Monday, August 3, 2015

A love letter to this juxtaposition of mountains and desert

Durango, I’m about to leave you now for a little while, and when I think about leaving I think about how much I love you, and how I don’t even really feel like I need to leave. That’s the key I think, live somewhere you love so much that when your travelling is done you couldn’t be happier to come back.

            It’s been tough love, as if you put me in a boxing ring with my dreams, and told me to get ready for a good fight. But you never told me, I just should have assumed: chasing dreams is hard work.

            I used to chase my dreams on the road, creating my own Kerouac-like triangle between Colorado, Mexico and California, and then I learned the type of dreams that I had in my heart would never be satisfied by the road alone, I needed a home. And I learned that my man Kerouac died by the bottle, and that was never a death I wanted to live. I couldn’t sit around and feel sorry for myself.

            Durango, I found you five years ago in the midst of an inner turmoil, at the same time when our country was going through a financial turmoil. I took the blind leap here, packed up everything I owned in a graffiti-ed red, white, and blue, car called The Freedom Mobile, which I estimated to be worth about five hundred dollars.

            Work was scarce when I first arrived, and I was told “no” to jobs you can usually slip into in mountain towns, because people are always leaving in mountain towns, and then I learned Durango is the mountain town where people stay, no matter how tough it is to make it here.

            But you gotta keep knocking on doors until someone says yes, and you gotta keep believing in your dreams, because your dreams are your keys to love, and all we really have is love. I took whatever odd jobs I could get; I shoveled horseshit, and watched over farms with mischievous sheep and roosters. I ate the eggs from chickens, and greens from the gardens I was the temporary landlord for. Finally, I found a gig that would work with my dreams to write and climb. Then I could start to appreciate you Durango, this juxtaposition of mountains and desert.

            Community, the common unity, happens with time. I remember telling the Animas River my dreams, and sharing my prayers with it. I remember the coincidence of my best friend Tim moving here, in his own inner turmoil with the bottle, of which he was finally able to free himself of. And that freed me as well, that someone could seem so hopelessly addicted and headed towards death, and then turn it around and build a wonderful life for himself in his new home of Durango. Then Tim introduced me to Andrew, a quiet genius handyman-mechanic, who has the rare combination of intelligence and humility.

We became great friends, and he worked on the “Freedom Mobile” when I was poor and had little money. Then we would play poker and I would meet Travis, my Southern gentlemen of a friend, who I could talk to for hours on end, because he’s got that right kind of Southern in him, that infinitely polite and engaging personality that makes you feel like you’ve got a friend for life, which you do.

            And through those poker games I found Jonathan again, I’d met him climbing in Las Vegas years before, but never saw him in Durango til late one winter night we met again at the poker table of all places. We became good friends and have climbed hundreds of days now together. I’d just lost a dear friend to an avalanche when we re-met. New friends helped with that pain.

            Still we pray to those same mountains that have taken away some of our loved ones. The passage of each year makes me feel more humble, and the more mountains I see makes me realize I’ll never see all the mountains. It’s taken five years just to get a glimpse of the mountains, canyons, rivers, valleys, and crags of this land.

            The mountains don’t change like we do. Everything happens so fast in the human life. I’ve heard life is a bitch, but time seems to be the bitch. Life is a beautiful woman, and beautiful women make beautiful babies, and it’s been a trip to watch my friends have families. Talk about hard work, and most of you do it with such grace.

            The vantage point of five years leaves a complete confidence in my decision to move here. When I made the decision though I was full of doubt and anxiety. The only way to know yourself though is to face those insecurities, and the only way to find yourself is to go there, wherever -there- may be.

             My writing mentor and former professor George Sibley, of Mountain Gazette fame, used to say have this saying about Crested Butte, “Someone is always arriving saying this is the greatest places they’ve ever found, and someone is always leaving saying the place is doomed.”
            I think you could say something similar about Durango. We’re constantly being mentioned in those bullshit Outside magazine type stories: “Top 5 Places to Move To Right Now” or “Top 5 Undiscovered Mountain Towns”. The truth is that our town is gritty, and we have our share of issues and problems, not unlike any other place. We are far from a utopia, as my man J.J. Anderson eloquently covered in his piece about our homelessness issue in his guest “La Vida” last week.

            We got problems, even 99 of them, but there’s something about this place that makes me feel like it’s the perfect place for an artist, for someone who thrives on creativity. There’s so much inspiration and beauty here in makes me wish I had an outlet for it - I with I could sing, I wish I could dance, I wish I could sit by the mountains and paint their beauty. I’m not a religious man, but I am spiritual, and I know for sure we all are given certain gifts. I don’t know if writing is a gift, or if you just have to work hard at it, I just know it’s the only outlet I have to share with my community, and I know there’s no other place in the world I’d rather by than Durango to spend my days typing away in my cave with the hopes I might create something that means something to someone. And there’s no other place I’d rather go to a coffeeshop and try to get work done when I’m tired of my home office, but then get distracted by my dear friend, Jennaye, who likes analyzing weird human traits as much as I do.

            I’m giddy right now as I finish this, I’ve saved enough to take some time off to visit a chunk of heaven in Squamish in British Columbia, where the granite meets the sea, and I can live out of a tent for a couple weeks, and wish life was always that satisfying and simple. Or, it will rain and I’ll be dreaming about Durango, and the upcoming Indian Creek season. You never know, but if you don’t go, you really never know.

This article is published in today's Durango Telegraph (August 6th, 2015)

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