I’ve had an intense couple of days. As you may remember, an important acquaintance died while I was up in Colorado Springs injuring my shoulder. I hadn’t been able to go see his wife, my friend Louise, at the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte until — wow, day before yesterday. I knew the visit would be intense and sad and everything that conversation is. It was all that. Louise asked if I could design Thank You notes for her to send to everyone who sent flowers and donated to the Alzheimer’s foundation. “What would you like?” I asked her.
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”
Then I thought — and spoke, “Do you want your painting?” I meant the painting she and her husband had bought each other for Christmas last year.
“Yes,” she said. Then she reached for her purse.
I said, “No,” and I meant no, but I followed it with, “I don’t know what it will cost me to print them yet.” Actually that doesn’t matter.
After an hour or so talking, I got back into Bella and headed back “over the hill.” (There’s a hill between the town of Del Norte and Monte Vista) and I had the feeling that for the first time in at least a year I was back home. I don’t know where I’ve been in the past few months, but I haven’t been home. On the crest of the hill, Mohammed’s Radio began to play Psychedelic Furs, “Heaven,” and I said, “Yeah. It is.”
Yesterday morning the drain plumber was going to come out and clean the sewer lines in advance of winter because, you know, shit happens. (sorry) I was sound asleep when he got here right at 8. The dogs barked, he knocked, I heard NOTHING. He called. It must have awakened me because a few minutes after his call I was awake and calling him back.
“It’s all good. I’ll swing back later.” He returned about 2 hours later after a couple of jobs in the nearby town of Saguache. He cleaned everything out and inspected everything — important after the bizarre events in my sewer line in 2020. We talked. I learned he’d been a rodeo rider, riding broncs. He’s a young guy, maybe 35, with a wife and two kids. I learned about all his injuries and saw some of the scars. I like rodeo. I know it’s dangerous and a little insane, but it’s been a small part of my life since I was a baby. Rodeo cowboys are athletes; in a way it’s like mountaineering.
We talked about injuries and doctors and I said, “I thought I had good scars, but I got nothing.” He laughed.
I seldom have anything but deep conversations with people. I don’t know why, but it’s always been that way. Pretty soon we’re talking about life and death and why we love the San Luis Valley. I said, “I love it and strangely, I think it’s requited.”
“It is. I feel that too. People down here are real.” When he’d finished and was coiling up the cord to the machine he said, “The way I see it, if we can’t be nice to each other, what’s the point of living?”
Exactly that. That’s what’s been in my mind and has been my struggle since January 6.
The day wore on and the water heater stopped working. My kind neighbor came over to see if he could light it, but no luck. I called my favorite non-sewer line plumber and they said, “Four days.” I said OK. I lived without hot water for a year. It is really not the end of the world. The water heater is relatively new — 7 years old, not a rusty relic. I was hopeful it could be fixed.
Then the wind came up, the sky darkened, and I knew the golden hour had arrived. Bear and I got in Bella. The Refuge was empty, the light was golden and miraculous. We started out in a cool breeze as a storm cell slowly made its way over us. At one point Bear stopped, looking into the distance and soon I saw why. A dozen sandhill cranes calling out flew over us. I was so happy to see them. On our return the storm cell was centered above us and it rained. The cell moved on and I turned around, to see a rainbow stretching across my refuge.
I felt peace inside for the first time in months.
Anyway…the water heater is up and running. The plumber was here by nine and out by 9:10 after explaining what happened and telling me how to fix it myself next time. He spoke in an accent I don’t normally hear in the San Luis Valley and I recognized it instantly. “You’re from New York,” I said.
“Yeah. Long Island.”
“I love it,” I said. “I don’t hear that much out here. One of the best friends I’ve had in my life was from out there. It’s nice to hear.” His arm was inked with Celtic knots and various other signals of his New York Irishness. We talked a bit about how he ended up here and he basically echoed what my sewer line plumber had said and what I feel.