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02/23 2015

Colorado in February

IMG_0894There is a severe storm warning in the Denver area when I land.  All I can see is slow moving flakes floating lazily around in the air.  These are fairy tale flakes, drifting around the drab downtown Ramada.  Out of place outside the windows where this cheap carpet and over-starched sheets reside.  Turns out, the Saturday event that I’ve flown in for is cancelled.  A bust of a work trip, but I’m glad to be here.

I wander Denver, bookless.  How does this happen to me?  I should know better.  I get a sandwich, eat half.  I’m not hungry.  This street smells like marijuana.  At night the snow comes more steadily, but still soft and nostalgic.  There is no wind and it collects on branches, like a painting.  I watch the hockey game in the hotel bar and am invited to dinner but I am so tired I am instead in bed by 10 with a cup of tea, listening to Neil Young with the storm growing outside in this heavy, starless sky.

In the morning, I wake early and look at the courtyard.  I love the look of pristine, light powder everywhere.  Lately I’m trying not to look at my phone first thing in the morning so I make coffee and re-read the book I’ve already finished.  Nothing changes this time around for Henry Pimber.  He’s still dead in a tree.

I have a tasteless breakfast with hot coffee and take the light rail to Golden.  There is a low fog obscuring the mountain tops but I can see the base of the range growing nearer.  From the train there are trailers, dogs, and gas stations.  The west is hard dirt and sagebrush.  Dry air, stones like bones ripping through the hills next to a highway and this rail line.  I notice my jeans are dirty.

I get out at Jeffco station.  It’s colder here than Denver, though not 20 miles away.  I pull on my hat and gloves, then head to the hotel.  I am delighted with the fire in the entryway, and this lovely little town.  There are mountains at the end of the street.  Table mountain for the postcard shot.  The snow continues to drift in soft and steady.  After I check in I set about to find a bookstore but am unsuccessful.  the hotel staff suggest taking a taxi to a Barnes and Noble but that is certainly not an option so I take my boots and go sliding around the street and for some reason think of someone a thousand miles away.  Wishing good thoughts in that direction.

I discover that Golden was the capital of the Colorado territory, founded by gold miners who discovered gold in the Clear Creek that wanders through town.  Before dinner I check out a local brewery and love it.  This is Mountain Toad Brewery just over the river.  There are concrete floors and classic rock.  Ski hats and a game of pool.  The bartender is lean with a  ratty gray t-shirt and a trucker hat, pink in front.  He has a beard and a ponytail.  Half the people in here have snow pants on.  There is no food, they publish a food truck schedule but with the storm, the trucks are home.

Two women next to me discuss problems with men.  One has a boyfriend that ditched her to go to Denver with friends for the night (he could have at least told her a day in advance) and the other laments the challenges of meeting men on the mountain.  I overhear the phrase “Boulder people are crazy.”

Massive green and yellow candles burn on tin foil covered paper plates.  The bar is smooth and the chairs are metal.  It is possible this is the best IPA I have ever had and dare I say – I think even my non-IPA friends would enjoy it.  It is light and I wish I could take it to them.  Speaking of these friends, as I’m headed to dinner, Kate calls.  We have so much to discuss. I talk with her as I slide through the unshoveled street back to the hotel.  So often it seems there are back and forth phone calls before we can connect so I’m so excited to talk to her just on a first pickup.  I stand outside the hotel talking about travels and plans for April until I have to go in.

Who did I meet on this trip?  Let me tell you.  Tom was reading at the Irish pub in Denver.  Though I have not read that particular book, I’m certain I would dislike it.  I ignore this thought and keep talking.  He then mentions that he never has any desire to travel because “everyone who comes here says this is the best place they’ve ever been, so I figure, no point in leaving the best place on earth.”  This is where I smile, put down my napkin, pay my bill and exit stage left.  I meet a barista at the coffee shop who shows me pictures of her horse named Shenanigans (“I call him Shani”). Hiking on Sunday I meet Mike who politely laughs when I call him Miker the Hiker and lets me pet his dog.  I meet a couple from Tennessee who emphatically explain why I’m playing trivia crack all the wrong.  They tell me I need to use my coins.  I’m still not sure I entirely understand and something in me doesn’t like the idea of being able to skip questions.  What the hell is that?

The hike on Sunday morning is cold.  Save the two people and one dog I encounter, I’m alone on the trail.  Crunch, crunch, boots on fresh snow.  My scarf is around my face and every twenty minutes or so I brush off the accumulation from my arms and shoulders.  The river is slow and low, heavy with winter.  With the falling snow and sky bending right in front of me, everything is slate and white.  There is no color anymore, the sound is muted.  I can almost hear my heartbeat.  Everything that worries me is gone, there is just me and the direction I’m going.  My boots, my breath inside this scarf and the mountain to my left.   There is stone, there is snow, there is sky, and the dog sudden and delightful in my path.  Here I am, right here, and nothing else matters.