Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment with Normal Living

Dear cabin, I’ll miss you.

It’s difficult for me to even type these words, but here it goes: This is the last week of life at 10,500 feet above sea level for me. [insert sobbing noises]

At least for a year.

That’s right. We are conducting a grand experiment that involves moving from our beautiful log cabin at the top of a mountain, along the Continental Divide, to a larger home at a much lower altitude.

In other words, we’re trading crazy for how regular people must live. And I’m not sure I can survive it.

I’ve done a whole lot of writing and relaxing on this deck in the summer.

Why the move? A lot of reasons, I guess. My husband has given me 10+ years of living in a raw, often brutal climate. That’s pretty darn good considering I gave him three months when we first moved up here. He was a suburban boy who’d never used a chainsaw back then, a guy who practically lived in movie theaters. Now, thanks mostly to Netflix and heavy drinking (kidding), he’s adapted quite well. But he’s tired of the drive, which can be about as dangerous as it gets in the winter, i.e., nine months out of the year. He’s tired of the snow. (When Denver gets a foot of snow, we get three.) He’s tired of the hardships of mountain living, which can range from temperatures that hit 50 below for days on end, 90 mile-an-hour winds and mountain lions on the prowl for snacks like our son and dogs, to days without power and weeks without water. And I’ll admit these things wear on me, too, some days.

So the answer: We’re testing the lower-altitude waters by renting a home in the foothills west of Denver. At a whopping 6,500 feet. That’s 4,000 feet and two ecosystems lower than where we live now.

At the new place, we’ll have things we’ve learned to live without for over a decade. (A decade!) Things like a garage. Trash pickup. Newspaper delivery. The opportunity to grow things in the spring and fall. The ability to take a walk in the winter without putting on professional snow gear. The capacity to not have a week’s worth of blizzard supplies in your car at all times just in case you careen off the side of a mountain on your morning commute. It’ll be a whole new world for us.

So what’s not to like about the move? Why am I so grumpy I had to warn my family to stay away from me while we packed boxes this past weekend?

My neighborhood.

Because this was my dream. When I moved to Colorado, I knew I wanted to experience true mountain living, with all of its ups and downs. I didn’t want comfort; I wanted adventure. I wanted an authentic log cabin. I wanted to heat with wood that I cut with my own hands. I wanted to write in total peace and quiet, and thrive under the watchful eye of a golden eagle and the supervision of tall pine trees and groves of golden aspens.

Besides, I like the challenges this life presents to me. I like that I can’t get complacent here; Nature keeps me on my toes. I like that the air up here feels unlike any other air I’ve ever breathed. I like that the blue sky here is so crisp and so exquisite that it can make you literally gasp from the pureness of it all. I like that on a clear night, the dark sky is like a field of a million diamonds above me, stars so close you think you could really touch them if you tried. I like that I can walk to our meadow and see wildlife every time, because bears, deer, moose, elk, coyotes and foxes are our closest (and best) neighbors. I like that I can trout-fish in our creek or mountain lakes with my son all summer long and never have the same experience twice. I like that I don’t have to drive to get to hiking trails; amazing ones are outside my door. I like that I can snow-shoe or cross-country ski on my lunch hour when I work from home in the winter. I like that the summer wildflowers can be so breathtakingly beautiful that there really are no words to describe them.

Mostly, I think, I like that not just anyone can make it up here. I like that it makes me different. And frankly, I like what it says about me: I’m strong. I’m resourceful. I’m fearless.

I’m basically bad-ass.

And yet. Did I mention there was a garage at the new place?

So, I have promised to give this a chance. I will embrace my 2.5 bathrooms and the fact that I can now recycle at the end of my driveway. And I’ll try really hard not to get progressively meaner when fall and winter settle in, and I’m living in complete and utter comfort, with not a carnivore predator or a four-foot blizzard in sight.

I’ll also try to remember this quote from Winston Churchill: “We shape our dwellings, and then our dwellings shape us.”

After all, the mountain has shaped me in so many ways. But there are things the new place can teach me, too.


At least this way I’ll be closer to Texas Roadhouse and a good liquor store.

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15 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment with Normal Living

  1. I understand what you are going through. I am a country girl who married a city boy. While I appreciate all the conveniences of city living, there is something so incredibly stimulating and yet relaxing walking out your door and immediately into the woods. It is oh so pleasant to look out your window and see no other houses, only nature. Hope the move goes well.
    Hang in there!

  2. my deaar friend Kathy,,,,I have mixed feelings about your move
    but agree this is another adventure for are doing what you need to do and new experiences will open to you..just remember to “press ON”

  3. I can understand your dilemma. Your cabin is in a beautiful place. I hope you’ll find things to love in the lower elevation. Conveniences have their perks! So does a more contented spouse 😉 Think of the cross-stitch quote of the past: “home is where the heart is.” That’s where your family is. Of course for years after leaving Colo. I had a sticker that said, “I left my heart in Colorado.” But really, it trails me everywhere, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes sheepishly. And then sometimes it leads me–to new places … and back to places I have loved.

  4. I have faith in you!!! I know after all you have been through
    this will only be another “test” that you will pass with flying colors! I know you can do anything you set your mind to
    The Blue Stragler is proof of that!!! Good luck—love you!!

  5. Awww, Kathy I feel your pain. Moving is hard, but change is good for the soul. Being an all-too-logical person, I have so many questions for you! First off, how DO you get rid of your trash at 10,500 feet? And how do you walk your dogs?

  6. You have made every place you’ve called home a haven. This one will be no different. It’s a fresh new canvas and this time you have Mac to help : )

  7. Aww, thanks everyone. So far my main problem with lower elevation is this dang heat! However, I purchased a swamp cooler and am now sitting in front of it eating cheetos, so i may survive after all.

  8. You wrote you’d be “living in complete and utter comfort, with not a carnivore predator or a four-foot blizzard in sight.” Somehow, I bet you will see more than a few carnivore predators. Maybe not enough for your liking, but at least a few! I hope so, for your sake. I hope that giving up on your dream, at least for now, will be Churchill-ian for you. You can do it! Good luck.

  9. Dear Kathy, My mother had a wonderful saying “This, too, shall pass” and before you know it, Mac will be out of school and things will change again for all of you. Love you for putting your boys first! Linda

  10. Hey Kathy,–Remember when you first moved to Colorado & came up to visit me at a mere 9500-feet, in my log cabin!?_I admire you so much as a talented writer, & as a Ranch-woman & a Mountain-woman, as a woman who always makes me laugh….–you are all these things, all the time, they are all inside you wherever you go!_You know, we have similar roots._I am still living in “at-altitiude”, with a brief foray in to the 5000-6000 eco / cultural zone._I think I’m addicted to Mountains, & will stay as long as I ca {some 15-years!?}._It just doesn’t seem like Winter if the snowdrifts don’t cover the kitchen windows, & doesn’t seem like a night-walk without Lions screaming in the night._But, you will do well wherever you go!_Me, another story…._Anyway, you can always move back, or visit friends who live in ‘better’ eco-zones, I mean “higher’ eco-zones! ha! :-)_ Love your book, keep writing my friend; and crack the whip-from time to time- for me to keep writing, & making Art, too!!_–GM

  11. I’m just catching up on blogs, etc. and came accross this. You know I am a tried and true city girl. Allergic to anything that crawls or flies. But I’ve had to adjust to change more than a time or two. And with that, I can relate to your desire to continue living your dream. The sacrifices I made for Danny’s career were worth it at the time because the impact on Chase was clearly visible. Good schools, bills paid and a vacay here or there. Now, he’s off to college and I’m in a different place. Your attitude of a trial expirement is right on. As a woman, I love that I have a choice. And my choice might just be to change my mind. You’ll do what is right for you and your family. In the meantime, I know I’m going to enjoy reading about your experiences living “normal”.

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