Present Tense

In search of simplicity….

My husband and I live in a small town in the mountains northwest of Denver.  Neither of us cares much for crowds or traffic; we’re more comfortable with wide open spaces and fewer people.  Most folks who live in the mountains tend to be a little (or a lot) reclusive.

People sometimes complain about how everyone knows your business in a small town.  From what I can tell, that only applies when your ‘business’ is embarrassing or illegal.  In my small town, neighbors rally together during tough times and if that’s getting in someone’s business, that’s okay by me.  There’s always a benefit or fund-raiser at a local tavern or restaurant.  Every week there is at least one letter to the editor in the local paper, thanking everyone for their help and concern during a crisis.

We endure long, brutal winters and lack the amenities and conveniences of the city or suburbs, so self-sufficiency and practicality rule.  We dress for the elements, not for fashion.  We catch up with friends and neighbors at the post office, the grocery store or the bar.  In fact, when someone dies, a little flyer is posted in the window at the post office, with a brief history of their life and the particulars of the memorial service.  Some might find that morbid or cheesy; I think it’s sweet and respectful.

Last week, we were at our neighbor’s ranch, picking up a side of beef for the freezer.  We’re supporting a local business and we know exactly how our beef was fed and cared for.  We drove past those cattle all summer and they always looked happy and healthy, grazing in the sun with a beautiful view of Indian Peaks.

As everyone weighed out their beef and loaded it to take home, we chatted with the ranch foreman, who’s been building his house in the woods for 20 years by himself.  We compared successes and failures with our gardens.  We were warned to watch out for the donkeys on our way out.  We talked at length about the huge, record-setting, black bear that was shot a few miles away.  Up here, the environment and nature isn’t a nice idea or a cause; it’s a way of life that’s inextricably woven into the area’s culture and economy.

I spend a fair amount of time in the city for my job and the longer I live ‘up in the hills’, the less comfortable I feel in the big city.  It’s crowded and cluttered and frenetic; a necessary evil that I endure for my job and to occasionally take advantage of the conveniences that we just don’t have in the hills.  I cram my ‘city’ appointments and errands into a concentrated time span, so that I can quickly head back up the hill to my comfort zone.

If I had to summarize living in a small, mountain-town in one word, I’d choose simplicity.   We operate on ‘mountain time’; if it’s hunting season, a lot of folks are unavailable.  If there’s a hatch on the river, the fly rods come out and if it’s a powder day at the ski resort in the middle of the week, businesses get by with a skeleton crew or just close for a few hours.  And you know what?  Stuff gets done.  Sometimes much more quickly than in the population centers.  Everyone knows everyone, so the cable guy or the plumber or the handyman or the massage therapist fits you into their schedule.

We don’t have a Walmart or a Target, let alone a Whole Foods, but what’s more organic than a freezer full of elk, venison or local, grass-fed beef?  Nightlife consists of an occasional movie at the tiny, single-screen cinema, a get together at the local tavern, dinner with a group of friends, a free concert in the park or a full-moon snowshoe trek at the golf course.

To most people, it probably seems like a rather boring and unsophisticated place to live.  I guess if you measure your happiness by how ‘busy’ you are or by how many activities you can pack into a day or how much shopping you can do in a week, then you’re right; you’d hate it here.  That’s probably kind of simplistic, but that’s okay. We like things simple up here.

October 17, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , | 7 Comments


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