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Entries in Colorado (5)


Fire Weather

Here is the thing about fire weather: at first you think it's just summer.  It's a welcome heat, that begs for flip flops and sun dresses and you revel in it.  Then the wind starts to blow and dry things out even more than they already are, but you take refuge in your car with your air conditioning.  It's just weather, after all.  What's a little more carbon to add to the mix?  

We are the frogs, not even noticing that the heat has been turned up below us, until


Lightning strikes and tempers flare, out of nowhere, and you didn't even see it coming, soaking in the warm bath of your stockpot while to-do lists and grant deadlines and snow tires pile up and ignite in the middle of your kitchen.  It's strange how quickly the profane rises and you think it's going to feel so good to release but really all you're left with afterward is why were you mean to Daddy?

The fires of my marriage flare up infrequently and are contained quickly, but they still leave me scratching my head.  Who is the arsonist in my kitchen?  Is it a dry year?  Where is the rain?


Smoke and despair hang thick in the air all over my home state.  It's going to take more than I'm sorry, I was out of line to make things whole.  When the conditions are right and the wind is insistent and the heat turns cruel, a single lightning strike sears the mountaintop and soon everything in its path is consumed.  It's not that we were careless, per se.  It's just that there is never enough time or resources to get all the fuel out of the way.

Thank you for digging fire lines.

Thank you for evacuating people from harm's way.

Thank you for saving us from ourselves.

Now where is the rain?


Coming Back

The snow gods have been unkind to our favorite mountain spots so far this winter, but Saturday brought our first few inches of the new year.  A few inches of snow is the difference between what's the point? and wheeeee!  A few inches of snow makes everything new again. 

Here the snow is too dry to even make a decent snowball.  Every single flake holds its distinct shape.  I was the first one on the cross-country trail yesterday morning, and the snow fluttered and parted around my skis as the sun broke through the morning clouds.  The snow is still too shallow to cover the remains of the summer grasses, and it's too light to weigh them down.  How much does a snowflake weigh?  I skied past a dead tree that fell last week.  Was there one snowflake that did the deed?  The tree just couldn't take the weight of one more snowflake?


I wonder if this is how moods work.  Life piles on, and you're strong, but one imperceptible thing you probably don't even notice gets added to the load and suddenly you're sinking under the weight of it. 


For a while now I've craved silence.  I've turned off the radio, except for the classical station occasionally.  I put all the CDs away.  The cacophony of kids over the holidays actually hurt.  I sit every morning and meditate in the dark, feasting on the quiet.

But I noticed this weekend that my ears are hungry.  I want headphones, and dancing around the house, and singing loud. 

This feels good.  This feels like coming back.


Winter, Suddenly

Monday it was 80° and Denver was bathed in the bright yellow sunlight of autumn.

Tuesday night it started to snow.

Yesterday morning on the way to work it looked like this:

If it seems a little jarring, well, it is.  But this whipsaw of weather is also one of Colorado's great charms in my opinion, that you can have snow on red leaves, or conversely, short-sleeves weather in February.  It gives us a communal experience of nature, something to talk about, something to look forward to.  It means we never bury our cute winter hats too deep in the basement because we wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to look like this:


Some Places Really Don't Have Wifi

258.365 50mm f4 1/1600 ISO 100This is Sarah.  She and I fell in love in college and she's still the person I most like sitting around a campfire with.  We used to go backpacking together every summer but then the babies started turning up and cramping our style. 

257.365 50mm f4.5 1/320 ISO 200Our friend Alex thought all us breeders were incredibly lame but inexplicably, he wanted to hang out with us anyway.  (Which is nice, since he is possibly the most hilarious human to share a campfire with.)  So Sarah tasked him with finding a place to go camping with the kids in tow.  That is how five families have come to camp at Twin Lakes for the past three summers.

There was fishing.

There was Toddler Jackass.

There were s'mores (obviously).

256.365 50mm f1.4 10s ISO 800There were more stars at night than you can fathom.

And chilly mornings, a welcome reprieve from the furnace of Denver.

Will and I finally realized that we have to embrace car camping and get geared up, since a two-man backpacking tent is not big enough for two adults, a toddler, and a 60 pound dog.

Mostly there were great friends, adorable kids, a reminder of why living in Colorado is unbeatable, and a really good reason to get away from my wifi.


Heart Transplant

79.365 18mm f8 1/125 ISO 400As far back as I can remember I always wanted to move away from North Carolina.  I spent my entire childhood here but even so, it just never quite fit.  I up and transplanted myself to the front range of Colorado right in the middle of a population boom that gobbled up the outskirts of the cities and suburbanized the farming towns.  Friends who grew up in Colorado, beset by all us transplants, pointedly plastered NATIVE stickers to their cars.  It's tough to see all these upstarts lay claim to your place, after all.

Strangely, just as I was busy elbowing my way into somebody else's place, a new migration started to flow into North Carolina.  Apparently a lot of people think this is a good place to create a life and the spot I left behind has been filled in a hundred times over.  Now when I come here everything is different and many parts of it are unrecognizable, which is kind of annoying.  (Except the part about there now being a bar in my hometown... I am in whole-hearted support of that.)

Now the absurdity of getting indignant because the newcomers are changing a place I never even wanted to live is not lost on me.  I understand that I forfeited the right to play the NATIVE card the minute I left the state.  But it does get to me.  I visited a friend in a newly-suburbanized outskirt of Raleigh yesterday and I saw this scene: an old abandoned farmhouse separated from a new subdivision (homes from the 200s!) by the thinnest veil of trees.  It was a subdivision that could have been on the outskirts of any city in any part of America.

I don't mind if people come.  I don't even mind if they change the place.  But I'd hate to see it become just another stretch of Generica, somewhere that could be interchangeable for any other place in the country.  Who am I to rail against transplants?  Just bring some heart with you when you come.