Life in Pagosa Springs

I walk outside and I take a deep breath. There is first the deep green cedar smell, wet and dense. The smell of the woods, leaves and pine needles on the ground for that rich deep note, then the bright smell of cedarwood baking in the sun. My woods, my trees, my home on the side of a mountain. I tell people it smells like vacation to me. It smells like the trips to the Grand Canyon as a child, or the lodge at Yellowstone. Tents and campfires. It’s a different wood smell than where I grew up in Arkansas, where it was hot and humid.

I look at my house, barely visible in the trees on the side of the mountain as we drive by on our way to the mailbox. Yes, I pick our mail up from my post office box on the side of the road. If there is a package a key is left in my box. I open one of the four big metal postal boxes in the cluster to retrieve our parcels. Sometimes I have several keys for several boxes. I order a lot of stuff online.

It’s like living in a postcard.

At first I wanted to stop at every curve and twist of the road to take pictures. There was this need to share, to show this spectacular beauty to everyone I know. Photos from my iPhone can’t capture the depth and vastness of the views. The deep blue of the sky contrasting with snow capped mountains. Green forests, aspens blanketing the mountains with fiery displays of orange and yellow in the fall.

Aspens. I love aspen. I have aspen leaves tattooed on my arm. Did you know that aspens are the largest living organism in the world? Each stand of aspen share a single root system. They are a family of trees, an entwined sharing family.

there are aspen in my yard

they quake in the wind

Soft fluttery golden coins

their markings like petroglyphs

a secret language on bark

singing as i walk

i hear what they say

touching with reverence

as I breathe deep into my soul

there are aspens in my yard

Yesterday morning I left the house with anticipation about the big change. The change that will turn the shades of green to a mosaic of color as the leaves turn. I felt and smelled it, autumn is in the air. Cooler air at night and during the day, heaters turned on now in the house.

Then yesterday afternoon I could see it. Leaves turning yellow. I’m like a kid with my nose pressed against the car window, filled with excitement. Look at that! Did you see those?

I haven’t spotted a bear on our property. Yet.

I know they are around, the neighbors told me they saw a bear in my driveway a week before we closed on my house last year. Great measures have been taken to protect Noodles, the dogs and the horses from bears. There are multiple strands of electric fence, sturdy panels and houses for the dogs and the pig to keep predators away. We have rifles in virtually every room. Just in case.

I took down all of the hummingbird and bird feeders. I do not leave food of any kind outside or in the cars. I don’t want to be on the restaurant tour for bears getting ready for hibernation. I read the articles about protecting my property from bears. Don’t have lever type handles on your outside doors, the bears can open them.

A bear was in my house in the 1970’s. A friend of a friend on Facebook contacted me after we moved. She used to live in this house. How cool is that? She sent me pictures of snow almost to the roof of the house, and a picture of a Game and Fish Van in the driveway. When we talked on the phone she told me the story of the mama bear that climbed in through the window of the sun porch. Three times. She said the claw marks should still be in the windowsill. I was so disappointed that they had been changed out when the house was renovated a few years ago.

Last week I made gazpacho. As I chopped the vegetables I had a bowl for Noodle scraps and one for scraps that Noodles won’t eat. My pig is a picky pig, with a long list of vegetables that she will not eat. I think there is something profoundly hilarious that my family and friends will eat vegetables that my pig turns her snout up at.

I thought I would throw the beautiful yellow bell pepper scraps into the tomato and cucumber concoction that was in the Noodle bowl. I took the bowl outside for Noodles, there was no way I was going to feed tomatoes to her inside. The floor would look like bad things had happened to some creature.

An hour later I looked outside. The bowl was sparkling clean. Laying next to it the bright yellow of the bell pepper. Noodles tastes haven’t changed.

I was careful to pick up the bell pepper. Bears you know.

It’s been a year since we moved. A year of changing seasons and an snowy winter. I didn’t know about roof curl and had certainly never heard of a roof rake. Snow drift and roof curl got within a few inches of each other on one side of the house.

Did you know snow blowers need chains? We gave up on two of our driveways for the winter and parked down at the street. I had never shoveled snow, and certainly never imagined that I would do so on a pile over my head. I had never sunk down to my waist trying to brush snow off a satellite dish.

I loved it. Talk to me in a few years and that excitement might have waned, but I hope not.

There is an art to how to open and close windows to capture the cool of the night for the day. There is no air conditioning here. On my tree laden slope my house is cool even on the warmest days. Windows open at night i sleep under a down duvet, forest smells wafting through the room on the breeze. When i get up, Imake the bed and close the windows. A routine now.

Layers are my friend. Leggings, a tank top, my ugly but oh so comfortable Ugg boots, and a flannel shirt are year round wear in the house. I wear jackets as sweaters if I amoutside when the sun goes down, even in July. I hiked the last week of August on the Continental Divide and wore long pants and a coat. The week before it was shorts and a t shirt.

It’s been a year. We have our favorite restaurants. We are experiencing the ebb and flow of tourists in this little gem of a mountain town. We receive our weekly newspaper and check to see what festival or event is coming up. Summers are big here, Steve finally gave up on keeping track of the cars from out of state. Texans are a big fan of Pagosa.

There is no cell service at the house. I am careful to give very good directions, because if a visitor gets lost they have to drive back to town to call. Internet and phone service are maddening terrible everywhere here. The lack of quality service is on the front page of the newspaper and a constant complaint in the Opinion Section. I drive to town to one of the coffee shops to upload my blogs. Several haven’t been posted because I gave up in frustration. The more photos or videos the longer it takes. Most mornings Steve has to reset the router to get the internet working.

We drove to town last winter to watch a movie, even though it was snowing heavily. Yes, businesses stay open here when it snows. So do the schools. We walked outside after the movie, the snow had stopped and the town was just gorgeous with Christmas decorations and lights on the snow. We walked to the Jeep, the snow squeaking under our boots. The snow plows had already cleared the road home. Restaurants were open and doing a fine business.

Pagosa Springs is less than an hour from Wolf Creek Ski. Snow is good for our town.

Something about this little town in Colorado that speaks to my soul. I felt it as I came over Wolf Creek Pass last year. I spent a lot of time alone outdoors in the woods when I was young. I am taken back to those good times here.

There is a joy to living in Pagosa Springs. The people we meet are here by choice. They have been coming for years during the summer, always with the intention of retiring here. Or, like us, visited once and knew that this was The Place. Many have homes elsewhere, but are drawn to Pagosa and live here part of the year. Our friends are classified as seasonal or full time. Younger people move to work minimum wage jobs just so they can enjoy the outdoor activities and beauty.

If it is possible for a place to have magic, Pagosa is magical for us. There is a different rhythm to our life now. We are outside more, breathing deep and filled with gratitude. Maybe that is what the difference is. We both feel gratitude not only that we live here, but that we are experiencing it with each other. When you start your day with love and gratitude you change. You change your relationships, your view of the world, and yourself. You can’t help but change if you start your day happy.

POSTSCRIPT: The lady referenced above in the story about the bear wrote this (it wouldn’t post on WordPress)

From Pat Barbee:

I can’t seem to post on the blog – I have a WordPress account but after the sign-in, the comment disappears; so I’ll try here:

As always, your posts and blog can transport me to a singular moment of time in my life. I can actually smell the air, trees, damp (or dried) pine needles, feel the chill. The flannel shirt industry had a good chunk of our business!

I hope when you meet ‘your bear’ (more when than if) the experience is safe yet exciting. I’m curious, have you had owls in the garage yet?

I’m still hoping to get up there but it’s a bittersweet desire.

I don’t know your stance on spirit (angels, ghosts, tactile memories) but I know they exist and I know it will be emotional.

My reply:

It is uniquely special to get to share memories and experiences this way. I’m glad I was able to convey what you also felt. That is a special connection.

How I would love to have owls in the garage! Maybe if we leave the door open they will come?

I can’t tell you how happy I would be to have you visit. Yes I am spiritual and believe that energy and emotions can inhabit places. I know the spirit of your family is here for sure.

8 thoughts on “Life in Pagosa Springs

  1. I feel blessed to have made your friendship and to have had the pleasure of enjoying your home and breaking bread with all of you. Your home has such charm and warmth . . and is so befitting of the beauty of the mountains and the fresh and awakening life you two live. It truly seems like a daily adventure.
    That visit to your home allows me to see and feel more vividly the pictures you paint with your words in your blogs.
    Think of you both and all the animals often.
    Thank you Michelle and Steve.

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    1. Laurie thank you so much! What a miracle that we met through Facebook then got to meet in person. I truly value our friendship and I’m looking forward to next year!

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  2. Michelle, I am so glad for the happiness you and Steve have found in your new home! How wonderful to have reached a place in life, literally and figuratively, where you meet each day with gratitude.

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  3. Your description of the quietness with the snow reminded me of some 47 years ago when Mark and I were newlyweds living in the tiny community of Born West Germany. I will never forget and cherish the first snows we experienced there. We were located the only house on the road with the cemetery and with the back of the house facing open fields. We took many long walks in the snow covered fields and found a sense of awe and make believe as we watched the shepherd in his long cloak and staff taking the sheep out to field and back again. Good memories! Thank you my friend for bringing them back to mind.

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    1. What a wonderful memory Gail! I can just imagine it. I love that deadened muffled sound that tells you there is snow. How clean and crisp is the air.

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