Gratitude for everything, wildfires and all!

So of course it had to happen. One of my readers met with me this week and asked me one more time if I am still pleased with our decision to move to a rural part of southern Colorado, one that is prone to wildfire. As strange as it may seem, I am happier than ever to live where I do.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

The winter view of the Spanish Peaks from our solar home

First of all, the recent fire gave us a chance to live in town for a week because we were evacuated from our area between La Veta and Walsenburg. La Veta feels noisy and crowded to me now. My favorite quality of rural life is the absolute silence at night and on a cool clear country morning. Seeing the stars after I turn off the lights at night is also something I have never experienced before.

Returning to our home after evacuation was a marvelous treat, a timely reminder of how lucky we are to be able to live in nature on our own terms with neighbors far enough away to basically ignore them.

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The sunrises are as amazing as ever. What’s not to like about this every morning?

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

Now that I’ve gotten used to being ‘old’…

An elder friend told me years ago, ‘old’ is always ten years older than you are right now! Actually, I still do struggle with the apparent fact that I am now 63 years old. In my mind people in their sixties are like my grandparents. They are retired, checked out of the work world. I barely remember my grandparents before they retired. I mostly remember them as elderly folks who hung out a lot watching TV. This all reminds me of how different and out of it I must seem to kids today.

I’m beginning to think I’m the last person on planet earth who has never owned a “smart” phone and never really needed one.

I still communicate with my friends through e-mail to set up dates, etc. It works and does not add all those additional monthly expenses for mobile phones. I suppose my thrifty nature has made it possible for us to retire early… But then you do run into the whole, “What do you do with your life now?” question.

First of all, anything would be better than my life back in 2004 when I lost my last job. I was driving a hour each way to Denver to work at Regis University Libraries. I swear I’m still suffering from back and shoulder pain from that daily trek down I-25 to a job I hated, with people who apparently hated me. After six years I got fired in a way that felt like the end of life itself, but turned out to be the best thing ever!  Yes, my life since then has been the perfect example of this Chinese parable from 2,000 years ago:

A Chinese farmer gets a beautiful horse, but it soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad!” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. 

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, but is then thrown and breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared...

Proving once again that nothing is as it seems at the time. From my first (and ONLY!) firing as a professional librarian at age 49, I learned that it’s best not to get too hung up on what happened today. Even something that seems like the worst EVER can turn out to be a hidden opportunity to improve your life!

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Our Walsenburg rental, an 100-year-old miner’s home!

My best example of this is four years ago when we moved down here to build solar in the foothills. When we first got here I was not certain this was such a great idea. Moving from an up-and-coming city like Fort Collins to a poor, quiet, rundown town like Walsenburg left me thinking,

“Is this a bad thing? Have I lost my mind?”

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

But resilience and patience got us through the difficult adjustment and building stage, and today I am supremely happy to be here now.

Note to myself: Allow LOTS of time for personal adjustment around major life changes.

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One new hobby I took up after moving here, photography!

And yes, we do find excellent ways to spend our days, even in retirement. We have learned to enjoy a much slower pace with lots of time to just be. I have also learned how to truly live in the present.

If you can find a better way to live your life, go for it!

“There’s nothing sweeter than falling in love with the moment we’re given, the only one we have.”  — Marcia Smalley

 

Access your intuition, a new kind of wisdom

Another excerpt from one my books. This time its: How To Believe in Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom. 

“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”   – Albert Einstein

Can we change, and if so, how?  We can only change with renewed self-awareness, honest self-love, determination, positive support from others, the addition of a few new skill sets, and with a willingness to go inside of ourselves to harvest the wisdom we have accumulated over a lifetime.  All of this takes courage.

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Determination and courage come from the absolute certainty that the way we have been living so far has not worked. When you reach that desperate moment when you know your rational mind no longer has all of the answers you seek, it is time to surrender.  Admitting surrender is difficult. This admission is equivalent to acknowledging that you have failed in your efforts so far. Pure stubbornness and denial of your feelings and needs have not given you the life you had hoped for, or the answers you seek.

You would be crazy to continue on this path: Time for a new leap of faith…

Now what?  Depending solely on rational thought has not worked. It is now time to welcome in the wisdom of the universe and those others who wish to help. It is now time to begin to access the wisdom of your own intuition, every little whisper emanating from your unconscious, your dreams or wherever they come from. These are the voices that will guide you back to where you so want to go.

Intuition is tricky. It is a way of knowing, yet it is often unclear how we know it. Some seem to have greater natural access to their intuition, but we all can develop the necessary skills to access this invaluable inner guidance. Extrasensory perception, clairvoyance, and telepathy are all different types of intuitive access to your right brain hemisphere, the part that specializes in intuitive, holistic pattern perceptions. Most of us have been raised to strongly value messages from our rational, linear left brain. It is now time to listen to the other side of the story and find some brain balance.

Why bother?  Because by combining the power of your own intuition with your intellect, you will begin to see different patterns and recognize new possibilities, opening up your mind to many new choices that were not available to you before. As Frances E. Vaughan, a psychologist who specializes in integrating psychology and spiritual growth states in her book Awakening Intuition:

“Awakening intuition enables one to see the choices available and is thus a liberating experience…At any given moment one is conscious of only a small portion of what one knows.  Intuition allows one to draw on that vast storehouse of unconscious knowledge that includes not only everything that one has experienced or learned, either consciously or subliminally, but also the infinite reservoir of the collective and universal unconscious…”

Do you believe it is possible to expand your consciousness to include your intuitive side? Do you believe you could benefit from an expansion of your level of self-awareness? If you do not believe this, than it probably isn’t possible. Don’t lie to yourself about what you believe. If you simply feel perplexed or confused, acknowledge that is where you are at right now. Welcome in all of your disillusioned parts to participate in this experiment in accessing the rest of your brain, the part that hasn’t been available to help for all of these years.

Quiet the mind of its perpetual chatter. Relax so you may learn how to listen to what you already know inside. You may need to take some time alone to access these new caring voices. They are hard to hear if the rest of your life is in chaos. Trust in your inner wisdom to show you what steps you need to take to open previously closed doors and learn why you are not open to love now.

intuition trust your hunches

Intuition is an essential tool to guide you towards a healthier sense of yourself and what you need to do next to attract what you want into your life.

 

A New Year, A New Photo Essay

view from our land

Retirement may suggest lifestyle change for some, but how many are willing to take on any real risks at age 60? Enter Mike and I, the quiet revolutionaries. Four years ago this month, we drove down to southern Colorado to purchase a few rural acres of pinon-juniper woodland west of Walsenburg.  Mike’s dream had always been to construct his own passive solar home with amazing mountain views. This was our chance to make that dream come true!

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our nice  home in suburban Fort Collins, and took off to live in a 100-year-old rental home in Walsenburg, while constructing a new life twenty minutes west of there. Crowning ourselves the “NEW Old Farts,” I began sharing this retirement adventure with the world in October 2014.

laura and rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

Although my husband was a true believer from day one, this all felt like a gigantic leap-of-faith for me. With housing prices rising quickly in the metro areas of northern Colorado, I saw little chance of changing our minds later to return to the city if this didn’t work out. So I made myself believe in my relatively new husband’s vision, and you know what? He was right.

Three and a half years later, after too many doubts and incredible challenges to my idea of who I am and where I belong, I am now quite content in our country solar home looking out each morning at the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My days are filled with supreme quiet and astounding beauty. I have also found a few good friends, a yoga class I like, and all the books I wish to read and movies I wish to view through the La Veta Public Library.

snowy west peak with comanche home in foreground

The view from our new solar home!

I find my need for distractions has dwindled. No, I do not miss city shopping, traffic, stress, noise or air pollution. In fact going into a city of any size is now the perfect reminder that I made the right choice for me. I have finally learned the power of living in this present moment. With so much more available to me and few distractions, I now have the time, energy, and awareness to fully appreciate the world around me.

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 could offer us. We have received so much more by choosing to live in this beautiful, quiet place where life is luxuriously slow and overflows with simple pleasures.

Would you like to know more about our adventures? Check out my new memoir!

Winter Solstice in the Colorado Foothills

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On December 21st, the winter solstice arrives, a magical time when the sun begins its gradual journey to return to us the delightful warmth of spring. At once, darkness invites us inward to seek and find sustenance in that eternal, luminous ember at our core, while beckoning us out into the night to enjoy our sparkling stars.

Predating Christianity, we humans have been doing battle with midwinter’s ominous gloom for centuries with solstice rituals of light and fire, celebrating the warmer, brighter days ahead. In Europe the ancient Yule festival survives even today, with the traditional Yule log, believed to frighten away evil spirits.

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What a wonderful time to rejuvenate your spirit by appreciating the miracle of our sun and seasons. Take time to contemplate your life.  Nothing happens without personal transformation. Could this be just the right time for your best self to start to shine through?  Is it time to rediscover the positive, creative being you are inside?  What do you love to do, but have denied yourself for ages?  Is it drawing, playing music, watercolors, writing, hiking, dancing?  Is it painting your surroundings in all your favorite colors?  Start focusing on what is dynamic and creative within. What needs to come out now?

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Start each day by asking yourself: “What do I want to happen today?” But this time ask for EXACTLY what you want!

May you know yourself at home in the whole of your life. May you know the vast and infinitesimal blessings of your life as a gift. And may you know and share yourself as a source of great LOVE.