I Am Against the Land Swap Proposed by the Broadmoor

It is rare for me to use my blog as a place for political action or political views.  I am very passionate about a land swap that has been proposed by the Broadmoor Hotel to the City of Colorado Springs. If you live in Colorado Springs, I urge you to write Mayor Suthers on this matter.  I also urge you to sign the petition linked below this letter.

Dear Mayor Suthers,

I am a third generation native of Colorado Springs.  My grandfather on my father’s side came here in 1908 to work for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  My great-grandparents on my father’s mother’s side settled in the Florence area as early as 1889.  On my mother’s side, her great-grandmother was in Colorado Springs within just a few years of its founding.  My mother’s father, came to live with his grandmother within a few years after his grandmother arrived, around 1893.  Needless to say, my roots go deep in this community.  

My father, William (Bill) French, was born in Glockner Hospital one hundred years ago on April 11, 1916. During his early childhood he lived on the west side of Colorado Springs.  The neighborhood where he grew up in his earliest years was razed to build some of I25.  When he was around ten years old, my grandparents bought a home at 823 E. Boulder, which was the family home until the 1980’s.  My father grew up going to Columbia School, North Junior High School, and Colorado Springs High School.  When he graduated from high school, he attended Colorado College and worked at Busy Corner Drugstore.  During the war years, after he had married and started a family, he purchased a home at 924 E. Boulder.  This was my childhood home.  Just before I was born, and just before he left for World War II duty, he went to work for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as a clerk.  My grandfather, A.M. French, was a telegrapher for the D&RG RR and had been since 1908.  So, not only do my roots go deep in Colorado Springs, but they also go deep when it comes to General Palmer’s railroad.  I am a railroader’s daughter.  For that I am extremely proud.

 A lover of Colorado Springs, her beauty, and her history, my father would take us on long rides every weekend showing us the town, the land, and the area that he considered our heritage and our legacy.  He was a storyteller, and oh how I wish I could remember those stories.  I think we all could benefit from hearing the stories my father and his uncles could tell us about Colorado Springs.  

During the time the Air Force Academy was built, my father was assigned as a loss inspector for the railroad and it was his task to inspect all the building supplies that were shipped to the Academy by rail. Since my father was able to have a bird’s eye view of watching the Academy be built from the ground up, he wanted to share that historical time with us by taking us on rides up to the area every few weeks so we could see the progress being made.  Those are treasured memories.

During this same time, and after, my father was involved with the Colorado Springs Planning Committee.  I am not sure of the exact dates when he served on this committee.  I only know of how much he wanted to preserve what he thought made Colorado Springs the wonderful place that it was.  He was against anything that took away from the natives having access to public lands that had been bequeathed to the city.  He believed that we had a duty to honor General Palmer’s views of preserving the beauty of Colorado Springs.  He did not want developers of any type to destroy the natural beauty of Colorado Springs.  He believed we could have growth while also preserving our natural treasures and keeping them open for the general public.  It was then the public’s duty to keep these treasures of land safe.  Whenever we went for picnics in The Bluffs or in the Garden of the Gods, we had to form a human chain just before we left so that we picked up every piece of garbage, paper, cigarette butts, or bottle caps we might find in our path.  We were taught to leave things and places better than we found them.  We were taught to leave no or little footprint when we were in the places of nature that surrounded Colorado Springs or in other part of our beloved Colorado.

My father worked with and for Mr. Thayer Tutt, who was director of the D&RG RR.  He would always tell of stories of when he had to go see Mr. Tutt at the Broadmoor.  Mr, Tutt would ask, “Bill, how’s your railroad doing?”  My father would answer with, “I believe it is your railroad, and it is doing well.”  There was a close connection in those days with the holdings of the Broadmoor and the railroad, but I don’t think my father ever saw that as anything that would indicate that the Broadmoor was interested in a what many would call today a “land grab.”  The Broadmoor was a local treasure and enjoyed by her citizens, just as so many other showplaces of Colorado Springs were.

It was in the 80’s, after my father retired, that the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was changed forever.  That was when Phil Anschutz, a man who owned "more land than any other private citizen in the United States” bought the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  It broke my father’s heart because he saw it as a way for the new owner of the railroad  to access some of the most valuable land in Colorado.  He knew the railroad was a good as dead when this deal for Anshutz to purchase the railroad was over.  He was right.

Some of us are not fooled by the transaction called a land swap. I see this as one more way for Phil Anschutz to acquire another piece of Colorado for his empire.  My father was not one to mince words; neither am I.  I think the winner in this swap is not the people of Colorado Springs.  The winner is the Broadmoor and Phil Anschutz.  I urge you to stand on the side of the people of the town whom elected you by making sure this land swap never happens. I urge you to keep Strawberry Fields as an undeveloped area owned by the City of Colorado Springs to be treasured and loved by, and enjoyed by her citizens.  I urge you to stand against corporate gain that may drive small businesses out of business.  I urge you to stand with the “little guy” that doesn’t have power in city politics.  I urge you to listen to the taxpayers of this town who do not wish to have a land swap of a piece of land that should remain in the City of Colorado Spring’s possession and under her protection.  

Yesterday, as I parked my car near what was once know as Busy Corner, Tejon and Pikes Peak, and I crossed Pikes Peak heading south on Tejon, my eyes drifted to where the magnificent Chief Theater and Burn Building once stood.  As I looked at that empty space that is covered with a parking lot, I was reminded of a conversation my father had with Mayor Larry Ochs back in the seventies.  My father was in Colorado Springs visiting after he had been transferred to Grand Junction to serve as Superintendent of the Western Slope of the D&RG RR.  As the two visited, Mayor Ochs asked my father what he thought of all the changes in Colorado Springs.  My father’s reply was, “I think Colorado Springs is becoming a kleenex town.”  Mayor Ochs asked for clarification, “A kleenex town.  What do you mean?”  My father’s reply was so indicative of his wit, his ability to use great metaphors, his love of Colorado Springs, and his disappointment over the loss of historic buildings and spaces, “Yes, a kleenex town.  You use it once, then you throw it away.”

Mayor Suthers, I urge you not to throw away Strawberry Fields.  Making a land swap with the Broadmoor Hotel for this property would bad for the citizens of Colorado Springs, for those whom may wish to visit our city in the future, and for wildlife.  Again, I urge you to remember not to throw this property away by making a deal that is not in our best interests.  Remember my father’s kleenex analogy when you ponder this decision.  Vote against the swap.  


Sally L. Wessely

March in My Neck of The Woods

you and Mother Nature need to talk.
According to the calendar, winter is over.
Spring is here.

I always have such great expectations when you arrive.
My head begins to dream of  
flowers blooming,
sun shining,
and trees budding.
My soul longs for green grass and colorful landscapes.

you are typically the snowiest month in Colorado.
Do you think you and Mother Nature could talk and change that statistic?

when you arrive, I know your track record.
 You always seem to bend those optimistic looking daffodils over until they touch the earth from which they so recently have sprung when you cover them with your thick covers of heavy wet snow.
Soon their jaunty heads will defy the snow you bring.
They are hearty and resilient flowers.
They must be to deal with you,

I know you and your ways.
I've learned to adapt to your capricious ways.
When I was just a child, my grandfather told me all about you.
He'd say, "If you don't like the weather in Colorado in the spring,
stick around for five minutes and it will change.

even though I know how you are,
I fall for your ways on those days when you bring us sunshine.
Your whimsical nature
makes me dream of sunny, warm days filled with flowers, and birds, and shady trees.

I imagine warm spring and summer evenings on the new patio I just had built
for those warm days to come.

On those days filled with your whimsy,
I forget how temperamental you can be.
The very next day,
you bring snow, and wind, and blizzards that keep me indoors and shut down traffic.
Deer looking for food on March 26, 2016.
They are trying to eat pine needles on the tree they are under.
In my memory, I hear my grandfather singing, "When it's springtime in the Rockies,"
whenever it snows.

March, I know all about you.

you can be so volatile.

your days are coming to an end for this year.
I am so looking forward to


March has been as capricious as ever this year.

Easter plans were nearly ruined by the heavy snow that fell the two days before Easter.  Jim had to work on the day before Easter, and it snowed and snowed and snowed.  I had purchased food to cook for Easter dinner.  The weather changed all our plans for having family with us for our Easter celebration.  

That didn't stop me from cooking.  It was snowing.  The house was empty.  I had nothing else to do, so I cooked.  I made homemade rolls, a large bowl of potato salad, and frog eye salad.  As I cooked, I talked to my dear friend Linda on the phone.  She also was cooking for family.  Her family also had to change their plans.  I said, "Linda, come on over here for Easter dinner.  Let's put our food together and celebrate Easter together."  She said she'd made a cake.  I didn't have any dessert made yet.  I had a ham.  I told her not to cook her turkey.  She had cheese bread she'd made.  She also made a green salad.

After Easter church services, Linda and her husband Greg came over and celebrated with us.  It was good to have the time with the dearest of friends.  The sun was shining, the snow was melting, and we celebrated the renewal of spring that we would surely see in days to come.

I remembered to take a photo of Jim and Greg after dinner, but since I didn't take one of Linda and me, I am including a photo taken of us a few years back on Easter Sunday.

The last few days we have been able to get out and walk when it isn't snowing.
The dark skies over the mountains confirm weather predictions.
Snow is on it's way.
We live in a valley at the feet of the foothills.

As we walk up the steep incline that is just a few blocks from our house,
we can get just a peek of the peak that is Pikes Peak.
Storm clouds are gathering.

We live in the city, but sometime's you'd never know it.
We get the best of both worlds where we live:  close to the city and close to the mountains.

That means we also get the snow that others just a few hundred feet lower,
and just a few miles away,
don't get.

It is snowing again tonight.
The prediction is that it will be colder and there will be more snow and wind tomorrow.
March is not going out like a lamb.

I will have cataract surgery tomorrow.
I predict I will be spending the day after surgery wrapped up in blanket and enjoying the beauty of the snowy world around me.

Christmas ~ A Reflection of Christmas Past

The day was a bleak, cold one.  Snow and cold weather had brought life to a standstill throughout most of the city the day before.  I had an early afternoon appointment with my cardiologist at the hospital downtown, the one in which I was born so many years ago.   By the time I left the appointment and made my way out of the hospital parking lot, I was starving.  A holiday dinner was scheduled for later that evening, so I didn't want much lunch.  As I drove west, making my way the few city blocks towards the home in which I had lived as a child, my mind was focused on trying to find a place to stop into for a quick bit of food to tide me over until dinner.  There's no place to stop for lunch in this neighborhood, I thought.  

Just then, I caught sight of the little coffee shop across the street from the corner of the block where my childhood home was located.  The coffee shop is housed in the building that once housed a grocery store and the neighborhood drugstore.  Hungry to the point of going into a state of hypoglycemic  craziness, I parked my car on Boulder Street, my street, the place where I grew up, and made my way to the shop. 

As I rushed from the car to the shop, my mind returned to all those times over half a century ago when I would stop on the corner across the street from where I now stood.   My memory transported me to a time when my mother would entrust a quarter to me with the instructions that I was to go buy a loaf a bread.  "Yes, you can keep the change and buy candy if you wish."  I'd skip down the street, stop on the corner, look both ways, run across Boulder Street, and then Institute Street, and then skip up to the front door of the grocery.  

I could almost see those long ago penny candy boxes lined up in front of the front counter where I would pay for the bread as I approached the door.  The door was locked.  It was dark inside.   Pressing my nose against the window, I peered in and saw the shell of what once was the market of my youth.  I remembered the meat counter at the back.  That's where the check-out counter and the candy was, I thought as I noticed the worn floors I had walked across so many times so many years ago.  Coffee bean bags and equipment for brewing coffee were strewn all over the small space.  Was this store really that small?  

Just as I turned to head back to the car, desperate to find another place for a quick snack, I realized there seemed to be life in the other side of the shop, the place where a drugstore once was located.  I walked towards the door and realized the coffee shop was housed on that side of the building.  Inside, the layout was all wrong.  Tables and benches lined the wall where my cousin and I would once sit at the soda fountain to order our cherry cokes when we were cool thirteen year olds with enough money to buy a coke.  On the opposite side of where the soda fountain once stood, was a bar where I could now order coffee and something to eat.

Soon, a bagel, a very good bagel, with cream cheese, and an excellent cafe latte brought my sugar levels back up to normal.  Siting on the wooden bench in the bay window store front, I savored the moment.  

Somehow, despite the cold weather, the dreary skies, the worries in my heart, and the feeling that this Christmas just wasn't going to be that merry, my spirits were lifted by being in that simple little coffee shop that was full of young people studying for finals. 

I felt I was in the heart of "home" while I sat sipping my cafe latte.  Grateful, for the time of rest, refreshment, and time for reflection on the happy, simple days spent in this little corner of my early world, I left the shop and headed back to my car.

These streets, these sidewalks, are as familiar to me as the back of my hand.  I know where all the cracks are, and even the several types of concrete used to make these sidewalks are familiar.  They haven't changed in all these year.  

I look up at the trees that line the street.  They seem to be standing guard as they protect all the memories once made under their leafy branches. Their aged, bare limbs seem all the more empty now that they no longer shelter my great grandparents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my father from hot summer days. 

Grandma's house is just down the street.  I can't see her house, but it is there just steps away.  How I wish I could walk down that street and walk in the door for a visit.   

Trees stand guard on the way to Grandma's House

My roots run deep on this street.

I think of the family history that these trees witnessed on this block.  They watched my father move into the house just down the way over ninety years ago.  I look at the trees and see my parents standing so close together for a photo on their wedding day.  The day was a bleak and cold one.  They'd been married in the United Presbyterian Church across the street right after morning services on that February day.

My earliest days were spent here.
My first Christmas was here.
Daddy was just home from the army.
World War II had just ended.

Grandma's house provided the heart of Christmas for so many years.

My grandmother in front of a fireplace with a Van Briggle hearth -
My grandmother holding me on her right and my cousin Donna on her left

Christmas was no small undertaking in those days.

All the aunts, the uncles, the cousins would be at Grandma's at Christmas.
It had been that way since my earliest days.

Baking for Christmas began before Thanksgiving.
That is when Grandma made her wonderful fruitcake.
The panty, that cold room right off the kitchen, 
the place where we as children could never enter,
the place that seemed like the inner sanctum of the home that was the heart of Christmas,
held shelves stacked high with metal tins full of 
perfectly made candy:
peanut brittle,
cherry drops, 
More tins held the most heavenly tasting spritz cookies.
Oh the joy I would feel
when she would enter the pantry after Christmas dinner 
and load down the kitchen table with:
mincemeat pies,
pumpkin pies,
and  candy,
all made by her own hand.

Preparation for Christmas Day would have also included
days of polishing the silver.
Sometimes, we, the older cousins, had the task of going to Grandma's house a few days before Christmas to polish the silverware and the silver serving dishes.
 We would very carefully take the china from the dining room buffet and set the table.
The table had to be properly set.
The salad plate, the water glasses, the silverware, the napkins, all had to be properly placed.
The silverware was measured with a finger to be an inch from the end of the table.

We always went to the church across the street for Christmas Eve services.  
It was the family tradition for Christmas.

The story was always told of how my father as a young boy, dressed in his new flannel robe, which had been purchased for his part as one of the shepherds in the Christmas pageant, 
had begged to stay home from church.
He said he was ill.
My grandmother was a strict disciplinarian.
He was told to get over to the church and fulfill his duty.
He did.
Halfway though the pageant, he vomited and had been rushed home across the street wearing soiled new robe.

Years later, my cousin, my sister, and I would be angels in that same Christmas pageant.

My home,
Grandma's home,
my elementary school,
the church,
the grocery store,
were all within a block of each other.

My world was small.
It was filled with rich relationships,
many funny stories,
great laughter,
long held traditions,
solid foundations for
and family.

As I think on these things,
the memory of my mother's beautifully clear soprano voice fills my mind.
Christmas memories from this place would not be complete without the memory of her
dressed in her green silk dress,
the one she made from drapery fabric,
 standing  in the choir loft at church just as the Christmas program starts.
My mother, a tiny 4'll" dark haired woman is adorned in
crystal jewelry which sparkles as she sings.
I am in awe of her beauty.
I am proud of her and her beautiful voice.
 With a lighted candle in my hand,  I listen with tears rolling down my cheeks as she sings.
I will soon be lighting the Christmas candles nestled among the pine branches placed in front of the church windows.

Her voice rings out with the words of that beloved Christmas song.

Oh Holy Night!  The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Truly He taught us to love one another.
He law is love and His gospel is peace.


Today we sang those words of that much loved Christmas song in church.
O Holy Night!
Again, my mind went back to my mother.
I longed to be standing next to her in church listening to her sing that song of 
praise and adoration 
for her Savior,
God with Us,
The One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas.

This past week, as I walked back to my car after walking up to the long ago home of my father and his parents, those memories of days of long ago were again tucked away in my mind.

Grandma's house is still there,
but I can't walk up the path and step on to her porch and find her and grandpa sitting in the dining room reading.

She died on Christmas Eve over thirty years ago.

My father is also gone.
All the aunts and uncles are gone.
Only the memory of the 
times we spent together, 
those times filled with
such wonderful stories,
so much laughter

Mother is still with us.

Today, she and I talked of that Christmas when she sang her favorite Christmas song,
and mine.
She said she went to church today was able to sing in  despite it being her one hundredth year after she celebrated her first Christmas.

I am now a grandmother.
My grandchildren will never have the rich memories of the Christmas traditions of family that I hold so dear.
We don't live near each other.
We seldom see each other at Christmas.
It breaks my heart each and every year not to be with my children and grandchildren.

As I get in my car to leave the streets of my childhood,
I remember the prayer I had for this Christmas.

I prayed I would not be focused on the traditions and trappings of Christmas.
Certainly, those traditions are wonderful to create, to remember, and to celebrate,
but they really are not what Christmas is all about.
I prayed that I would not focus on the trappings of Christmas this year.

I prayed I would rejoice in the One whose birth we celebrate.
I prayed I would not miss the reason we have Christmas.
I prayed that each of my loved ones would know this truth this year:

Truly He taught us to love one another.
He law is love and His gospel is peace.

May your Christmas be filled with 

My Hometown: A Place of Beauty and of Brokenness

Sinking into cushioned warmth and comfort of my favorite cottage rose patterned damask covered chair this morning, the first grace of the day came from the hands  of my husband as he handed me a steaming hot cup of coffee he'd brewed before I even got out of bed.  He greeted me with a gentle good morning kiss.  The next grace came from Boston as he came to sit by my side.  Soft, throaty sounds came from him as he patiently waited for me to stroke his neck, his ears, his head.

I am blessed.

Still dressed in my pajamas and an old blue hooded fleece jacket, aka my morning robe, and wearing worn and rundown looking Ugg slippers, a gift from many Christmas's ago, I left the safety of my home to retrieve the morning paper buried and nearly hidden under three inches of snow.  Before I bent down to pick-up the paper, my eyes scanned the quiet, snow covered,  peaceful looking place where I live.

Such beauty.
This world has such beauty.

Then my mind was again assailed by the events of the previous day.

Such brokenness.
This world has such brokenness.


The day after Thanksgiving, I'd been tempted to stay home and read and write all day.  I wanted to avoid all places where shoppers would be frequenting.  An early morning phone call to a dear friend ended by us making plans to meet in an hour at the health club so we could do water aerobics together.  

The warm water in the therapy pool provided us with the perfect place to move our achy joints and catch up with each other on our latest news and thoughts about life.  After class we headed to the hot tub for more conversation while soaking to ease those same achy joints.  

Showered and dressed, as we headed to the front door together to leave the club, still talking and laughing, we decided we weren't done visiting yet, so we headed to the comfortable looking couch in the lounge area.  

Not long after we'd situated ourselves for a bit more conversation, the instructor for our Monday Zumba Gold class leaned over to ask us if we'd heard the news of the shooting yet.  "What shooting?" "There's an active shooter on Fillmore," she said.  "Where on Fillmore?"  I asked?  I looked up at the television screen overhead, and saw the news crawl across the bottom of screen.  "Not again?  Here? We have a mass shooting here today???"  Then, my phone rang.  It was my sister in San Diego.  "Where are you?  Are you ok?"  She'd just seen the news of the shooting.

Girlfriend time and conversation ended abruptly with this sobering news.   Quite honestly, I didn't didn't want to remain in a public place at such a time.  My thoughts went to Columbine, and 9/11.  I'd been in my classroom and responsible for lives of my students when the news of these senseless acts of violence occurred.  Then there was the time a shooter went into a local church and started shooting.  I remembered being in my kitchen on Sunday morning when I heard that news.  I was at home in my kitchen when I heard of the Aurora Theater shootings.  I'd been mopping the floor in the laundry room when I heard of Sandy Hook.  Now, I was sitting and enjoying the company of a dear friend at our health club when our feelings peace and safety were sent flying end over end.  "No place is safe." I fought thinking those thoughts.  "Has the world gone completely crazy?"

We decided to head home.  It was snowing quite hard as I headed out of the door.  I checked my phone for the latest news on Facebook.  My cousin lives near the place where the shooting was taking place.  I called her to find out what was going on.  I wanted to see if my access to home would be blocked since I live about eight miles from the shooting.  She told me which streets were blocked and caught me up on the news that was being broadcast on live television.  It appears the shooter was targeting the Planned Parenthood building located near a very busy, one of the busiest, intersection in Colorado Springs.  There is a large shopping area across the parking lot from the PP building that houses small shops and large grocery store where I most often do my grocery shopping.  Next to the PP building is a medical building where I have visited a gifted neurological doctor.  Jim has gone to the eye doctor in that same building.  

As the day and evening progressed, we'd learned that three individuals, one a police officer had been killed in the shooting spree.  Nine people were injured.  Five of the injured are police officers.  The shooter had surrendered.  He was in custody.  


By the time I went to bed last night, I'd learned that the officer killed was a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer.  He responded to the call of a shooting by leaving the campus and going to assist his fellow officers across town.  He was a former ice skating champion and devoted husband and father.  He was also a devout Christian, an elder in his church, a song leader, and a teacher of the Bible.  He showed valor and bravery as he went to do battle with a man intent on doing bodily harm to whomever stood in his way of accomplishing what ever his senseless mission might have been.  

My heart is broken because of this senseless tragedy that occurred in my hometown.  I, like so many others, try to make sense of it all.  No one can make sense of those actions that are senseless.  I know that, but human nature wants me to try to make sense out of the darkness that fills the souls of those whom participate in such acts of violence.

Last night, I prayed for those harmed in the attacks before I drifted off to sleep.  I prayed for the wife and children of the slain officer.  I prayed for the families of the two other victim killed in the attack.  I prayed for those who suddenly found themselves victims of this tragedy just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

 I then prayed for my ninety-nine year old mother.  She'd sounded terrible when I'd called her earlier in the day.  She had a chest cold.  I called her again in the evening and lectured her about not ignoring her symptoms and urged her to get medical care if she became worse.  As I prayed for her, I questioned why she had to be exposed to such violence when she turned on her television and saw what was occurring in the place where she grown up and raised her family.  


This morning I read the morning news, which not good; it only gave more details about yesterday's insanity.  I then called to check on Mother.  She sounded much better and was quite chipper as she said, "Good morning."  I thanked God for answered prayer.  We talked about the news.  We talked of the beauty of the snow.  We talked about the brokenness of this world.  We ended our conversation by discussing the new shoots of growth coming from our orchids.  

Yes, even on a day of cold, gloom, and sorrow, there is still hope for new beginnings and even future beautiful blossoms, 

I think as I check on the orchid in dining room window.  It is good to discuss such things with my mother, the one with such a green thumb, who continues to teach me much on life, faith, and gardening even on the darkest of days.  

Yes, thankfully, I have my mother on days such as today to ground me and remind me of fundamental truths about life.  She gets up every morning and checks to see what happened outside while she was sleeping before she makes her one cup of coffee, fries her bacon and eggs, and makes a piece of toast.  She reads her morning devotional and Bible passage before she reads the newspaper.  

She's seen much in her century of life.  Much.  She is connected to the world and interested in it.  I think that is why she is still going strong. She tends to her occasional chest colds, but rarely gets sick.  I learn so much from watching her as she thrives in her aging process.  Even though she will be 100 in a little over a half of a year from now, I can't bring myself to describe her as old.  She trusts the Lord for each day that she is given.  In the end, despite the evil all around us, she continues to trust in the goodness of the Lord.

I ponder the dichotomy of the world in which we live after I hang up from my morning talk with Mother.

We have been placed  in a world of great beauty, but we have also been placed in a very broken world.  In the brokenness that surrounds me, I pray I will not turn to bitterness or fear.  

It seems everyone wants to have a platform these days to spew forth whatever hatred, rancor, and division fills their hearts.  Acts of violence fills our newspapers, news feeds on the computer, and the daily evening news.  We are seeing insanity at every turn.  

I wonder what people group will be the hated other this week.  Last week it was the Syrian refugees we were all supposed to hate and fear.  Before that, we were told to hate the illegal immigrants from Mexico.  Before that it was those publicly speaking out against the war in Iraq whom were target for hate attacks.  We constantly judge each other and attack each other in the media and even in small groups who gather around dinner tables to celebrate Thanksgiving, or even in our church meetings, or school buildings.  There seems to be no sensible discussion of the events and problems of our day.  Does our generation not know how to discuss differences of opinion? 

This week, will it be that we are told to hate the so called religious fanatics that picket against abortion?  Never mind that we don't know whether or not the shooter in Colorado Springs was a religious fanatic or not.  His name has already been linked to those who picket against abortion in the daily news as if he is one of those people.


Today, I will continue to seek understanding and grace.  I will lift my eyes unto the hills, gazing at my beloved Pikes Peak, the mountain that lived at the end of the street where I was born.  When I look at this peak, it will be the same solid mountain that lived at the end of the street where I grew-up.  Pikes Peak, my mountain, still lives at the end of the street where senseless violence killed three innocent people on Halloween.  This purple mountain majesty, on a day when it was shrouded and hidden behind dark clouds, was still standing when it provided the backdrop for a place where incomprehensible terror and mayhem left a stain of blood from a brave police officer, a man of God, on cold snow covered concrete on a day after the day when when we gather to give thanks for all of our blessings.

Today, when I lift my eyes unto the hills, I will see the beauty of the place where I live, but I will also see our shattered broken world at the feet of America's mountain.  

Despite the brokenness, my hope for the future is not shattered.  That mountain, and all the others surrounding it, will still be standing long after I have gone.  If, for some reason, the mountains should be moved, if that which seems impossible should happen, I will continue to hope.  I  will continue to hope because I trust in the One the Psalmist wrote about in one of my favorite Psalms: 

Psalm 121.  

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:  
he that keepth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is they keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon they right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve they soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and they coming in from this time forth,
and even for evermore.


I know of no way to live in this place of beauty and brokenness except by trusting in the One who made the world and continues to hold it together even as it seems that all sanity and peace is being shattering and tossed in all directions.  

Celebrating Colorado

Colorado turned 139 years old this past Saturday.
We decided to celebrate both the birthday and the State of Colorado by visiting one of her treasures:
Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

I'd never been to Red Rock Canyon Open Space before.
In fact, as a third generation Coloradan, born and raised in the City of Colorado Springs, I am ashamed to say I'd never even heard of Red Rock Canyon Open Space until a few years ago.
I grew up spending many happy days throughout my childhood exploring Garden of the Gods.
I couldn't even tell you how many times in my lifetime I have driven past the 787 acres that comprise this spectacular treasure tucked unnoticed in the canyon along side of Highway 24.
How did I miss it?
How did I not know it was there?

The short answer is that until the early 2000's it was owned for over eighty years by a private family.
It was not on public lands.
It was private and inaccessible.
The story of how the City of Colorado Springs acquired this area will not be recounted here in this post, but I have provided a link for those of you whom might be interested in reading about about it.

I wish my uncles were alive.
No doubt in their days of exploration of the Colorado Springs area during the 1920's and 1930's, I have every reason to speculate that they visited this place while looking for arrowheads and places to climb and explore.
They knew about such secret places.
They had explored them.
I doubt that rumors of a man with a gun protecting the place would have kept them out.
I just wish I could ask them about it.

This area, known as the "secret Garden of the Gods," is truly, as the article I linked for you says, 
a geological wonder.

If you have been to the Garden of the Gods, you have seen similar outcroppings of red sandstone rock as you will see in this open space.
In fact, both areas are one whole geographic ecosystem.
Only in modern times have they been viewed as separate systems.

I am not a geologist, though I wish I had studied more of this field, but the rock formations in my hometown have always fascinated me.  

Having never been to Red Rock Canyon Open Space,
Jim and I did not know what to expect when we set out for our adventure.
We tried to explore the area last summer when son Jonathan and grandson Atticus were here.
We only got a photo to commemorate the start of the hike when the rains came.

This year, we again took a few photos to commemorate the day and
hoped rain would not end our hike.
(Typical blogger activity: take photos for the blog at the start of any adventure.)

The smile is a real one.
Feeling well and energetic,
I was so excited to finally get out and do a hike with my man and my dog.
There is no better way to celebrate Colorado Day than by taking in her beauty 
with the ones you love.

Our first task was to choose a trail to explore.
We started down the path.
The day was warm, but the clouds were not threatening a storm.  
They provided a welcomed cloud cover from the sun.

I love that blue Colorado sky.
I love those red rocks.
Yes, Colorado is colorful.
Colorado means:  colored red.
Now you know how Colorado got her name.

Enjoy photos from our walk.

I believe this peaceful looking lake is not without its controversy.
It was built by the previous owners of the area to catch and store rain water.
That is against the law in the State of Colorado.
Colorado Water Laws are very strict.
Retaining pools are illegal.
Pools like these have been dry during periods of drought.
Spring rains caused them to flood and damage the surrounding trails.
On this day, the pool was beautiful and serene.
You can read about the damage and the water controversy here if you are interested.

Look, the sky is changing.
That is a part of celebrating Colorado.
Her weather is quite unpredictable.

I honestly don't know what this monument is commemorating.
I failed to record it in my notes.
I was more interested in getting a photo of the Peak (Pikes Peak).
It is the distant mountain in the center of the photo.

This past spring many of the hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon Open Space were washed out by spring rains.

This waterlogged field, covered in natural grasses,  was quite marshy and wet.

Look closer.
Can you see the dragonfly?
(It's barely visible in the center of the photo.)

Dragonflies, symbols of change
a change in perspective and self-realization,
have been showing themselves to me on several long walks Jim and I have taken this summer.
They have become an important symbol of what I have been experiencing this year.

This self realization has at its source the type of change that comes from
and from the 
of the deeper meaning of life.  

Dragonflies have become my symbol of the entry into my seventies.
I am seventy.
I am learning to embrace the changes in my life and in my perspective of life.
I am reminded how important this time of life is when I encounter unexpected sightings of the dragonfly.

They are so magical.
Their iridescence
 reminds me that it is good to end
one's self-centered illusions.
It is time to have
a clear vision of the realities of life.*

Live in the moment.
Live life to fullest in that moment.

   Few things are more healing to the mind and the soul than walking through areas where one can observe and reflect upon nature.

I recognize and acknowledge the awesome power that created this geological specimen.

Since my earliest days I have marveled at the trees that seem to grow out of rocks.
It is a reminder that while the soil may seem unfriendly,
it may appear as if nothing will grow in such circumstances,
there are examples all through nature that show us
that environment is not the only predictor of growth or of survival.
Life springs forth under the worst of circumstances.
I love the lessons of nature.

you give us much to celebrate.
I love this place, the place of my birth.
I'm so grateful to have this beauty just a few short miles from my home.

The hike ends with a reflection.

We have found a new place to explore and enjoy.
We will be back.

Jim and Boston posed for one final photo,

while I counted these two among the blessings of my day.

* Reflection on the dragonfly were recorded in my journal earlier this summer.  I don't know where I found these definitions to the meaning of the dragonfly.  No doubt they were found on some internet search.  I did not cite the reference before I wrote these line in my journal.


The cliche
home is where the heart is
does not begin to really explain what the word home means.

My mother used to say that anyone with money can buy a fancy house or buy expensive furniture, but  not everyone can make a home.  I always think of that when I go to some homes that seem to be so lacking in a feeling of home even as they are filled with all the "trappings" of home.  There might be just the right selection of furniture, family photos smile down from the walls, and it is obvious to the observer or guest to the "home" that great care was taken to make a pleasant impression when one walks through the door, yet I come away cold not sensing that I have not been in a home, a real home where one can actually live, be oneself, be peaceful and content.  Sometimes these homes seem full of striving for something more grand in appearance, or perhaps things seems just a bit too stilted for my own comfort zone of what I need to feel when I am home.

What makes a home? 

Should one search for the perfect house, or should one find home in the house where one lives?  
Does the house create the home?  
We all long for home, but sometimes home is elusive.
We aren't quite sure what turns a house into a home.
Is the cliche correct?  
If so, how does a place become a place where a heart lives?

When Jim and I married, I moved into his home.  That was one of the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.  I knew very early in the marriage that I would never be able to be at home in the house he had lived in prior to our marriage no matter how much I tried.  His home was a lovely home, and it had been carefully decorated and well cared for, but it was not my home.  It was not the home he and I had created together.  

Thankfully, a few years after our marriage, we were able to find a home that would become our home.  I looked and looked for the perfect house for us to buy before we bought it.  I wanted it to be a grandparent  house where we would build memories for our grandchildren.  It needed to be big enough so we could have multiple families spend the night.  I even told Jim we could have weddings for daughters in the backyard if we found the right house.  

I knew I had found the right house the minute I stepped on this front porch. As I walked through the door, I was already saying to myself, "This is it."
 Porch Love
Jim & Sally celebrating Jim's surprise 60th birthday party on our front porch
We bought the house and turned it into our home.  We even hosted two beautiful weddings for two of our daughters in the back yard.  It was a wonderful experience turning this house into a home.  We remodeled by tearing out old bathrooms and putting in new ones.  We put in new windows.  We tore down old paneling.  We updated it from a dark 70's style house into a more bright and modern decor.  We put in a new sprinkling system, built a new patio, added a second patio, added a shed, and built flower beds where I could dig in the dirt to my heart's content.  We had many Thanksgiving, Christmas,  and Easter celebrations with the family here.  Cousins had sleepovers.  The kids jumped on the trampoline.  We watched our children and grandchildren grow up in this home.  We had much joy and the deepest of sorrows while we lived in this house.  It was to be our retirement home.  We fixed it just like we wanted it so we could sit on our front porch and grow old together in the home we built together.  It was our dearly loved home.  

Then, one day, the home we loved did not seem to fit us anymore.  Jim had a heart attack.  I fell down our basement stairs and had a head injury.  The kids all lived far away from us.  Our doctors were mostly in the town forty miles north of us.  The yard seemed to be too big to care for, and I could not keep up with the weeds, the dead-heading.  The laundry room was two flights of stairs from the bedrooms.  The bedrooms were all upstairs.  Like it or not, we were not getting any younger.  We began to talk about buying a patio home that would require less upkeep.  We wanted one level living.  Once we really were retired, we realized our vision of the home we would live in for retirement had changed.  

We decided to sell our home and make a drastic (for us) move to a town where Jim had never lived that was actually my hometown.  This town was where our doctors were.  Two of Jim's daughters lived there.  We were closer to my daughter and Jim's other daughter.  We were closer to the airport for the children living out of state.  

All of this process was begun three years ago this summer.  Jim surprised me by being so upbeat about moving away from a town where he had lived since he was a young child.  Once the decision was made to sell the house, I became the one unable to let go of my home.  Even today, my heart still lives in that house.  I see photos of the many gatherings in the house and my heart always breaks just a little for the place.

It is no secret that we both have had a hard time adjusting to our new home.  Jim had a hard time adjusting to living in a new town, but he made it an adventure.  He even ventured out and started a new career by working at the Apple store.  I stepped right back into the church home where I made so many friends years ago before I married Jim.  I loved being close to my cousins again.  I loved being home in my hometown.  We both loved the location of our home and still marvel how fortunate we are to live where we do.

I have had the harder time making this house my home.  I have found one can't make the old dearly loved home fit into the new home.  I'm slowly adjusting to making this house the space that brings comfort to me.  I miss the study I had in the old house.  I miss the family room.  I miss that front porch.  I miss my shed.  I miss the flowers.  I miss the roses the most.  I've not had an easy time adjusting to living in a patio home community.  I have issues with the HOA rules.  The wildlife eat my flowers and plantings and frustrate me.  Let's just say, I've had a tough time letting go of the home I loved no matter how much I love this new place, and I do love it.

Every once in a while, I call Mary Jo, my long suffering realtor.  Sometimes she meets Jim and me for lunch.  Sometimes, she meets me for coffee, and we have the best talks.  She is one of the great things that came with this house: a new friendship.  I've called her and asked if she can show me a house that I've seen advertised.  Her first question is always, "What does Jim say?"  "He tells me he will miss me if I move."  

Last week Jim and I drove way out east of town to buy flowers for the yard.  I decided to try again with beating the wildlife by growing a few things in my small flower gardens.  On our way to the nursery, Jim started exploring and took a detour.  Before we knew it, we were looking at new homes. They were patio homes that had all the features we suddenly wished we had in our home.  Of course, we hadn't known we'd wanted them until we saw them in the new homes.  Jim said, "Call Mary Jo tomorrow and see what she can get for our house."  I told him that I was telling her that it was Jim's idea to call.  He was the one that started this house hunt that we had not intended to make.

Then, we got real.  We hated where the houses were located.  We didn't really need all that room.  We knew we would never survive another move.  We knew our kids would think we had really lost it if we even mentioned we were moving.  We knew our hearts were firmly planted where we now live. We came and went for a walk.  "I can't ever leave this area," I said to Jim.  

 We love this place.  We love our location.  We love our home.  Yes, it is not perfect.  Yes, I get frustrated with not being able to grow much because of the wildlife.  The bottom line is:  we would never be able to leave this place.  We have the most awesome places to walk.  We live in a quiet valley at the foothills of the mountains.  We have wonderful neighbors.  It is peaceful and quiet here.  We don't have to mow or water the lawn.  We live in a perfect retirement home.

Today, after church and nice brunch downtown, we went to our favorite ice cream shop not far from our home.  Then we went for a walk where we again marveled at our views.  We asked ourselves how we could ever even think of leaving this place.  

Tonight I sat on our back deck and read while Jim went to a meeting at work.  The cool breezes coming down from the mountains soothed my heart and mind.  As I glanced up from my book, I saw the clouds in the sky were turning a light pink with touches of gray here and there.  The sky, a light baby blue, provided the perfect softened effect for the background of my view.  I heard birds in the distance as the wind softly rustled the aspen leaves on the trees that framed the deck where I was sitting.  I felt as if I had taken a short mountain vacation without ever leaving my home.  The city is fewer than ten minutes away, yet I live in a place that feels like a mountain retreat.

I am blessed beyond measure.
I live in this place with the man I love.

My heart lives here.
I am home.

Memorial Day ~ A Time of Remembrance

Memorial Day,
day of remembrance,
was first set aside in 1866 as a day to remember those soldiers whose lives were lost in the Civil War.
It was celebrated on May 30 each year.

I remember as a child that we sometimes called this day Decoration Day.
Over the years, I think the meaning of the day has evolved.
Some see the day as a day to honor those killed in the service of their country.
Others see the day as a day to remember those whom they have lost to death.
They remember them by visiting their graves and leaving flowers.
Others see it as the beginning of summer and celebrate it by having a barbecue.

Memorial Day
Evergreen Cemetery

In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday designated to be celebrated each year
 on the fourth Monday of May.
I found a short video about the history of Memorial Day that you might find interesting.

For me, and for many of my family members, Memorial Day Weekend is fraught with sad memories.
Five years ago, my daughter's life ended in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 29, 2010.
This day fell on the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend.
It seems we always have two anniversary reminders of her death.
The actual date, and the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

This year, I found myself alone on Memorial Day.
Jim had to work.
Family did not gather as we sometimes do because of busy schedules and bad weather.
I chose to spend the day remembering those no longer with us by visiting the cemetery alone.

My mother asked me to leave some flowers on her mother's grave.
I was so touched when she told me how she wished
 she could take some flowers to her mother's grave.

I never knew my grandmother, Lulu Castle Townsley.  
She died from breast cancer at the age of sixty-seven in 1941,
 four years before I was born.
An independent woman, she homesteaded by herself in Northern Colorado before she married my grandfather at the age of 35.
Throughout her life she worked very hard to support herself and her family.
As a child, she made bread for the family while her own mother worked when her father died when she was nine years old.  Mother told me her mother had to stand on a chair to reach a counter where she would knead the bread.
Lulu Castle Townsley had to fend for herself as a homesteader.
She drove a horse and buggy across the plains to town, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming,  with a hoe beside her in the wagon which she used to kill the rattle snakes that would get entangled in her wagon wheels.

She was forty-two years old when my mother, her only child, was born.
She worked throughout my mother's childhood as
a milliner,
a cook,
a caretaker and cook for sanatoriums for TB patients,
as a seamstress.

Even though I never met my grandmother, she has always been a strong role model for me.
My grandmother was born 141 years ago and has been gone for 74 years.
It makes me so sad to think that my mother only had her mother for 25 years.
I have been blessed at age 70 to still have my mother with me.

As I stood at my grandmother's gravesite, I told her that her daughter, 
my mother, is still here with us in the land of the living.
She will turn 99 years old at the end of the week.
I told my grandmother not to expect her to join her anytime soon.

My mother comes from pioneer stock,
yet she is a very modern woman with old fashioned values
 who always stays up to date in all that is going on in the world.
She is an amazing woman.
I think her mother would be very proud of her.
I know I am.

Albert, Lulu, and Alberta Townsley
Woodland Park, Colorado

My mother
Alberta Townsley French
December 2014
age 98

Today, I left flowers on the graves of my maternal grandmother, my maternal great-grandmother and her son, my great-uncle.
All are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado

My father and my daughter are buried not far from the other family grave sites.


I didn't get over to the other part of the cemetery where my paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried.
I explored the older area of the cemetery because of its historical significance.

General William Jackson Palmer,
who served in the Civil War,
and then founded the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is buried in this cemetery.

I love all of the old structures on the grounds of the cemetery.
This is the old chapel that located just to the north of where General Palmer is buried.

As I got out to take a photo of the chapel, I saw a blue bird sitting on top of the  commemorative plaque in front of the building.
He flew away before I could get a better photo of him.
Can you see him?
At first I thought he was a small robin.
Then I saw his blue feathers and wings as he flew off.


Nearby, is this interesting sculpture.
The inscription reads,
Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support them after.
~ William Shakespeare
from "Timon of Athens" (act 1, scene 1)

Today, as I spent the day remembering those no longer with us,
I also was reminded of those whom have supported me throughout the past five years.

One of Julie's dear friends ran the Boulder Boulder.
When she finished the race, she posted how Julie was with her during the race.
Her post was a reminder of how many dear friends Julie had in her lifetime.
Those friends will never know how much their love and support has meant to me and to her family.

I also think and remember so many of my dear friends and family members whom have been there for me during these past five years.
Many of you are blogging friends whom I have never met in person.
You have walked with me through many dark days.
You have spoken words of encouragement and love.
You have helped me find healing.
You have listened to me far more than I have listened to you.
You have supported me.
You have not left me to flounder through dark days alone.
Thank you.
I love you all.
It is good to have a day of remembrance.

Interesting Rock Formations in My Neighborhood

On a recent morning walk, I took some photos of some of the interesting rock formations near our home.  Since I was a child, my imagination has always been activated when I look at rock formations.  In Colorado, we certainly have a lot of famous rock formations.  The Kissing Camels in the Garden of the Gods come to mind.  Perhaps this is why I grew up naming the outcroppings that dot various parts of Colorado.  Last week, without really looking for anything in particular, I happened to see an interesting formation across the road from where we were walking.  Can you see what I saw?

Here is another shot of the same hillside.  Can you see the horse head?  It is a palomino (orange or gold) color, and is located in the center of the photo below.  (I only had my iPhone with me.  I will have to try to get a shot of this on another day.)

Just up the road, from the horse head, I found the perfect spot for a photo shoot.  Jim and Boston posed in front of this rock which is actually right on the corner of a block in the subdivision near where we live.  A house is right behind the rock.  I could probably fool you into thinking we were out in the mountains somewhere when this photo was taken.  

The area where we live has many of these outcroppings of rock.  Their unique shapes have fascinated me since childhood.  Some describe various rocks such as the rock below, as mushroom rocks.  I call this one a table top rock.  This particular rock is located about a block and half from our house on the hillside next to a public park.

Boston, usually on a leash, gets a bit of freedom in the park since no other people or dogs are around on the day we took our walk.  He soon found his favorite rock and perched himself upon it. 

Before long, he was off running into the play area of the park.  I walked along at a more leisurely pace and continued to study the rocks on the hillside.  Up on the top of the hillside, in the middle of the trees, I thought I saw a coyote.  Or was it a rock?  Can you see it?  The formation is near the center of the photo between the trees.  I really could not tell at first if I was seeing a live animal or a rock formation.  After moving my position a few times, I could clearly see it was a rock.  (I told you I have a vivid imagination.)

I have my favorite formations near my home.  This one is an outcropping at the end of my block.

Here is another shot of this rock.  I keep thinking that perhaps the grandchildren and I will walk up here and spread out a tablecloth and have lunch on the top of this rock someday.

One evening this past fall, I ran outside to try and capture a beautiful sunset.  I was too late to get the shot I wanted, but I thought this one was quite nice anyway.

As I leisurely walked home with my camera in hand, I notice a small herd of deer nearly hidden from my view as they grazed in hillside grass at dusk.  My shots of the deer were unsuccessful.  As I tried to get a shot of the animals, I noticed the sight below in my viewfinder.  I didn't notice this interesting nighttime scene with my naked eye.  Do you see that giant cat sitting next to the tree?  (Do you ever see things differently through the viewfinder of your camera?)
I am quite frustrated by blogger right now.  The photo I took at night of this formation is quite dark and spooky.  I can't seem to post it without blogger correcting the light on it.  Any ideas on why this happened?  My photo is very dark with black shadows.  This photo below is nothing like my original photo.

I'd hate to see this huge black cat on Halloween night.  I thought the figure was a bit scary looking.  
The next day, I went back to the same spot to get a photo of this same rock in daylight.  I think she, yes, this rock is a she, is a beautiful marmalade colored cat.  (Jeanie, of The Marmalade Gypsy, this rock is for you!) To the rest of you, this formation may look like a rock, but to me, she is the cat that protects the neighborhood.  
Here is a daytime shot of my two favorite rocks grouped together. 

You may think I live out in the woods.  The beauty of the place where I live is that the woods surround me.  I can be walking in the most beautiful peaceful surrounding within minutes of leaving my house.   After I gaze upon my beautiful rock table and cat rock at the end of my block, I can turnaround and head down the road toward home.  

This photo was taken last fall.  My home is the first one you see on the right.  The porch light is on.  The red truck bed is just to the right of my home.  This photo was taken one half block from the photo of the cat rock.  
I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the interesting sights in my neighborhood. 

Fires in Colorado Springs

Twenty-one years ago today, I married the love of my life.  
Jim on our 21st Anniversary
Colorado Fine Arts Center
We've both changed a lot since our wedding day.
Wedding Day
June 12, 1992
We've been together
in sickness
in health, 
for richer,
for poorer,
we hope we have many more years 
"death do us part."
21st Anniversary
Fine Arts Center
On Mother's Day, Jim had arranged a special brunch for the two of us at the Fine Arts Center.  Since I was in the hospital, I took a rain check.  Today, he made good on his word and took me to the Fine Arts Center for lunch.  We dined on  wonderfully prepared salmon,  risotto croquettes, and asparagus. For dessert, Jim had turtle dessert pie and I had a lemon raspberry gelato.  I wore the necklace he gave me for Mother's Day.  After lunch, we went through the Arts Center to see some of the wonderful displays.  I always love going to this treasure of a place in Colorado Springs.  There are several Chihuly  works here, a portrait of William Palmer's daughter by William Singer Sargent and some wonderful pieces of Van Briggle pottery that I never tire of seeing.  While at the cafe in FAC, I stepped out on the veranda to take a photo of my beloved Pikes Peak and the grounds surround the Art Center and part of Monument Valley Park.  This part of Colorado Springs, is one of my favorite spots.  I love the junipers and Colorado blue spruce and the ponderosa pines that dot the area.

Despite the happy occasion, the situation just north of us was heavy on our minds.  Fire was burning in the Black Forest just fifteen to twenty miles from where we celebrating our anniversary.  Family members had been evacuated from their homes, and other family members were on alert and ready to leave their homes if necessary.

After lunch, I had Jim drive us to the top of Palmer Park which was a favorite picnic spot from my youth.  I wanted to get to the top of this bluff to see the scope of the fire to the north of us.

This photo does not give one the best view of the fire, but nevertheless, as a native to this region, I was shocked at how wide the range of the fire appeared to be.  This area where I went to take these photographs used to be the northern edge of the populated area of Colorado Springs when I was a child.  This bluff, now in the more center part of the city, was where we would go to watch the fire works on the 4th of July when I was a child.  The landscape, dotted with wonderful sandstone bluffs, pine trees, scrub oak, and yucca is dry.  It served as a reminder that this region is a dry tinderbox; truly it is as Wikipedia's definition states: tinderbox refers to something that is so dry that it could catch on fire with the slightest provocation, perhaps even spontaneously like a forest fire.  

Yucca growing in Palmer Park,
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Yucca pods
A few buds are on the plant to the left
Yucca should bloom in June.  I remember so many rides to this area in the spring to see this hillside in bloom.  It was one of my favorite sights.  We are experiencing a late spring here because of cold weather, and rain.  Despite this late spring with some moisture, we are still in a drought.  You can see how dry this ground is.  Any moisture that it received did not do a lot of good.

A few yucca plants were in bloom.

 I hope to come back next week to see if the yucca are in bloom.  If so, the photo below will look different.  I remember many more yucca plants in this area when I was a child.  Now this area has limited access so that the wild flowers can be more protected.  

As many of you know, the Colorado Springs area suffered another wild fire last year in June.  You can read my blog post about that event here: Fire, Smoke and Rain.  This year's fire is north of where we live by about ten miles.  As my husband and I drove home from our lunch date, I had him stop at a church parking lot that is just two miles from our home so I could take a photo of the fire.  It is hard to imagine the scope of the size of this inferno that now seems to fill the horizon of the northward view from our part of town.   As I sit here and type, I know the air is filled with smoke because in the protection of my air conditioned house, I am beginning to have difficulty breathing.  I fear for those who suffer from asthma much worse than I do.  

As I reflect on the events of this day in my beloved Colorado Springs, Helen Hunt Jackson comes to mind.  I recalled reading her essay Bits of Travel at Home.  When I first read this essay, I tried to envision what this town must have been like when she first came here. I tried to imagine what my hometown was like when my grandfather's grandmother (or my great-great grandmother) came here in about 1894.  Thankfully, Helen Hunt Jackson recorded through her writing much of what this pristine beautiful area looked like over a hundred years ago when it was first settled.  

She described the the "Divide" north of town.  At first I had a hard time determining what she was writing about when she wrote: Looking northward over this sea-plain, one sees at the horizon a dark blue line.  Then, as I read on: This is the “Divide,” —another broad-spreading belt of table-land. lifting suddenly from the plains, running from east to west, and separating them. Its highest point is eight thousand feet above the sea, and is crossed by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. On its very summit lies a lake, whose shores in June are like garden-beds of flowers, and in October are blazing with the colors of rubies and carnelians.*  I realized that she was writing about The Black Forest and Monument Hill.  

This beautiful forest, the one I always loved is burning.  I can barely continue to write.  I am overcome with emotion.  Tears are falling down my face.  I always wanted to live there, but my mother, who lost her home to fire as child in Woodland Park would never even entertain the idea of living in what she called a "tinderbox."  I weep for those who will never again live in its beauty because the trees and their homes are gone.  I weep and pray.  I pray these fire stop.  I pray for rain. 

Thankfully, Jim and I just drove up into this area on Sunday and I had a chance to drink in the beauty of the Forest.  I am overcome with grief for those who have lost their homes.  I am overcome with grief for the loss of this once pristine area.  As I remember and grieve, I thank Helen Hunt Jackson for preserving the majesty and beauty of this area for us with her words:

It is a gracious and beautiful country the Divide, eight or ten miles in width and seventy long, well wooded and watered, and with countless glens and valleys full of castellated rocks and pine groves. All this one learns journeying across it; but, looking up at it from Colorado Springs, it is simply a majestic wall against the northern sky,—blue, deep. dark, unfathomable blue, as an ocean wave might be if suddenly arrested at its highest and crystallized into a changeless and eternal boundary. It is thirty or forty miles away from us; but in every view we find our eyes fastening upon it, tracing it, wondering how, not being built of lapis lazuli or clouded sapphire, it can be so blue. It is the only spot in our glorious outlook which is uniform of color. Sunsets may turn the whole north sky golden yellow, and the afterglow may stretch rosy red the entire circle round, while the plains below fade from . brilliant sunlight to soft, undistinguishable gray; but the wall of the Divide remains always of its own unchanging blue. Storms sweep over it, black and fierce, but the blue shows through. Snow covers it and the winter sky arches white above it, but still its forest ranks of pines and firs stand solid, constant blue in the horizon.*

*Bits of Travel at Home ~  Helen Hunt Jackson

Trying to Settle In

Moving is exhausting!
Boston and Jim took some time to rest in the midst of all the unpacked boxes and mess.
Bit by bit, we are getting it done.
We are sticking together and tackling the task ahead of us one day at a time.

I keep being asked, "Are you all settled in yet?"  I just want to answer with a curt, "Are you kidding?"  Tomorrow, we will be able to say, "We have been living in this house for three weeks now."  In someways, those three weeks have seemed like a very long time.  We are growing accustomed to our surroundings.  We are beginning to establish a routine.  This place is even beginning to feel a bit like home.  We are not settled in yet though.

I am still writing this blog from my favorite chair in the corner of the guest room.  I have not yet set up my desk, my office, my writing space.  I did finally unload the top of my desk.  It is no longer covered with boxes.  I have not unpacked any of my office supplies.  I don't even know where my mouse is for the computer.  Thank goodness I use a laptop.  Thank goodness a laptop allows portability and connect-ability.  I think I have finally decided which room will house my office.  I think my husband and I have decided what space will work for his office.  Thank goodness, we are finally getting a vision on how to set this house up to best suit our needs.

We went from a two story house with a full unfinished basement to a one level patio home with a finished basement.  We had four very large bedrooms at our former home.  We now have three bedrooms that are not very large.  Two of our bedrooms were large enough in our old home to allow for space for a bed and an office.  This is no longer the case.  In theory, I went from a five bedroom house to a three bedroom when it comes to space.  What I didn't realize, was that I also gave up three very large closets!  I had a lot of stuff (please note how descriptive that word is!) in those closets.  Now, I am trying to figure out what to do with my stuff.  My new favorite place to shop has become The Container Store!  I am constantly on the search for better ways to store and have access to all that stuff that I need. Believe me, this stuff is the important stuff.  I still have a storage shed full of stuff that isn't important that I need to deal with at some point.  For now, I am just dealing with the important stuff.

The kitchen was the first challenge in this new home.  I also didn't realize that I was giving up a large pantry, a pantry I constantly complained about and didn't appreciate.  The pantry in this house, and the kitchen cabinets, took me about a week to arrange.  I am still rearranging.  My husband, my dear sweet husband who is patient and helps me so much, is still asking me to show him around the kitchen so he can figure out where items go.  I have rearranged quite a few times trying to make sense of where each item should be placed.  It has all been like one big puzzle, but I think the puzzle is finally coming together.

I love my new kitchen.  I love cooking in it.  Yes, I am actually cooking.  That is not something I have done much of over the past 15 years.  Our lives were too busy while we were working.  Then, after retirement, I just never took up cooking again.  I never liked my kitchen before.  I loved how I had fixed it up.  I loved its colors, but I didn't like cooking in it.  This kitchen has less storage, but it is more functional, and I love being in it.

The first floor of our home is finally free of all boxes!  This is something to celebrate.  Now, I have to empty the dining room table of all the china and crystal and get it loaded into the china cabinet.  That doesn't seem like it should be such a big task, but it is.  The only thing I have more of than shoes is china or dishes.  I love dishes almost as much as I love shoes.  The everyday dishes are arranged in the kitchen; now I must take care of  the "good" dishes.  I must get them all put away.  I lamented that I could not remember how I had the china hutch arranged.  Thankfully, my husband had taken a picture of it before we moved.  Now, I just have to look at the picture and not rethink how to arrange it all.

We are finally also making progress on the basement.  A good friend of Jim's came over on Saturday, the second time he has been here to help, and loaded a lot of things into the crawl space.  He brought his seven year old son who thought it was just really cool to take things into the huge crawl space.  Wow, was that ever helpful.  Our friend, Rob, also helped us get a vision for the family room.  I think we know what we will do with the space now.  He is coming back with his family to help us arrange it all and unpack books.  We would not be where we are without the help of friends and family.

It hasn't been all work and no fun.  We take time each day for a walk in our beautiful surroundings. 

On the day after we moved in, I took Boston for a walk around our little block.  Just three houses up from ours, as I rounded the corner, I was again awestruck by the beauty of where we live.  This scene that I photographed is just steps from our home.  This sight, the white sandstone rocks, the stately pines, and the Colorado blue sky, are there for me to admire when I round the corner from my house.  I still can barely believe I have the blessing to live to in this beautiful place.

As I rounded the next corner, I saw a few of our neighbors were checking us out.  Boston and I are the new kids on the block.  I'm not sure what they think of us.

Boston was surprisingly polite while he met his new neighbors.  He sat quietly without barking and kept his distance.  I guess he didn't want to appear too eager to meet the other animals in the neighborhood for fear they would scamper away.

Boston spends most of his time gazing out of the window at his friends.  This keeps him entertained throughout the day.  He has his favorite viewing spots.  This one is in the living room.

Our lives are very different here.  Our vistas are different.  We are settled in a small community of patio homes just over the hill from the Air Force Academy.  We drive two and a half miles from the interstate up a wooded road to our home.  I breathe a sigh of relief, of peace, whenever I drive this beautiful road on my way home.  I am away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet, in just minutes, I can be anywhere in the city itself.  We are surrounded by nature, trees, and lot of wildlife.  I saw a fox tonight as we were driving home.  I understand a bobcat lives in the area.  Needless to say, Boston no longer is able to run freely in the yard, but I think he is ok with that.  We give him walks, and he goes to doggie daycare to play on special days.

We have wonderful neighbors.  Everyone has been so friendly.  We are all about the same age.  Most of us are retired.  Everyone stops to chat when they are out and about.  Everyone waves.  We have had visits from our closest neighbors.  They have brought food, flowers, and housewarming gifts.  They have given suggestions on handymen and even helped with advice on where to hang pictures.  We think we will be very happy here.

I have longed for a sense of community.  I have longed to be near my family again.  I worried that my husband would never really adjust to moving to a new town.  So far, we are almost feeling like we are on an extended vacation as we get to know new places to explore.  We are in the honeymoon stage.  This past Friday night, we thought we would settle in and not go anywhere.  For the first time in our marriage, we ate in on Friday night.  (Really, that is the truth!)   For the first time in years, we did not go out for Mexican food on Friday night.  Jim put on his pajamas early.  Then, we remembered we needed something from Home Depot before Jim's friend Rob came over on Saturday morning.  Jim changed from his pajamas to his clothes and we were off into the night.  We drove all over looking for a yogurt place.  We found it and ate frozen yogurt just before the place closed.  On our way home, I said, "We were in a rut before we moved.  It is good to do new things and go new places."  Just tonight, as we came home from another trip to explore new places, Jim said, "I love living in Colorado Springs."  I am so happy he is happy here.

We've had our moments of profound homesickness.  We miss much about our former hometown.  We lived among the most wonderful people in the world.  We lived in a place with great tradition where people have roots that go deep.  We lived in a place that we dearly loved, but it was not where our children and other family members lived.  We were an odd rarity in Pueblo.  Most everyone in that town was surrounded by family.  We were not.  We knew our children would never move back.  That is why we moved.

The move has been very unsettling in many ways, but in others, it has also given us a chance to begin again.  For me that was most important.  I needed a new beginning.  I needed a new focus for my life.  I've never believed a place will make you happy.  I still believe that.  This place will not make me happy, but I know that I will be happy in this place.  Jim told me this past week that he thinks I am happier here.  He is right.  I am happier because I have the opportunity to move on with my life.  We are both able to rebuild again after great loss.  We've always been at our best when as a team we are building something new.

As we settle in, we recognize that we must take it slowly, one box and one day at a time.  We also recognize that we are starting a new chapter in our lives and in our marriage.  This is a something for which we are both very grateful.