The August heat bears down on us. It’s been insufferable, exhausting, inescapable.
Relentless and unrelenting.
This week has wilted our crops, withered the tomato vines, and waned most of our ambition.
The fierce sun and temperatures topping over one hundred are good for only a handful of things.
Swimming, splashing, sprinklers.
Air conditioning, icy arnold palmers, and as little to do as possible.
And this we know, is impossible. The to-dos always crowd in, stand out, scream aloud.
The field of feed is finished. No rain. All heat. Time to pull out the swather and lay it in rows.
Parts arrive and the corn header must have reparations and revamps.
Ready it for the arrival of September and fall harvest.
Bales wait on the west quarter corners to be collected in small clusters and later, hauled away, a trailer load at a time.
I nudge the farmer and show him my phone screen. “Let’s do it.” I whisper.
He’s hesitant, but I know I’m drawing him in.
“It never ends.” I remind him.
As if I need to.
There’s always another thing. Another breakdown. The never-ending tasks of a business to run.
“We can leave a list for our hired hand. He can do it. Besides the corn header will be there the next Monday. You can finish it then.”
The hired guy can housesit too. It’s ingenious. Especially since he already lives with us.
Has ever since his birth.
Ever since his arrival home was heralded by his big sister, three years old, and the farmer and I, twenty-four and twenty-five, respectfully.
We haven’t run away much over the years, just the two of us, but we’re beginning to learn how to. A whole mix of details has never afforded much space for this.
A farming schedule, a sole entrepreneurship, wind, weather, and weeds, one income, two babies, out-of-state family to visit, lessons to learn as our littles grew into scholars, the desire to take our children on a few experiences with us when rain allowed a vacation getaway, and on the list goes.
Now, our second infant baby, grown into an independent young adult, well, he can shoulder responsibilities. Learn a little more about the weight his father carries.
I text my farmer man later in the day.
He replies “Better not reserve any accommodations for the beginning of the week yet. We may need to wait until Wednesday.”
I search through Airbnbs; create a few wishlists. A few clicks and I’ve booked seats 15 and 16 on the Silver Vista car. The train leaves Durango on Friday morning, 9 a.m.
I browse Vacasa and find a condo fifteen minutes from Durango. It lands on a wishlist too. Once we know a bit more about farmwork demands and prospective schedules, I’ll revisit the lists.
The week wends on and the work is whittled down….a little.
My coaxing isn’t incessant, but I continue to drop leading hints.
The farmer continues to eye the clock, the calendar, and the corn header.
Still, we decide. Sunday afternoon we’ll head west.
Colorado or bust.
Toss bags into the back of my Yukon.
Jot a short list for the housesitter.
A long list for the hired hand.
We start out a bit tired and frazzled, it must be confessed.
It’d make a better storyline if I could outline it in golddust and mountain laurel.
But, alas. We are human.
It takes some miles for stress to slide from our shoulders.
For repairs and requirements to recede.
We end up grumpy and impatient.
Crabby and cross with each other.
“Sacrificed on the altar of familiarity” as my dad coins it.
I read a text from a friend wishing us a wonderful week.
I reply thank you, add a few words indicating we haven’t begun at our best.
“Girl.” Her response glows on the screen. “It’s a running joke for us,” she says. “Can we leave on a trip and still like each other?”
I send back a laughing emoji. The slanted one.
But my idealistic self sighs. The part that wants the gold dust and mountain laurel.
I want happily ever after. Want it every single day.
Too often, try to demand it and you can imagine, dear reader, how that storyline ends.
I’m frustrated with him.
I’m frustrated with me.
I’m frustrated with the weight of our farm, the weight of work, and the way all that is good never comes easily.
All that glitters with a true gold-weight, requires deep inner work, undistracted intentionality, and often, demands more from us than we’re willing to give.
Juggling luggage and life, baggage and being, well, it often bows us down, bends us double, brings burdens and a whole backpack of lackluster bravado that leaves us listing.
We have a stained printer paper poster plastered across our basement refrigerator. It’s been in repose there for eleven years. I printed it, placed it there soon after we moved in. It diligently, daily, displays and delivers this missive.
“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” ~ Ruth Bell Graham
Tis true. Twenty-six years has offered us plenty of practice.
He reaches over for my hand. We both sigh.
Next to you, next to me really is our favorite.
But oh, the tangle of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and mistakes that muddle our way forward.
“Intense fellowship,” my friend, Martha calls it.
We need this practice of the pause.
We roll along.
The bright lime green of a Peterbilt gleams in the sun.
We pass on the left, our reflection sliding around the rocking reefer trailer with United American Dairy Farmers plastered across the back.
We drive by Jack and Wanda’s Auto Repair. The sign swings lazily hung by two rusting hinges.
I wonder how long it’s held vigil.
Small town after small town marks the journey behind us.
Each, a bit unique. Each, a bit familiar.
Family Dollar right inside the city limits. One or two fast-food options. Subway or Sonic. Sometimes Pizza Hut or Dairy Queen.
And what would a small town be without a local cafe?
“Peaches $1.99 a pound,” graces the glass front of the foodliner and the special on pork chops for the week is plastered in large red letters.
Ye Old Rummage Shop is nestled between Best Friends Boutique and Home & Season Gift Shoppe.
The Loaf N Jug provides a place to fill our gas tank, grab a slurpee or soda, and stock up on snacks, if so desired.
Often, in the popularity of the last twenty-five years, a cute coffeeshop or two is found in the lineup on Main Street. Brew Unto Others happens to be the one we pass next.
And if Family Dollar isn’t found ingoing, Dollar General crops up on the outskirts.
The ribbon of asphalt shimmers in the sun ahead of us as we leave the city limits. Painted a brilliant blue, the sky plays backdrop for the midwest beauty of fields and homesteads stretched on each side.
Robin Mark sings for us.
Then our son and his friend play from the album they have on Spotify.
Hired hand, housesitter, in-house musician.
He’s all three rolled into one.
I scroll the list of songs.
The hours and the miles dissipate behind us and beneath us. Gratefully, the stress melts along with the miles. Dusk begins its gathering, and Mr. Sun sinks toward his western bed. Colors splay across the horizon and we gather the glory of it.
We need this practice of wandering with wonder.
We chat about our options for the night and decide to stop sooner, rather than later. The Baymont has a room and we drop our backpacks onto the bed.
We wake early.
My good farmer man ventures out in the cool morning air, while I do all the prerequisites for the day. I often bemoan how much easier and quicker he can be dressed and prepped for the day. His hair alone requires one-eighth of the energy and attention mine demands. In even worse unfairness, he also looks better all the time, all the day.
I sigh. Pick up the brush. Begin the practice of the daily.
The elevator dings my arrival in the lobby.
I stop in the Breakfast Corner.
Open the cardboard sleeve and slip it onto my cardboard cup steaming with canister coffee. Walking along the sidewalk toward my Yukon, the strap of my leather travel bag slung across my shoulder, a crumpled Pizza Hut receipt flutters on the cement in front of me unknowingly dropped by some passerby. Did a family of jovial children stay here last night? Enjoy a piping hot pizza party after a day of travel?
A group of construction workers troop toward their truck. Their day of labor ahead of them. Perhaps, improving roads or placing rafters for new apartments.
Briefcase in hand, a businesswoman heads toward her Chevy Sedan. Is the day full of meetings and messages for her?
I’m glad I slipped my jean jacket on my shoulders. It feels good in the bright morning. I roll back the pink cuff and reach for the latch on the rear hatch. I breathe gratitude for rest in the night, for holding hands after fights, for coffee in cardboard cups, for breath in our lungs, for beauty on the horizon, for pepperoni pizza, for pink jean jackets, for hairbrushes and hairspray, for willing laborers.
We need this practice of gratitude.
We drive for an hour. Sunshine bounces a greeting the whole way. I tap in an address and Google maps begins the litany of instructions.
We pause at a red light. The traffic streams through the intersection, hurrying, hurrying, happy to move toward all variety of destinations.
A pedestrian jogs through the crosswalk. The straps of his backpack wind across his tattooed biceps, the gray trim reflects against the black canvas, and the bag bounces rhythmically in time to his stride.
Our turn to happily hurry before the red appears again.
We need this practice of noticing.
“You have arrived,” Google announces. This always makes me laugh.
If only it were that easy.
Never once in my life have I ever felt I’ve “finally” arrived.
Don’t ask me what I expect my “arriving” to look like or feel like. I don’t know.
But I’ve never, well, arrived.
I suspect this sense of “arrival” is tied to my definition of success, my insecurities, my lack of contentment, my desire to chase this or that, my disappointment, my lack of “natural talent”, and on and on the list goes.
No wonder we “never arrive”.
Today, we have arrived at Righteous Grounds Coffee Shop. My dear man was here earlier this year with a couple of motorcycle friends. He wants to show me because he knows I’ll like it.
He’s right. Coffeeshops and Bookshops.
They’re my spark and I love popping into both when we travel.
I curl into the leather couch. My good farmer man can’t sit still and he’s headed along the street to take in the sunshine, mountains, and motorcycles.
I’ve ordered the Marjorie. A dirty chai with the addition of hazelnut, it’s an in-house special. On the raw-edge counter, a glass case offers scones and cookies and coffee cake. Bags of coffee, fresh-roasted right here, occupy a basket in the corner.
The blackboard illustrations highlight coffee cups filled with the required ingredients and layers for each coffee drink. I love chalkboard art. I love this way of listing what a macchiato is, a latte, an americano. I mostly still forget what’s what, but I have learned a bit about the layering of coffee and milk, flavor and foam.
A beaming black bear balances a steaming mug on his head in the bottom right corner of the board.
The inlaid raw-cut wood of the ceiling lends ambiance and texture to the cozy coffeeshop room.
We practice the pause and wandering with wonder. Soak into arrival of the here and now.
After my man returns from his amble, and after I’ve steeped myself in the ambiance and after I’ve jotted a few words and sent a few WhatsApps, we head south.
We see it in the distance.
Blue. Elongated. Stretching wide.
The reservoir runs among the cliffs.
It laps in beauteous patterns.
The mountains stand at attention on either side.
Aspens and pines dot together to create patterns for an eager artist’s brush. Road construction slows and we bump through the caution cones. A few more miles and we join the line of traffic.
We await the return of the pilot car.
A few people lean against their car hoods. We shut off our car. Roll down the windows and open the moon roof. We can wait. Our only agenda is the Airbnb reservation I made from one of our wishlists.
We practice the pause. We bask in beauty.
The gondola glides from the station and we start down the incline in a galloped leap.
Mountain Village recedes behind us.
Our dark-haired companion raises his iPhone 13 and snaps in quick succession.
We ask if he’s local and he tells us he’s visiting from California.
He’s recording the gondola commute of his friend’s daughter so he can share it with her.
“I’ve been coming to the Film Festival in Telluride for seventeen years,” he explains.
We tell him we’re headed to Durango this morning. We were unaware of the Film Festival held here every year on Labor Day weekend. This year marks their 50th celebration.
My bit of knowledge about books and the world of publishers causes me to recognize the opportunity for networking, for sharing your film, this festival offers to screenwriters and producers, along with its intent to celebrate the art of filmmaking in and of itself.
He tells us about his film, written and produced some ten years ago. I love that we’ve met a screenwriter.
He’s kind and attentive. We chat about his love of film and he tells us to come by the large tent where he’ll be working.
We tell him we’re farmers from Kansas and he is amazed. He asks questions and his business sense understands the challenges and changes farmers face. He acknowledges all the hats a farmer wears. He listens intently and wants to know more. Our gondola enters the station and we stoop to exit. He shakes our hands; asks our names. We ask his in return and bid him farewell; head for our condo. We need to gather our bags and do our final checkout.
Telluride resides in a valley. We leave by the same way we came in. The only other available option is over the mountain pass. We did that yesterday in a rented Jeep and my Yukon isn’t going to traverse that trail. We watch the clouds and the pines and the mountains.
We wander with wonder. A practice of prayer.
Forty-five minutes later we enter the box canyon sheltering one of our favorite Colorado towns.
The sign greets us. “Welcome to Ouray, Colorado. Established 1876.”
Wildflowers dot the alpine meadows and Ouray is listed as the Jeep Capitol of the U.S.
A whole network of trails and passes and beauty to discover lives here.
“Switzerland of America,” another sign reads.
Main street rolls out before us and the San Juan mountains stand beyond, breathtakingly beautiful.
Ouray tucks neatly in the center with mountains wrapped around it in on three and a half sides like a hen shelters her chicks.
It’s time for lunch. We park on a side street in front of the city council and public library doors.
We follow the sidewalk, turn, assess our options.
Ouray Brewing Company offers a rooftop outdoor eating area. The good farmer and our daughter dined their last year on their Colorado motorcycle trip.
Down the block and across the street, we see a place for pizza and an outdoor piazza.
We opt for pizza.
Mostly because when we stop at the entrance to the Brewing Company there’s a sign.
“Closed on Thursdays due to lack of staff,” it tells us.
We walk the block. Add in steps for our day. Maybe they’ll counteract the carbs.
There’s a bench in front of Ouray Bookshop. I leave my good farmer there with the views and his phone. I venture in to browse printed pages, literary lover’s collectibles, and local maps and guides.
The Bookshop resides in part of a historic hotel. Vintage wooden floors meet soaring ceilings and the glass front doors stand open wide. Shelves embrace books of varied genre and stickers and bookmarks stand vigil by the cashier. I turn; gaze out the open doors. I’m struck by the perfect frame they give to the sheltering mountain peaks. My soul sings.
I don’t leave my farmer benched for too long.
We pass a bakery and cross the street.
My farmer pauses at the corner.
There’s a 2021ish Honda CRF 450 RL parked here.
Last year a Honda 90s something XR450L occupied this spot.
Parked exactly the same. Backed neatly to the curb. Kickstand on the white line.
My farmer looks. There’s a detail he’s curious about.
There above the taillight, he finds what he’s looking for.
A sticker with a word and definition.
Coddiwomple: to travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.
Same sticker. Different location on a different dirt bike.
We guess that the owner works at the nearby hardware and he’s upgraded his motorcycle since a year went by.
Listed the old one. Shopped for new. Ordered another sticker.
We delight in the day. We notice the details.
Our windows are rolled down and the sun beams in the open moon roof we’d powered open miles back.
The old mining town hunkers in the warm sunlight.
The peaks encircle the town in a hug.
We meander through the dirt streets.
We wander and wonder.
And we wander into an encounter.
We roll next to a church. White clapboard shines brightly, foundation lists a bit, steeple stretches in admiration toward the mountain pines.
A silver Honda Pilot is pulled at an angle and parked next to the sidewalk and front steps.
My good farmer man has his elbow propped on our windowsill.
Leaning on a three-wheeled walker, phone in hand, a silver-haired woman waves it in his direction. “Will you take our picture?” she queries. The good farmer brakes, steps onto the Silverton street.
“We were married here sixty years ago today,” she shares the tiniest sliver of their story. Beside her, her groom beams acknowledgment. We exclaim congratulations while my farmer man reaches for her phone.
We tell them it’s amazing and fantastic.
“Not many people get to claim sixty years,” I say.
“Particularly with the same man.” She replies with an effusive laugh.
“You’ll have to share your secrets with us.” I make the request.
She doesn’t hesitate. “Marry your best friend,” she says.
He stands against her, the glow of contentment brushing the smile across his jaw.
I’m sure they could list a myriad more.
Sixty years have elapsed, but love hasn’t. Commitment hasn’t.
Agility and mobility have changed, decreased, waned.
But friendship and togetherness haven’t. Marking anniversaries hasn’t.
My farmer hands the phone back. They thank him heartily.
We smile, wave, roll on again.
The practice of living loved. Of marking moments. Of giving gratitude.
Scrawled across the dry-erase board on the refrigerator front, red marker welcomes us in and lists the wifi password. A bottle of wine and a corkscrew are ensconced on the ivory and bronze granite of the island. Another welcome to this cozy Airbnb. Artwork and posters of the nearby area decorate the walls.
We wind open the window and the low mountain air circles through the rooms.
My good farmer stretches out across the couch, a pillow under his head. The ceiling fan vibrates and hums.
I find a glass. Hold it to the ice dispenser and fill it to the brim. The ice rattles and the icemaker gurgles to life as it begins the refilling process.
On the counter, a neatly organized three-ring binder lists local attractions, good restaurants, and the needed information pertaining to our home-away-from-home.
I peruse the pages.
Placing my icy lemonade on the coffee table, I gaze out the front window. I pull the throw blanket from the recliner back and settle myself, lifting the footrest. I’ve been pondering lists and practices.
I wander in my mind.
We are people who like to list things.
We are people who like to proclaim.
Proclamations, decrees, manifestos.
Whether it be on t-shirts, bumper stickers, memes, stickers on a dirt bike, back windows, side panels of a pickup, stickers on our Hydroflask, we like to tell what we stand for, what we love, who we love.
“Here’s the thing,” I think.
We can create lists, to-do and otherwise, we can make wishlists, long or otherwise, we can enlist help, wander listless, relist, stocklist.
We can be traditionalists, sentimentalists.
We may cross paths with fundamentalists, stumble onto sensationalists.
We may complete the checklist, read the pricelist, add to our watchlist, meet the novelist.
But we only pass this way once.
The patterns and practices of our days impact our lives.
The proclamations and pronouncements form us.
There’s a ka-chunk in the kitchen as the icemaker completes the cycle. The mountain breeze whispers around the room and the ice in my lemonade melts, melds, mixes with the lemons and sugar. My farmer sleeps. I ponder; drift back through the week.
We become consumed by what we consume.
We become what we behold.
Our direction affects our destination.
My friend Allison, writes, “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.”
Focus on the stress; we’ll become distressed.
Hone in on the hurts and we’ll always hurt others.
Zero in on only the wishlists and we’ll become restless.
Maybe, in the midst of our lists, whether a worklist or a wishlist, there are practices and rhythms we can enlist in our lives.
Lists to serve us well. Pronouncements to live in to. Lists to proclaim a formational way.
Manifestos to mark our motivations.
A Rule of Life.
A way that leads to wonder.
Not to function as a checklist or a to-do list, but as a collection to grace the shelves of our lives.
A collection to offer peace and hope and beauty and truth and comfort and delight.
A collection we take out daily rather than leave to gather dust.
A collection to keep company with.
I tumble from the recliner in search of my journal.
My pen scratches across the nubby page.
A list again.
A collection curated from our week, from our emotions, our encounters, our adventures, our misadventures, our ups-and-downs, our human experience in this world.
A Collection to Keep Company With
Become our Own Friend.
Consecrate the Now.
Delight in the Day.
Frolic with a Friend.
Find Comfort in Contentment.
Learn to Listen.
Mark the Moments.
Notice the Details.
Orchestrate a Way of Welcome.
Practice the Pause.
Sit with our Souls.
Write out the Gratitude List.
Wander with Wonder.