August 1 is Swiss National Day, it’s the day Colorado became a state, and it’s the date that I first saw Monte Vista, Colorado five years ago. I flew to Denver from San Diego. My friend Lois picked me up and drove me over the mountains and through the Arkansas River Valley and over Poncha Pass to what I instantly recognized as Heaven. I knew it was home the moment I saw it and every time since, when I drop over that pass, or the other pass, La Veta, I’ve felt it again.
How I learned of this little town is a long story. But once I got the bug, I began looking for houses for sale in this area — Del Norte, Monte Vista (which I’d never heard of), Alamosa didn’t entice me, Saguache, Crestone, maybe but…
Then I saw the house. It’s a block away from where I ended up living, and in very bad shape, but I had looked at that house online for 3 years. Property wasn’t moving rapidly anywhere in the US in those years right after the big recession, and it sure wasn’t moving here. On August 1, 2014, I saw the inside of the house and I loved it, but it was impossible for me. The roof hadn’t been replaced since the 1920s.
Lois and I stayed at The Mansion, a beautiful B & B that’s not open any more. Sherry, our friend and my realtor, Lois and I ate at Ninos and I had Northern New Mexico/Southern Colorado green chili for the first time since 1997. I knew where I was though I knew it would take time for me to be at home here. Small towns are small towns and I had no idea then what adjustments, identity changes, I’d go through after leaving a career of 30 years.
On September 20, 2014, I arrived here for good and had to find a house. I found the right house for me, a house that resembled two of the other places in which I have been happy.
Now I really live here. I have friends whom I cherish with whom I have taken some great adventures. I love my neighborhood. I love walking Bear in summer and getting reacquainted with all the people in my hood who haven’t been outside during the cold months. The things I love are small — and it wasn’t like I didn’t have them in California; in my barrio neighborhood, which was like a small town, I did. But, this is home as no other place has ever been. I no longer weep when people are friendly to me, but I appreciate it as deeply. When I drive out of the San Luis Valley, the refrain in my mind is, “Every other place is bullshit.”
I love the potato fields, the barley and canola fields, the harvest, the potatoes by the side of the road that one might pick up and bake at home (Yum). I love the small town events and how much the people around me love them. I have never been so happy in my whole life FOR SO LONG!!!!! I love watching the weather on the mountains all around. I love that Taos is so close. I love the Sand Dunes and the trails all around that I’ve never taken — and may not, but I will take some. ❤ Having new trails is a kind of wonder to me. I love my river and the wetlands beside them. I love my deer and foxes, and the tracks of animals who still elude my sight. I love the tracks of raccoons on fresh snow on my sidewalk. I love the amazing dogs who’ve come to live with me here. I love the smell of Piñon fires in fall. I love the Christmas parade and the kids diving for candy flying off the floats. I love my neighbor’s restored T-Birds. I love the old gracious and lovely churches (even though I don’t attend).
I love that at the store it’s more important to the clerks to help people than to get everyone through the line fast. I love that it’s likely that a horse will be at the store in a trailer or not. I love the Nordic Club that grooms trails all around for people like me to ski on. I love the way people here “visit” and how conversations are never trivial. I love the interest people show in each other. I love shoveling the walks and the hoarfrost on the trees and the golden leaves of autumn. I love the late summer rains (in which Teddy and I just took a walk) and the kids riding bikes and scooters. I love the way we help each other without asking. In conversations with people I’ve discovered a consensus that whatever our political differences might be, we all agree that if Washington vanished, we wouldn’t know the difference, and we all think we might be better off.
It’s Heaven. Obviously.