Dusty Soccer Cleats and Life Lessons

Sometimes, the full impact of a life lesson is not fully understood until many years later. For a group of local women aged 30-something, this became evident a few months ago when some unexpected news spread quickly. "How can it be?" we thought. "He’s healthy. He’s invincible. Cancer? No way. Not Coach Tom Sullivan." After the initial shock of the…

Swept Away

It really does happen that fast, no matter what we teach them or how we warn them. And when it does, on their own, they might be screwed. So we try. Within seconds of scrambling to the river’s edge, we saw my daughter’s muscular, competent body slip from the boulder, disappearing into the dark pull of the Crystal River’s runoff.…

A Midsummer Night’s Scheme

On summer evenings, just as that friendly mountain shadow creeps across downtown Glenwood and brings its merciful shady coolness to all in its wake, I like to go for neighborhood walks. Sometimes I hoof it up the Doc Holliday trail or stroll along Grand Avenue and peek inside the shop windows, but mostly I just meander through the residential streets…

Off the Map

I was riding bikes with two friends 15 miles up a narrow chipseal road north of Yaak, Montana, when we intersected the Pacific Northwest Trail and saw a sign for the Garver Mountain Fire Lookout. We were on a four-day bikepacking tour of fire lookouts in Big Sky Country and although we had purposely planned a short ride for the…

Snowline

Every spring, an itch crawls through my bones. As the snow recedes up the mountains, I look furtively out the window, an exile scheming my way back to them. Morning rises bright, musical, and inviting. The birds paint the branches: the bold yellow-orange body and black and white wing patches of the evening grosbeak, the yellow breast of the western…

Rising Up by Rooting Down

What brought me to the Roaring Fork Valley eight years ago was a deep longing for a place to root down. Having lived in multiple countries, I had encountered many of the world’s treasures but didn’t find “home” until coming here. I landed a position with Colorado Mountain College (CMC), but perhaps it was Mother Sopris that drew my family…

Planting the Seeds of the Future

Mrs. Glenn loved my first-grade class. So much, she told us, that she just couldn’t let us go. She graduated along with us, becoming our teacher for the second grade too. That allowed me to proudly bring the pumpkin seeds for Mrs. Glenn’s final year of teaching.

The Long and the Short of It

I've had long hair most of my adult life, but in January, I cut my hair. The reason: I learned that the type of chemotherapy that I will be treated with over the next few months is going to cause hair loss. I should explain that while casually putting on lotion last November, I discovered a bump in my breast.…

I Love You More Than Words Can Say

In the bottom drawer of a dresser in my bedroom, I store some of the most precious items in my possession. This drawer holds a couple boxes of old faded photographs, a few mementos from the lives of my family members, some tattered birth announcements, wedding invitations, and funeral programs—nothing of any particular value beyond the sentimental. And yet, these…

A New Year’s Resolution: Need Less. Love More.

We are naturally wired to help each other. That may be the most exceptional trait of our species. Our collective history is defined by a shared ancestral memory of cooperation, collaboration, empathy and assistance. Things fall apart when we forget that.

December 2016 Parting Thoughts

My family used to put up outside Christmas lights during the last weekend of November. Shortly after, we gradually transformed the inside of our house with decorations. Then we purchased a real pine tree, decorating it shortly before Christmas, at times as late as Christmas Eve.

Turkey Day Tears and Other Woes

We’ve seen it a thousand times: “Freedom From Want,” Norman Rockwell’s 1942 ode to the great American Thanksgiving dinner. There is Grandma in her white apron, clutching a perfectly glazed turkey the size of a small boulder under Grandpa’s smiling gaze. Beside them, a giddy assortment of relatives—all good-looking, mind you—exchange grins across the table as they prepare to devour…

The Soundtrack for Our Lives

I imagine that the inside of my brain looks like an ornate, archaic old library. The floors are beautifully tiled and big Palladian windows let in the light, but the place is disorganized and noisy. Fragments of old songs float like dust motes in the air, and the stacks are stuffed with idiosyncratic collections: The warhorse room contains full classical…

Of Relationships and Herding Cats

Many parents get pets for their kids to teach them about the care that goes into building a relationship. That's probably why, when I was two, my mother got me a black puppy that I named “Bow Wow.” All her life, my mom laughed about the neighbors’ reactions when she would lean out the back door and call, "Bow Wow!…

For the Love of a Chicken

Her name is Lenore and she is far more than “just a chicken.” She is my heart and an incredible light in my life. I have 25 hens, but there is only one Lenore.

A Love Letter to the Arts

A few years ago, in a very different season, I went to a Christmas caroling party where many people had highfalutin jobs. They were numbers people. Something I most certainly was not. They'd saved lives, designed buildings. They were from further flung places, big cities. Their children spoke several languages and giggled at their own striking accomplishments.

Mind Your Line

There’s an old adage: “All fishermen get the same number of bites. The difference between those who catch the fish and those who don’t is whether or not they pay attention to their line.” The fly fishermen among us are already preparing a litany of reasons why this is a woefully incomplete adage, but I think they would all agree…

Down-to-Earth Lessons Learned on the Farm

For a snot-nosed kid like me, my Grandfather’s farm was a magical place. Shutting my eyes, I can still see him plowing that rich Oklahoma dirt with his mule. While pulling the plow up and around for the next row, he flicked the reins with a master’s deftness. His hardworking life filled me with wild-eyed wonder.

My Daughter’s First Fourteener

My 11-year-old daughter Hadley has always been a strong hiker, but I was surprised when she announced she wanted a climb a fourteener last summer. I was a bit worried about her readiness but mostly about my own. I’ve “bagged” a dozen of Colorado’s 54 14,000-foot-plus peaks, but it has been several years since my last climb. In the interim,…

In Praise of Idleness

During the winter holidays, I spent five days alone in an octagonal stone hermitage at St. Benedict’s, a Trappist monastery that sits on nearly 4,000 acres in a snowy bowl surrounded by high ridges above Old Snowmass. It’s the home of Father Thomas Keating, and the monastery maintains a few small hermitages, offered by donation, in the Benedictine spirit of…

Forever

When Karina and Grace got into it yesterday morning, they did not know that I, the school principal, stood near enough to hear every word. It started with a typical litany of grievances, infractions, betrayals and spite delivered with a hiss. The first barrage came from Karina. Then, with a stammer, from Grace. Then back to the top. Their spat…

A Dad’s Advice: Resolutions for a Good Life

Your mom has asked me to say some things your dad would tell you if he was still living. I didn’t know your dad, but I know he loved you more than life itself. I know because I’m a dad too. I’m sorry your dad is gone, but there’s no permanence in life. We’re all here for a moment or…

Mom on Patrol

When my brother Gene and I were moving our mom into assisted care a few years ago, I came across her National Ski Patrol jacket. Myra Toussaint (Slusser) Devine fought her way onto the all-volunteer – and nearly all-male – National Ski Patrol in 1959. It was quite a battle. Myra, who learned to ski in her 20s, had to…

Giving Thanks Throughout the Season

Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday. Not all family gatherings are harmonious. There might be pressure to prepare “the perfect meal” just like a parent used to make. Then there is that business with Europeans spreading their empire and claiming new lands – even though those lands were already inhabited – that should cause us to pause in our celebration.…

Creative Acts

My earliest adventures in art read like a baby boomer's TV guide. I began with "Winky-Dink," an interactive show, in which viewers drew the starry hero to safety on a magic screen. I colored by number with luscious, Venus Paradise pencils. The official "John Gnagy" drawing kit presented me with authentic tools of the trade. (For those of you under…

Seeing Nature

I vividly remember when I learned that my grandfather was becoming blind. Macular degeneration had destroyed all but his peripheral vision, and to see me when we spoke, he looked away from me. It was an eerie experience for a young boy. As grandfather's vision disappeared, his precious wood-carving tools began to gather dust in the basement and his well-loved…

Peachy Keen on the Western Slope Harvest

I have to start by flat-out admitting that I’m a snob when it comes to peaches. In my opinion, you won’t find anything that comes close to the peaches grown on the Western Slope of Colorado.

Blessed Down to Our Bones

Last summer, my six-year-old buddy Sam Stableford spotted a foot-long bone in my garden. “What’s that?” he asked. “It’s a bone.” “Where did it come from?” “From a cow.” I offered it to him. He fingered it gingerly. “Did the cow die?”

A Message from the Heart

One Sunday morning, I set out to climb an easy mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park with a group of women I know. I was a little more tired than usual having spent the proceeding day in a learn-to-canoe class and in doing some weight-lifting as part of my exercise routine.