I was singing along with that old Paul Simon song, “Can’t get used to something so right…” this morning, and realized sometimes I have that problem myself.
After over two years in the brand new world (for me) of rural southern Colorado, I would say I’m just beginning to settle in.
This adventure started back in mid-June of 2014, and I can assure you I wasn’t sure at all about this place. It all seemed so backward, slow and poor to me after living in Loveland and Fort Collins for years. People kept asking me why we moved here, and I wasn’t so sure myself. Luckily my husband is an “eyes-on-the prize” kind of man. He knew exactly why he was here!
My first year here was not good. Between feeling like a fish out of water myself, and the extremely challenging feat of building a custom solar home out in the foothills, my best description is STRESS CITY!
But once we moved out of Walsenburg and settled into our new home, life improved dramatically. After so much stress and our second move in a year, we spent weeks doing very little, simply enjoying our marvelous new environment…
OK, we spent most of our first winter here doing that!
One thing you need to know about this part of the country, things really do slow down here in the winter. I can remember days last winter when I went into La Veta, and it looked like a deserted ghost town.
In the spring things liven up quite a bit. The tourists start coming down here and clogging up Main Street in Walsenburg. This past spring I started taking a yoga class and walking around La Veta in the mornings. I also started making a few friends and feeling more like I belong here.
We finally completed our slab around Thanksgiving 2014!
Just yesterday I realized how right this place feels to me now. I love living in the country, I have a wonderful husband and home, I have new friends who care, and I rarely have to deal with all the things I hated in the city.
Life is good and getting better. Mission accomplished!
Want to learn more about the experience of moving from the city to the country to live a quiet, relaxed life? Check it out here!
In 2014 we moved from Fort Collins, with the 6th largest county population in Colorado (333,577), to the least populated, Huerfano at about 6,500 souls. Huerfano county is the home of the Spanish Peaks, seen above…
The Huerfano means orphan in Spanish, and so many of us here are orphans, because we are elders. We lived in the town of Walsenburg (pop. 3,000) for our first year here, while building a custom passive solar home to the west. As we complete our first full year of living in the foothills, close to nature, I find those who live in cities to be busy, always busy. What is that doing to their soul?
I feel I have learned so much on this topic by living close to nature for the past year. Getting far from any city has been a reawakening for me, and living here permanently is a wonder. I love to experience those unique emotional experiences which defy our habitual way of thinking. Living here has been all about defying my previous limited state of mind. I called myself “metrofied” before I moved here, but I had no idea how horribly stuck I was in “city mind.”
It is so soothing to observe how cities change us, and then leave, transitioning to a slower, calmer way of being. In my first year here I became aware of the constant anxiety level I maintained by living in cities. Then I slowly let it go. When I feel anxious now, I quickly see there is truly no reason for this feeling. Now, only when I get impatient or angry do I realize that I used to feel that way so much of the time back in Fort Collins, where the traffic was horrendous, and everyone was some form of tense.
The true change for me is the awareness that I can now live in the present. I have been seeking this experience for most of my life. Instead of worrying about the past or demanding more in my future, I can just be here now, loving my life. The down side to this new way of being? Great difficulties going back into cities! I don’t want to waste one more moment of my limited lifespan sitting in traffic and breathing city air.
I am filled with gratitude that I can now live in nature forever…
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” — Henry David Thoreau
Want to learn more about moving from a good-sized city to the outback? Then check out my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado
Share this information with your friends, and please feel free to contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books! Cheers, Laura Lee (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)
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Yesterday was so interesting! We visited some new friends who have lived up above 8,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains west of here for the past few years. Loved hearing their stories about living up high.
I know many have romantic visions of life up in those beautiful mountains, but remember this too:
The approach to their house is a windy, dirt road off of a major highway, a road they and their few neighbors must maintain, unlike the county road we live off of, 15 miles west of Walsenburg. Once they came home a few years ago and there was 6 feet of snow on this road. They couldn’t go home!
We heard stories about when the deep snows come, and the big state highway snowplows plow their road closed! That’s why they need to maintain snow-moving equipment themselves….imagine that!
I asked them how deep the snow gets up there, and they decided one picture was worth a thousand words!
WOW! We have had a few snows of a foot or so, but nothing like this! They told us stories of a few snowstorms where they shoveled for eight hours straight. If they didn’t have heavy equipment they wouldn’t be able to get out for weeks!
Their property includes an old straw-bale cabin on a mine site plus 100 acres. Their water comes from a spring nearby, and what delicious water it is! They heat with a large wood stove, which requires a great amount of log splitting to prepare for the winter cold. They have electric service, mainly because the costs of returning renewal energy back to the grid here requires outrageous fees and insurance requirements, and going off grid presents other problems with reliability and initial installation costs. We are stuck here until better energy storage solutions are developed worldwide.
The natural beauty of their landscape is beyond words and, did I mention, they have no water or heating bills… They maintain a number of wildlife cameras and see so many different animals around their home. Bears are so commonplace that they have named a few of them! It’s a wonderful place that requires a lot of work to maintain.
Postscript: This home was lost in the Spring Creek Fire , July 2019.
We recently built a passive solar home right at 7,000 feet and are told by our new friends that we are really saving a lot of money in the winter by absorbing the sun’s heat directly into our insulated slab, which helps to hold the daily sun’s heat within our home overnight.
We hope to add a few of these solar thermal water tubes to our home soon to increase our thermal mass and help to moderate temperature swings both in the winter and summer. Beyond solar, we depend on Cadet forced-air electric wall heaters on thermostats for all of our winter heating needs. They usual turn themselves on during the night and turn off soon after the sun comes up most days. In the summer, the positioning and excellent insulation in our new home keeps us cooler than most without the need for air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in every room.
We have rarely been “snowed in” this past winter, but we did purchase a Subaru and love how well it works on steep snowy roads. Overall, we’re glad we chose a lower elevation, especially since our home survived the Spring Creek Fire in 2018!
We are newcomers to rural Colorado, so after two years I compiled a book about the total experience of moving here to build passive solar in the foothills: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado Please feel free to contact me directly for copies of any of my books! MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com
After 60 years of living in cities, I moved to rural Colorado 2 years ago. Here are some of the differences I have observed between those who choose to live in or near cities, and those who seek out the rural areas of our country.
The most obvious difference is a love of silence and nature. We had my brother John here for the past few weeks and he spent almost all of his waking hours sitting outside observing the birds, the plants, the bugs, the clouds and the weather. I told you before that I call him “Mother Nature’s Son” and for good reason. Rural America is only for those who greatly prefer a natural setting to high stress, traffic, noise, hustle and bustle and an incredible array of shopping options.
Our sense of time and relaxation is different here. Sure there are lots of hard-working people in the outback, but time takes on a different meaning here. The only people here who are in a great hurry are the outsiders, the locals live on a more relaxed schedule. No hurry to get on to the next task, take your time and do it right. As I mentioned previously when I wrote about the only time we went back to Fort Collins in our two years here:
“I saw people everywhere waiting for something, a place to park, a place to sit in a restaurant, a chance to go through the next stop light, an opportunity to pay for their purchase.”
Even today, I still find myself sometimes getting anxious when I’m preparing to go somewhere in town. Will it be crowded? Will I be able to get in? And then I arrive and there is hardly anybody there. It takes time to adjust to little traffic and no big rush.
One wonderful, interesting result of no longer sitting in traffic with my foot on the brake constantly, no more right knee pain! I injured that knee in a ski accident in high school, and was planning on treating the long-term pain with surgery before I moved here. Now, my knee is fine.
One discovery for me has been how important religion is out here in the country. I have found one of the great delineators between people is what church you attend, or if you are even religious. In discussions with new people, church almost always comes up. My religion is nature and the earth is my church. Some here can understand that perspective and many cannot. They would prefer that I come to their church.
The other important issue locally seems to be whether you smoke marijuana or not. In some cases I have begun friendships only to find them backing away when the subject of marijuana comes up.
As far as new friendships go, I would say rural people are more hesitant to welcome newcomers into their life. I have heard that they like to wait a few years to see if you will be sticking around before actually becoming friends. And then there are those who came here for the purpose of being alone permanently.
Overall I am surprised at how different rural living can be. It has certainly changed me in so many good ways. I have so much less anxiety and stress, that I almost cannot tolerate how bad I feel when I go to even small cities. I feel my anxiety level rising immediately…
I now fully embrace my love of silence and nature, so I will continue my quest for like-minded souls in this area.
I’m new to southern Colorado. After two years I decided to compile 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 books! Cheers, Laura Lee (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)
At the risk of sounding slightly biased, I feel the need to share with you the art of my niece Hailey. She’s a beautiful young woman who has already fought a few very tough battles at age 20, and still she persists as a talented writer and painter.
She visited her Dad, my brother, this past April by coming out to Arizona for the first time from the East Coast. She stayed in Mesa and then drove out to Sedona to spend some time with John, at his camp along Oak Creek north of Sedona. I’m so happy they were able to get together after many years apart.
This is Hailey’s interpretation of her drive from Mesa Arizona to Sedona through the eyes of a person who has never seen such amazing natural beauty.
I love Hailey’s sense of color and movement.
Her style reminds me of Georgia O’Keefe‘s early works of the southwest after she first started traveling to Abiquiu New Mexico in 1929, where she eventually bought her Ghost Ranch. Georgia has always been a muse for me personally. Her strong sense of purpose and independent spirit inspires me even today!
We originally considered retiring on land near the orange buttes of Abiquiu ourselves. To me this land is magical. I introduced Mike to the area when I first met him in 2005 and he loved it too.
On our first trip we originally planned to stay there for just a day, but ended up spending a few days enjoying it and looking for land for sale. Perhaps I’ll share an essay I wrote about our first trip together there one of these days…
Today marks two years since we left our perfectly nice home in suburbia for the adventure of a lifetime. It may not sound like such a big deal to move to small town USA to build a custom solar home in the southern Colorado foothills, but it was for us at age 60!
We moved to Walsenburg on June 17th 2014, to sleep on the floor of this hundred-year-old rental, moving in the next day and staying there for 13 months while our new home was forming far too SLOWLY 20 minutes west of town at 7,000 feet. Mike worked as the contractor and purchaser of all things when we found the builder was not taking competitive bids, but just hiring his local friends.
Then on July 30th, 2015 we moved into our new home, HOME AT LAST!
For weeks after that move we just sat and stared out the window, mesmerized with the awesome views out our front windows, too exhausted to do anything else. We finally made it to our goal after many, many challenges and so many days of absolute stress.
Why did we do it? Our trip to Pueblo yesterday answers that question quickly. Being in cities always ruins my day. We need to go there occasionally to buy certain things, but the stress, the heat, the traffic, the bad air and bad manners of other drivers always convinces us we will never live there again!
We have no patience with cities anymore, and why should we when we have a magnificent place where we can escape them?
Today we will drink a toast to surviving all these many changes and challenges, and also to never moving again! Instead we will try to get our patio finished this summer, enjoy the great wildflower displays everywhere, the cool mountain breezes each evening, and offer encouragement to others who have found their new home in this small slice of heaven.
Want to learn more about our experience of moving from the city to the country to live a quiet, relaxed life? Check it out here!
“Even in seemingly dormant times, we are in transition. Losses and gains are in constant play. We are the change-agent, and we are changed. Even without toil, we transform. So, wisdom advises us to open our hearts to transition; to honor fully what is passing, to learn from all that unfolds, and to welcome what arrives at our door each day with courage and curiosity.”
As all who have been reading this blog for the past year or so know, I have had many doubts about this big, dramatic move Mike and I started on two years ago. Especially when we first moved to Walsenburg, and I basically hated it.
But then if you took anyone from a beautiful, suburban home in Fort Collins, and moved them into a tiny, dirty 100-year-old house in a sad, rundown town an hour away from any decent sized city, the shock would be total, and it was!
The challenges we have faced in the past two years have been daunting for both of us. For me the biggest challenge was simply adjusting to such a different world than I was used to. For Mike it was the many extra expenses, frustrations, and delays in building a passive solar home in a rural environment.
I am now quite happy that we made this choice, while Mike says he wouldn’t have done it if he had known how unhappy I would be in the process of adjusting to something so different.
In retrospect I wish I had not worried so much about everything and trusted more in Mike’s vision for us, because this place is heaven. I fully appreciate how much courage and vision it took for Mike to push this whole project through to completion.
Now we live in a beautiful home that is supremely quiet, with fantastic views in every direction, and our direct-gain passive solar is working great! Plus I now feel like I’m making a few friends and slowly starting to feel like I belong here.
In summary: This place is perfect, but change can still be hell!
How did this happen? How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate? It’s a long story, one I can now share with you in my new memoir…
I love to remember May Day when I was a kid. We lived in a small town in Iowa where kids made simple paper May baskets, filled them with flowers, and then hung them on our neighbor’s front doors. What FUN! Then at school we would do the Maypole dance. Such great spring singing programs! Remember “Spring is busting out all over!?”
Unfortunately the weather is NOT cooperating here today. We are stuck in our second four day snowstorm in TWO WEEKS in southern Colorado. The good news? Over 4 inches of moisture in April! That’s my rain gauge out there…
Luckily we have a few great blog posts from some great boomer bloggers to entertain us today! First up is Carol Cassara:
Visibility seems to be EVERYTHING in today’s intrusive social media environment–and some of the most awful influences on kids and grandkids are way too visible. Carol’s asking what you think parents (and grandparents) can do to combat the influence of negative role models in social media? At the same time, she’s lucky enough to have a nephew who appreciates the wisdom of age.
Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting says the pharmaceutical industry is dear to the hearts of most Americans. We buy lots of drugs, but the industry wants us to buy more. Advertisements ply us with information about all kinds of maladies and the pills that will cure them. Meryl spends too much time listening to ads, as she explains in her post: On Becoming a Hypochondriac.
Tom Sightings says, they’ve been talking about it for a few years now, ever since the last of their children left home. It’s a crossroads most of us must face as we retire. So navigate over to “Guess What We’re Doing?” to find out what he’s talking about — and what they’re doing.
Over at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a new study that found working longer can extend your life. Researchers found that healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle, and health issues.
Too bad so many us do have health issues which prevent us from working longer, or chronic unemployment. It’s also very sad thousands of midlife Americans are committing suicide at an alarming rate.