Dear Monte Vista,

Daily Prompt Community Service Your entire community — however you define that; your hometown, your neighborhood, your family, your colleagues — is guaranteed to read your blog tomorrow. Write the post you’d like them all to see.

One of my favorite books is Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. In it is a town that’s disappeared because people in the town became so preoccupied with getting where they were going they didn’t look up and see the town any more. Pretty soon, the town was gone.

Since I moved to Monte Vista last fall, people I meet almost invariably ask, “Why did you move HERE?” as if it were a really crazy thing to do. I am getting tired (I mean physically) of explaining something I think is self-explanatory. If you’d ever lived in Southern California and struggled to make one end of the month meet the other year after year in the middle of all that competition and all those people you’d understand some of it. As one of my professors said once, “Put a bunch of rats in a cage that’s too small and they’ll start eating each other. Take them out and put them in a larger cage, they’ll keep eating each other. If they’re NEVER in a cage that’s too small, that’s another thing.”

I came from Colorado, and  I never wanted to move to California in the first place but I was happy there. I loved my career and California is a beautiful state, too.

But…it came time to retire and I couldn’t stay there. I was earning $70k/year — a lot here in Monte Vista, I know — but as things were for me, it was the MINIMUM I needed just to scrape by. I wouldn’t have that kind of income as a retired person, not even working part time. I did the math and saw how much more sense it made for me to sell out, pull up stakes and come home.

I had to find a home. That turned out to be Monte Vista. I saw a house online I liked and came here in the summer of 2014 to look at it. It wasn’t OK, but I loved the town, the setting and the San Luis Valley. What the heck? Housing is affordable here, there is a supermarket in town (I didn’t have that in my small town in California) and every direction is stunning. I love all the wrecked trains and the elevators and many relics and remnants of my childhood, things that are long gone most places.

Beauty and affordability and a climate I like? A few hours drive from some of the most beautiful cities and towns in the US (Santa Fe, Taos, Denver and on and on)? natural beauty? VERY friendly and sincere human beings everywhere? I actually had culture shock from people being nice to me in the beginning. Yeah, really. Why NOT live here? I bought a house and I’ve since learned, in the market here, that’s a life sentence. Fine by me.

Many people I meet don’t see it that way. I hear Monte Vista disparaged every day.

My advice, if you don’t like it, you have two choices, and the best choice is to make Monte Vista what you want it to be. Lots of people in this town do that. We have a movie theater because people want it. You may not know how inspiring that is to an outsider like me to see that. It’s beautiful. A little gallery/gift shop, Valley Art Co-op Gallery and Gift Shop, has opened thanks to the generosity of the Monte Villa Inn and the hard work of a group of artists and crafts people — those people have pitched in their own money and their own time to open, stock and keep the store going. The merchandise is beautiful and made with love, but every day someone comes in and says, “I didn’t know this was here.” In a way that doesn’t make sense. It’s on US Hwy 160, visible and signed. The fact is, many people in my town don’t EXPECT anything good from the town so they don’t see what’s in front of them. As they say, “I’ve driven by this a hundred times and never noticed it.” I think for some people the town might have disappeared, so, if you find yourself looking around, here’s what the Valley Art Co-op looks like: 🙂

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Yours always,


14 thoughts on “Dear Monte Vista,

  1. That was a very successful move you made. Well thought over and a step in the right direction. I admire your courage as not all would make such a radical change in their life. I did it myself many years ago and have never regretted it since. Who says I am here to stay, probably, but perhaps not one day.

    • I am so glad I found the guts. It took a couple years to get it together, but I’m very happy I did (as I know you are about having made the leap to Switzerland).

  2. It sounds just right, Martha. I so envy your proximity to Santa Fe and Taos. Having connections – especially some creative ones – helps and they’re fortunate to have a grateful person such as yourself as an addition.

  3. I really like this post. One of your best, I think. Monte Vista seems perfect for most folks. Small towns are the best. Getting a new dog is likely better than visiting those cities that you can visit later.

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this and I read it. You could be talking about they way I feel about Craig — beautiful surroundings, good people, a nearby airport, a great bakery — and the way those who’ve lived here feel about it — doomed, going no where, no support of downtown businesses, not Steamboat, bad schools, on and on and on. When my husband and I retired, people asked over and over when we were going to move, rather than if we were going to move. We are staying.

    • One negative thing about a small town is gossip. It’s pernicious. When I quit the co-op I sent an email saying I didn’t want to be scheduled for September. No one read that. They just read “I quit” and the word went around that I had just quit — not what I had done. I was clearly going to finish out the month of August. People LOVE their reactions and they BOND with misery. I’m very guarded with what I say to people here because soon everyone will know it.

      • I have to exercise the same caution. I think gossip is the single most unattractive thing about Craig, and most of it seems to flow from those who were born and raised here and never left. the best friends I’ve made in the twenty years I’ve lived here are from out of town as well.

      • Interesting — most of the people I’ve made beginnings-of-friendship with are from here, moved away and came back. Some of them never left, but have traveled a lot. I hadn’t thought of that. I’m having some kind of internal/psychological problem adjusting lately. I have come to realize that this is a lot bigger step than I realized when I made it — I don’t know if you’ve seen the film Milagro Beanfield War, but there’s a great character in it called Don Amarante. He says about a wild action a young father is about to take, “If we knew what was going to happen, no of us would do anything.” Anyway, it’s a beautiful film.

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