feel no compassion for your own struggles, but simply demand more from yourself forever, compassion is the medicine you need right now.
To me, New Age means a new way of seeing and experiencing the world in contrast to our parents and grandparents. It is a unique opportunity to see and love the world and your Self wholeheartedly. Your upbringing will determine how difficult that may be for you.
“Here’s what is truly at the heart of WHOLEHEARTEDNESS: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” — Brene Brown
I know it’s more fun to just binge watch all the shows and movies we’ve missed over the past few years, but how about learning something new every now and then? Yesterday I spent a little over an hour watching:
“Requiem for the American Dream” and learned a lot about why we are where we are today.
Leave it to Noam Chomsky, a man in his 90s (!) to clarify things for me. No really, his mind is so much clearer than mine at this point! As this renowned academic and author goes through his “10 principles of concentration of wealth and power” he explains how they have led to a well-planned and carefully executed shift of wealth and power from most Americans to the 1 percenters, leading to unprecedented inequality in our country. See if it doesn’t make sense to you. The hollowing out of the American middle class has made the richest in this country so much richer and left the rest of us behind to blame ourselves and others for our inability to “get ahead.” And then he explains why at least 60% of us can do absolutely nothing about it.
This story does not even include the ultimate consequence of this gigantic shift of wealth, the election of Donald Trump by those who mostly have very little and have only lost more in this shift. Dr. Chomsky explains that problem well too. He shows how the rich can carefully convince those who have lost the most to support a rich man who is only in it for himself.
See this documentary and please give it some thought. It explains quite a bit about where we are now and where we are probably headed as a nation…
Only at the ripe old age of 65 do I now see how much I have suffered from apparently terrible experiences, which turned out to be the key to all of my present happiness. It does take a really long time to see this, but if you keep living your best life and paying attention, you will learn this eventually.
My worst experience happened at age 24 when my lover of two years left me for the friend I had introduced him to. To my 24-year-old mind and heart, this was the worst thing that could ever happen. I loved him so much and he just dumped me like a bad habit. Decades later I spoke to him about this experience we shared, and he told me his terrible depression ruined so many relationships for him.
And yet I still “carried a torch” for him: “The idiom to ‘carry a torch’ for someone first appeared in the 1920s. To carry a torch for someone means to remain in love with someone even though they have rejected you, to pine away with unrequited love.”
Just a few months after he rejected me a second time at age 49, I met Mike and fell “head-over-heels” in love. “This phrase originated in the 14th century as ‘heels over head’, meaning doing a cartwheel or somersault.”
Yes from our first date, which lasted over ten hours (!) Mike and I were partners for life, seeing the world in similar ways and even perceiving the world at about the same rate of speed! How lucky were we to find each other, when we lived ten miles apart along the same road that ran from Loveland to Fort Collins Colorado.
Sixteen years later I can assure you, that was our lucky day!
But somehow I still kept thinking about my loss at age 24. Finally, just recently, I realized how much of a delusion my old love was for me. With all proof to the contrary, I still thought he should love me. And worse, I denied that his depression was so great that it might have ruined our life together. Instead I now live a friendly, stable, balanced life with a man who loves me completely and absolutely.
Love is not rational. The heart wants what it wants. But few would deny that being with Mike for the past sixteen years has been wonderful for me.
We have found a beautiful place to live and a peaceful, happy existence together. That is what fortunate is all about…
For the past five years, just over 40 million Americans moved each year, or about 13 percent of us. Most moves are local, either within the same county or within the same state. Within-county moves accounted for 65 percent of all moves in 2019, while moves between counties in the same state accounted for 17 percent, according to the federal government’s Current Population Survey (CPS) data.
We moved from one of the northern most counties of Colorado (Larimer) to one 50 miles from the New Mexico border in 2014. Larimer County’s population has grown over 30,000 residents since then, while Huerfano County may have gained 200 residents. The only reason Huerfano has not lost residents since 2014, when it reached less than 6,400, is the beauty of the rural areas west of Walsenburg.
When we moved here from a nice suburb of Fort Collins, I experienced extreme culture shock, and most of the residents we talked to could not believe we had chosen to leave Fort Collins for here. I gravitated to hanging out in La Veta even though we lived in Walsenburg while having our solar home built in the foothills, halfway between La Veta and Walsenburg. I did not find Walsenburg residents particularly friendly to outsiders, and La Veta people seemed a little more welcoming. I later learned that most long-term residents here don’t like newcomers and don’t think they’ll stay, so they choose not to invest in friendships with them. I’m sure you see the self-perpetuating prophecy in this. La Veta was not super friendly either, but at least I did meet some nice people there.
Six years later, I continue to try and understand this area and its resistance to newcomers and new businesses. At first it really bothered me, especially when our next door neighbor offered friendship at first and then decided to hate us within six months for no apparent reason. After a few years I didn’t care as much because we were so happy in our solar perch with phenomenal views in every direction. As of today I only have one close, local friend and she is wonderful.
We have had to adjust to many differences between city and rural life, but being able to order almost anything on the Internet has made all the difference! I would say if you are very independent of mind and truly celebrate natural silence and beauty you may end up loving it here. However, trade offs must be made. None of our restaurants are stellar and most are closed down now. No pizza deliveries here! You need to like cooking and have a few different avocations than city people, avocations like hiking, camping, gardening, photography and the arts.
As far as the differences between Walsenburg and La Veta go, Walsenburg has one of the highest crime rates per thousand in the U.S.
“The 2016 crime rate in Walsenburg, CO is 628 (City-Data.com crime index), which is 2.3 times higher than the U.S. average. It was higher than in 98.0% U.S. cities.”
Just about everyone I have met there has been robbed. I cannot find a crime rate for La Veta, but it’s very low. The main difference you will find in Huerfano County is that land prices east of La Veta average around $5,000/acre or less, and those in the higher mountains can be well above $50,000/acre.
Springtimeview from our solar perch!
The apparent draw to this area, including ourselves, is that you can still find inexpensive rural land with tremendous views for reasonable prices. Just remember there are very few decent jobs here and most of this county is above 7,000 feet, which can challenge the breathing of many lowlanders.
Want to learn more about moving here? I kept a journal of this process:
Why we decided to move here after first checking out Ecuador (!)
The difficulties of renovating our old home and leaving our old life behind.
The culture shock of very small town living.
Building a passive solar home in a rural area,
and so many other challenges & adjustments to be made when you choose living rural.
I see now that my own parents never bothered to get to know me as an adult. Perhaps they thought mistakenly that they knew me as their child, even though they barely knew me through adolescence. And the sad part is, now it is too late.
I know now that my Dad, who died this past March, did not know me at all. He thought I was not-so-smart, a very bad planner and certainly not ambitious. As it turns out his idea of ambition and mine were just quite different. Most unfortunately, my Dad, the well-known Colorado botanist, never appreciated my interest and skill with native plants. Mike overheard him comment in….
… my beginner garden back in March of 2018, “This is just going to be a bunch of weeds!”
He thought I had no idea what a native plant was, or how to grow them. Little did he know that I was already planning with Mike the terraced hardscaping of this slanted slope, and what would grow best here in terms of water needs, critters, etc. Yes, a few of my experiments have not worked out, but overall…
I am quite proud of the product of Mike, John Carter and my own burgeoning efforts! (June 2019)
And as far as my other ambitions go, I have always refused to see myself as a loser. My brother John and I are the first Carter generation of what I now call “spiritual seekers.” Making lots of money and receiving accolades from many was never in the plan.
Finding eventual spiritual peace with Self, others & nature was the plan.
This past Christmas with my mother was a revelation to me. As she slowly recedes into dementia, I now see she will never “know” me either. I am still her “little Laura Lee,” her youngest daughter. She loves to look at pictures of us together when I was a baby, her last one.
This leaves me wondering how often it is that parents invest the time to truly know how their kids turned out. Is it a fear that their children didn’t turn out so well, that keeps them from asking? Are they afraid it will seem too intrusive, like an invasion of privacy? Or do they just prefer not knowing.
Please don’t assume that you already know your child completely and stifle your impulse to truly know them on a deeper level while you are still around. Don’t assume you know them intimately. Ask them open ended questions like:
“What are you searching for in your life? What means the most to you right now?”