719, Riff of Coincidence…


July 19 (719) was the day I retired from a career of more than 30 years.

Two months later, having sold my house, I took off in a rented van (never driven a van), with three large old dogs, some possessions (the book on how to move across country said put irreplaceable possessions in your car, not in the truck) expensive art supplies I got in Switzerland years and years ago. I set off across the hot southern Arizona desert, up the lush corridor to Flagstaff to a nasty Motel 6 that did, at least, allow all three dogs in my room. From there up and out through Arizona’s hypnotic northern desert, with its wild horses, wild rocks and a sweet Navajo waitress in Dennys who said, “You look tired.”

I was driving through the American landscape, driving to freedom, driving from what I perceived as failure and betrayal into a larger world dominated by natural landscape. Shiprock rose ever higher on the horizon to the northwest. Herds of tame horses ran alongside the van. Small flocks of sheep lounged on the low slopes of a butte. Then…



Green fields. Neat farms. Slo-mo McDonalds in Cortez. Young Indian cowboy dad says to me, “This is taking forever,” he’s worried about his hungry kid and I’m worried about the dogs in the car.

Small town, small town, green valley, a Colorado I’ve never seen. A Colorado I want to see, but I must drive. South Fork tonight, a cabin, sleep, a place to walk the dogs. Mancos, Durango — no, this is not where I want to live, I erase the glimmer of possibility. Bayfield, Pagosa Springs (beautiful!). Many of the places I pass are possible homes though my sights are set on Monte Vista, I am not locked in yet.

The pass, Wolf Creek, lingers in my memory of other people’s conversations as being “dangerous” “Yeah, yeah, we had to go over Wolf Creek!” “Oh God. How was it?”

Beautiful, smooth, even, empty. My pass. On the west end a fantastic waterfall, on the east end? Home? Maybe?



I arrive in South Fork at the cusp of fall. Aspens turning, first higher in the San Juans, then gold creeps down the elevation to the Rio Grande valley. The river flows not far from the field where I walk my dogs. I watch it change color from black to blue to golden in the light. I love it. Rio Grande. The words are romantic and beautiful. I love the drive down from South Fork to Monte Vista when I have to shop or look at a property. Tense times; where will I live? But the beauty around me is a balm on my uprooted soul.


In the Dewey Decimal system 719 is “Natural Landscapes.”

That turned out well šŸ™‚ And, what’s more, 719 is the area code here!


You might like a map!

You might like a map!

Morning alpenglow

Morning Alpenglow from my front porch.

Wildlife refuge

Monte Vista wildlife refuge, August, 2014, south of my town




21 thoughts on “719, Riff of Coincidence…

  1. I hope we are able to make it back to the west next year. We have a good pal in Arizona and he is eager for a visit from us. It’s just the money thing … but I do love the region. It is magnificent. Heart-wrenching.

  2. Envy, envy, but you deserve it and so do the canines. What an adventure and reward at the end of the journey. I will probably never travel so far again, but I can see the beauty of the landscape in your words.

    • Good deals on beautiful homes, that’s one draw. Close to beautiful things to see and great things to do. The people are nice, health-care has been great — the hospital in Alamosa is growing and it is new, bringing in more specialists all the time. The Valley isn’t perfect — it has its share of contemporary problems — but I am 100% happy that I moved here. Alamosa is not a very pretty town (honestly) but it has some charming features — an old-fashioned downtown, for one. Great old trains, friendly people, a university. Monte is prettier, but less going on. The community is working hard to improve itself. It has (get this) taken on on a volunteer basis, the old theater downtown and shows movies every weekend, first or second run films, $6 for adults. There are many heartwarming stories like that here. The economic crisis of the late 2000s hit the valley hard, but the people are amazing. Monte lost population but has recovered to pre-crisis levels. Like I said, I still wake up feeling like somehow I did something right and landed in Heaven. I love being around real farmers and ranchers. The kindness I’ve experienced in random moments has blown me away. If you like Mexican food, this is among the best I’ve ever had. There are churches for every denomination, most are very small. One of them, St. Stephen’s episcopal, was built by a British family and it is a replica of a British Anglican Chapel. The biggest church is The Feed Store Church. I’m not a church person (I like “the text that nature renders”) but I’m glad all these beautiful churches are here. I like the climate — more sun than clouds. It can get very cold (hasn’t this year) but I was happy to learn that 6 inches of snow is a challenge for the city. That means most snow storms aren’t huge. Love it, love it, love it. Ask me anything you want as you get closer to your decision. šŸ™‚

    • Oh and compared to North Dakota? You’ll feel like you’re in Florida or something. I picked it instead of Montana where my family is from just for the shorter winter. My neighbors moved from Northern Michigan and they think they’re in the tropics or something… šŸ˜‰

  3. Enjoyed your journey. The water fall video is so fresh and peaceful. Refreshing to have a taste of your environment Martha. I hope you’ll be truly happy in your new home. šŸ™‚

  4. I think you chose just the right place for your new home. I very much enjoyed reading about the drive to Colorado with your three dogs .The landscape looks perfect to me. Not in the mountains but rather on the flatlands with some hills to break the monotony or, at least I think that’s the case.

Comments are closed.