Outlier?

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

Yesterday I had a phone conversation with a guy from National Public Radio. It was in response to a long phone message I had left at their request — on Facebook they’d posted a bulletin saying they wanted to hear from people in rural areas to find out what we need. I called.

He had to look me up in order to contact me, and he found my email. He emailed to see if the email reached the woman in Monte Vista who had left the message and asked for my phone number. I sent it, then tried to reconstruct what I’d said in a rather impassioned phone message. I wrote down all I remembered (I don’t have strong aural learning skills even with my own words) and then found the sources that had informed my understanding of the problems in the San Luis Valley. I was ready.

I was surprised…

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Denver and Rio Grande Railroad

and THEN…

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

In the middle nowhere on CO 149 is an old-school railroad crossing sign. You have to pay attention to see the narrow gauge tracks crossing the high meadow pasture.

What’s the story?

No one knows how human geography is going to pan out long term. The man who built the tracks had big dreams of a narrow gauge train over the mountains to Denver. I, personally, wish his dreams had come true, but instead we got the Cold War, and the Interstate Highway system. That man could not have known how it would eventually go with the automobile (or passenger planes), or that horses and trains were not going to be the foundation of human transportation forever. He could not have known that — in the future — a small mining town butted up against a cliff would not become a thriving metropolis, that its rich vein of ore would be…

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Discoveries

Thoughts after two years…

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

I retired. I moved into a small town where I didn’t know anyone. There was — and still is — so much I didn’t/don’t know. For example, I bought a small economy car that gets good gas mileage, but I hardly ever drive. I was still living in the life of 100+ miles per week and $4/gallon. I could have bought a truck, but I didn’t know… The house I really wanted? I could have offered half what they were asking and gotten it. I didn’t know. I was used to the extremely competitive seller’s market I’d moved away from. I didn’t know that within two years I’d be walking two miles and more at a good clip or that the stairs in the house I really wanted wouldn’t be such a big deal. I didn’t know that I would frequently have company and need the numerous bedrooms and two baths…

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Light of the World

and then…the continuing saga of adjusting to a new life a year and a half in, I’m so glad I moved here!

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

“How many lights do you want? Something like this is less expensive than one with more lights.”

What WAS he talking about? The window contractor stood with me in the spare bedroom in my San Diego house. The goal was to replace two wooden windows (that didn’t work well and had to be propped open) with two aluminum windows that could actually be opened safely. The original windows were from the 40s.

“Lights?”

“Each opening is a ‘light’. These windows have one light. We can put in windows with four lights. Strips of aluminum across so they look like French windows. They cost more but they look good.”

I opted for the cheaper ones. They were closer in appearance to the rest of the windows in the house, except the two we’d gotten for cheap at the swap meet and put in the kitchen. Besides, how is dividing ONE light…

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Where Am I?

I still love it here, in fact, I love it more. Yesterday — after donating my medical equipment bought to help me recover from the knee surgery I’ve decided not to have (right now? ever?) to the First Christian Church here in Monte Vista (they have a closet of medical equipment for people who need it) I thought about what it has always been about this town that has appealed to me.

I lived six happy childhood years in Bellevue, a small Nebraska town — it was twice as big as Monte Vista because the population included the people living at Offutt Air Force Base, but the town itself was very like this one. It sat between the Missouri River and the endless prairie on the edge of agriculture. It was older than Monte Vista by seventy years, originally a trapper’s way station during the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It had the small-town essence that this town does. On nights when there were little league ball games or girls’ softball some church or other would put on an ice-cream social. People paid a quarter and the ice cream was homemade. We rode bikes through the town, kids like dragon flies, free and unfettered through a dimension almost free of adult supervision. To the pool, to the park, to the tennis courts (by the junior high), to the one movie theater, to the drugstore, to the Dairy Queen.

Bellevue in the early 60s

Bellevue as it looked when I lived there

Last night as I went to sleep I realized I have moved back to the place I was happiest as a kid. I came looking for that, for people like the people I knew back then. I’ve found them. I just returned from a little “boutique” of holiday crafts and gifts. It’s an annual event held at the Masonic Temple by a small group of crafters. I did most of my Christmas shopping. The people who make the items that are for sale work all year toward this weekend. There were cookies and punch — homemade cookies and punch from a punch bowl.

Monte Vista as it is today.

Monte Vista as it is today.

For a long time I’ve been disenchanted and cynical about modern life, our rushing, commodity driven acquisitional culture in which people matter less than things. I was worried when I moved her that I’d have a hard time fitting in but that has not been the case at all. I have been welcomed; it’s as if Monte Vista had been waiting for me as well as I had been looking for it.

I walk the dogs and people wave; some people have come to know me and Dusty and Bear. There’s a little boy who watches for us in the evening because he’s so entranced by my big white dog. People are natural and open and sincere and I have felt my guard drop a little more each day. The kind of tolerance I always knew as a kid I am experiencing here. When there are few people and people need friends and allies against a harsh climate and the isolation of a small town, individuals are valued. Friendship — a huge challenge for me in California — is easy here.

I’m so happy I made the decision I did even though, financially, life is not always perfect — but could any human live with a perfect life?