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Lake with the Spanish Peaks as a backdrop.
Peak Peeking.
A Tempting Trail.
Anytime. But nary a horse to be found.
My best friend ready to head on.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Goats
  • Grazing alpacas
  • MKL
  • Tulips blooming today
At least it’s pretending to be so.
I am hopeful.
Quite hopeful.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Lovely neighbors
  • Horses
  • Counting down the days
  • A plane ticket in hand (even if it’s just to Dallas)
Took a detour down a little Forest Service road, hoping to reach a random lake, but was stopped by too-deep snow. There were, however, lovely tree roots.
Atop Cuchara Pass.
Choices.
North Lake.
Abandoned Church.
The former Weston General Store.
The former Weston Elementary School.
Bird on a limb.
Looking back with love.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That K does not have COVID-19
  • Sleep
  • Lemon ginger tea
  • A repaired stair
Corners Diner, which looks sadly defunct.
Such unique rock formations.
Curves ahead.
Roadside barn.
And roadside shed.
My stomach was disappointed that it could not have a burger at the Dog Bar. A little too early for the season.
Happy Mailboxes.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That MKL came up for the day
  • Only nine more days until I actually live with my husband
  • That the Fire Department is trying to contain the fire four miles northwest of here (which is really stressing me out)
  • A successful experimental smoothie

I’m really not traveling the county roads in numerical order – though that might be fun.

But this one was irresistible.
Down the tracks.
And always look both ways.
Sketchy bridge ahead.
The Sangre de Cristos in one direction…
And the Spanish Peaks in the other. I have a particular fondness for the Spanish Peaks.
They all came running up to the fence to say hello. I think they liked my music. I blew them a kiss as I left.
This is the kind of mountain I used to draw as a child, basically a triangle. I love the way the rooftop echoes the peak’s contours.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Dirt roads
  • An annual State parks pass
  • Meadowlarks
  • Getting gas for under $4.00/gallon

Via a rather circuitous route that included Hwy 69, Hwy 96, and Hwy 165.

The Sangre de Cristo range.
Abandoned.
But still watchful.
The Three Trees.
Contrasts.
My Best Friend.
Grazing.
Aspens on the verge of Spring.
Higher and higher.
I found some bison!
Along the road home.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Trying to figure out the cat
  • The first tree in bloom
  • That K is back safely from her trip

Wind. I’ve never liked it, except when it rustles the fronds of the palm trees. Contradictorily, that’s my favorite sound. But I’d scarcely call that wind. That’s a breeze, gentle and joyful.

Wind is what we get here in the Front Range and the Wet Mountains. This is what took down a 75-foot tree that miraculously and by the slimmest of margins missed the Carriage House. This is what makes me look with great skepticism out of the living room window as another giant pine tree bends and twists against the blue sky, its trajectory perfectly aligned with my bedroom.

Wind is what never hesitates to remind me of the ruptured eardrum that I suffered at age two when my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia. Each time the wind, anywhere from lukewarm to freezing, gains access to my right ear, it hurts like the dickens.

Wind is why I don’t like Wyoming. It seems ever-present there. I recall spending a night in the back of my truck the summer after college trying to sleep through it – wasn’t sure if I was going to freeze or go mad, and it was June.

And wind is what led to the destruction of the Cozy House and an entire community. Wind that decide to dance with fire — and what a dance it was.

From the Retreat, I can’t see the wind coming because I’m already in it. But further away from the mountains, it’s easy to tell when it will be a day of the warm, dry, harsh winds that indigenous people used to call “snow eaters” and which we call Chinooks. There’s a bright clear sky and over the mountains, a thick shelf of white cloud in a straight line. If you’ve lived here long enough, you know to hang on to your small pets and tie down your trampolines when you see that anytime between November and April.

Ages ago, I read or someone told me that the indigenous people called them “the winds of madness”. I’ve never been able to find a source for that, but I don’t doubt it’s true. The sound, the uncertainty, the constancy of them can indeed make you feel more than a little crazy.

Unfortunately for too many of us, they now raise feelings of pain, fear, loss, anger, and trauma, digging into wounds that are only barely starting to scab over. I have reminded myself a dozen times today of the freakish circumstances that made me lose the Cozy House and that there’s nothing left to lose there now. But at the Retreat, I have the rest of what’s left to lose. It’s impossible not to think about it, about what I would take, about how to arrange the house so I could quickly pack those treasures I didn’t lose. About how a single spark from a cigarette tossed out of a car window on the Frontier Pathway could take all this away from me.

About how little control we actually have.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Decent sleep
  • Wise decisions
  • Experimental cooking
  • Good books

Fire and I have had a lifelong complicated relationship. Actually, it extends into a past life relationship, but that’s a little too woo-woo for me to get into just now.

Growing up, the fireplace was a focal point in my parent’s house. A cord of wood was dumped in the garage (which was never used as a garage) every year and my dad would stack it and chop it as needed. When it turned cold, we’d stack wood in the basement to avoid having to go outside to get it. Kindling came from the pecan trees, supplemented by newspaper, of which there was no shortage, since my dad took at least six papers. While we had a furnace – a big old scary roaring cast iron thing in the basement – my parents, being depression era children, always kept the house cold, using the fireplace as a major heat source.

We had a fire almost every night from Fall through Spring. Little me learned how to tell if it was smoking into the living room and point that out to my dad. Bigger me learned how to fix it when it was smoking. On cold mornings, I would scrape the ashes looking for some extra warmth from the coals like Cinderella. Scraping through the ashes of the cozy house, even 10 days after the fire, I found warm spots that reminded me of my Cinderella mornings.

E-Bro melted the soles of numerous pairs of shoes reading on the floor in front of the fireplace. One summer morning, when I was very small, my parents tucked him just a tiny bit up the chimney in a Santa Claus costume and surprised me with Santa’s visit. I still remember how thrilled I felt.

The chimney caught fire once and the fire department came to put it out. I was always nervous when we cleaned out the chimney after that. One day, after a night where the fire didn’t draw well, my sixth grade English teacher took me aside and asked me kindly if my home had caught fire because my hair smelled so much like smoke.

In college in Boston, I made the decision to leave as I stood at my window and watched the building across the street from my brownstone dorm go up in violent flames, set alit by an arsonist terrorizing the area. As it burned, I thought, “I am too young for this.”

In college in Boulder, I lived on the top back room of a rooming house that was otherwise occupied by six guys of questionable character in their 30s. One morning, after being awake for 48 hours between work and disasterous midterms, I was finally sleeping when someone pounded on my door. I was charming and cursed at them and told them to go away. This person said, in exactly the tone you would expect, “Well, EXCUSE ME, but your house is on fire and I THOUGHT YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW.” Which it was. I struggled into my red and white striped robe, stumbled barefoot down the stairs past the quickly charring door of the room on fire, just missing the explosion of the front window. Someone gave me a pair of tennis shoes since I was barefoot on this November morning. Turns out one of my fellow tenants went to the Mental Health Center and told them he’d just set his room on fire and there were people sleeping in the house. The Fire Department got the fire under control, though that tenant’s room was completely destroyed. The firefighters had kicked in my unlocked door and checked to be sure the fire hadn’t breached the walls. I didn’t have much, but everything I owned smelled like smoke for weeks. I moved my bed into the empty attic and left my clothes outside in the cold to air them.

After college, still in Boulder, ex-Pat and I watched smoke and ash creep towards our North Boulder apartment over Mt. Sanitas. It was nerve wracking. I went through a small phase of insanity in which I’d chase wildfires when I knew they were burning in the hills. That stopped one day when my truck got stuck and I watched a ridge across from me burn, the fire’s fingers greedily creeping toward me. It was a miracle that I got myself unstuck. I was in the application process to become a wildfire fighter when I broke my foot, dashing that goal.

In the cozy house in Superior, the fireplace took up half of the living room wall. It was romantic at times, comforting at times, frustrating at times. I learned how to build a good fire. I chopped wood without losing any appendages. There was always a fire in the fireplace on Christmas morning, just like we had in my parents’ house. Ironic that the chimney is the only thing left standing. The fireplace felt like the heart of the house.

Living in the Cottage, I watched the Four Mile fire consume familiar hillsides. I watched the Colorado Springs fire on TV in the Bungalow and have never seen anything that more closely resembled what I’d imagine Hell to look like.

Until now. I still can’t visualize what the hell of this fire looked like but I can see the hell it has left behind. The loss and heartbreak that it has created are our own personal little hells.

I worry that the Retreat might be subject to fire. It’s in the woods, in the mountains, almost to be expected. MKL is wise to tell me not to think of it so I don’t draw it to us. But I feel like fire has licked at my heels my whole life. It just hasn’t gotten me yet. I really hope it’s done trying.

I am back at the Retreat. It was good living with MKL for a month; it was a sneak preview of living together full-time, which should happen soon. I needed to see if I could return to what had become my daily life before the fire. So here I am.

I’m in my work spot, which is where, on December 30, I got the call from Kelsea that there was a fire near Superior and maybe it was something to worry about. In the time it took for me talk to her, call ex-Pat, gather some things, and call ex-Pat again, it was all gone — Roscoe, Dusty, and the house. It feels edgy to be sitting here, with that memory raising a pearl of panic in my chest.

I need to recover the Retreat from Christmas. The one day I was here in January, I pulled the Christmas tree out onto the front porch, but presents are still in small piles where the tree was and the menagerie is still in the living room. January and post-Christmas organizing did not turn out the way I’d expected.

It feels like some sort of betrayal to put some distance between myself and the homesite. A part of me, of my heart, is there and I feel the hole in my soul when I’m away from that space. I want to spend all my time there, digging for lost things, hoping that something will magically appear untouched. My wedding dress and photos. A book, any book. An old painting on milk glass. Those things that are gone forever. Holding out hope, at some point, feels like it does more harm than good. But I continue to remember things and try to replace them. Today, it was the San Antonio Junior League cookbook and a heart-shaped mirror framed in seashells that I made an executive decision to buy in South Padre Island decades ago.

I am listening to our town meetings about rebuilding and uncharacteristically constantly adding my two cents about keeping the character of Old Town Superior as unique as it has been for over 100 years. I’m having early talks with an architect-in-progress about rebuilding. I don’t know if that will happen but I want to leave my options open. It feels like a slogging, numb-footed step forward through paralyzing mud.

I came up to the Retreat intentionally to be here before the big snowfall, which was a wise move as the snow started falling last night and has yet to stop. I always prefer it to either REALLY SNOW or not even bother. I can feel myself burrowing beneath this blanket that the sky has offered, a nest full of sorrow and comfort. Today’s photos share the view from my world in the woods.

Can you spot the Corvette?

Daily gratitudes:
Horses neck high in the tall grass
Nice bank tellers
A new rum
Catfish
Self-control

June 2022
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