Gratitude for the village: on moving back to the SLV

I’m grateful for the whispers of intuition, gut feelings, and divine intervention from friends, strangers, and angels, all of which have guided us to recognize most of the major crossings on this razor’s edge path we’re dancing along as Henry and I move yet again, but this time back to the San Luis Valley. Clearly, the giant magnet buried under the valley, and the frog spirits, have called us back to our home of all but one of the last twenty years.  

Here’s kinda how it happened:

Within ten minutes of walking downtown for coffee last June when I was here in Alamosa teaching a summer session at Adams State University, I received about ten hugs, more than enough to bring me to tears and the realization that this—Alamosa and the greater San Luis Valley—is our community, and why were we still struggling in Dolores? When I broached the idea of moving back to friends and to colleagues at ASU, they were pretty unanimous in their enthusiasm. The department chair promised to put my name back on the schedule for teaching English by spring 2015. After teaching my class, I found myself driving the back roads, looking for places that might accommodate us and our horse Esperanza, a place on the fringe of Alamosa with studio space and pasture.

Henry was not hard to convince. Although he’d found ample volunteer work teaching life skills and art to kids in the Cortez area, he hadn’t had much luck finding paying work, and neither had I. Even though we had both taught through the local community college for a semester, I realized that even as an adjunct professor, I could make twice the pay here at ASU. We hoped that our years of interacting with the SLV community would aid Henry in finding meaningful, paying work.

Four days after we listed our little Dolores farm for sale, our buyers, the young couple who are now, as of today in fact, the official owners, drove up for a house-viewing. After shaking hands and introducing us to their young son, Henry and I realized that we were about to pass on stewardship of our sweet little place to them. It was exactly what they were looking for. We had no trouble coming to an agreement, and the only sad part of the deal is that they will live there, and we will live here.

Next came a series of logistical problems; the first was how to move our horses back to the valley. While I was arranging this—another cool story of gratitude that I’ll tell in a bit—I had a persistent feeling that Esperanza’s two year old daughter Cinnamon was not coming with us. I kept picturing a wonderful horseperson in the Dolores/Cortez area giving Cinnamon a new home. And that’s exactly what happened. Lisa Bell, wife of our barefoot trimmer Rob Bell, came to our little farm while Rob was trimming both our girls one day, and fell in love with Cinnamon. In the spirit of how Esperanza was gifted to me, Henry and I gifted Cinnamon to Lisa.  Now we know that Cinnamon has a great home, and even better, a great teacher. Cinnamon will be a terrific, well-mannered trail horse, probably trained for endurance rides. At least that’s what Lisa is picturing. Lucky Cinnamon! I’m so happy for her.

Lisa and I arranged for some training sessions for Esperanza; I traded one of my mosaic horse paintings for them. Under Lisa’s gentle and patient guidance, Esperanza and I started to regain some of the confidence and ground we had both lost by trying to keep up with the pressure, time constraints, agendas, and competitive undertow that seemed inherent (but perhaps unintended) to the natural horsemanship clinics we had experienced through my cousin’s ranch. Those clinics may be a great format for some people and their horses; all I know is they didn’t work for us. I think it’s ironic that Esperanza and I found the kind of horseperson we need to work with in the 11th hour before our move. But I am very grateful, and I have a feeling we’re not done working with each other yet.

Next came the problem of moving my unfinished marble Goddess, air compressor, stone, and sculpture tables. Thanks to our neighbor Rawlin and our friends Pete and Sharon and their kids, we loaded up our ’96 Ford 150 pickup and winced when saw how flattened the springs were. Henry and I traded off the stress of driving the truck, which was truly overloaded and dangerous going downhill. I’m grateful to all the patient strangers piled up in back of me when I inched the old truck down Cumbres Pass. I was even more grateful to descend to the relative flat of the San Luis Valley where I could drive that truck at a fairly normal speed without fear of catapulting off a cliff. Gordon—my long past sculpture mentor—must have been watching over me. I’m grateful to Trudi and John who are letting us park the truck, still overloaded, under their pole barn until we’re ready to assemble another brainy and brawny crew to unload it at our new digs.

I’m grateful to Dean who agreed that we stash another pile of sculpture-related stuff in back of his warehouse, and to Carla and Paul for taking on our houseplants and generously housing us during our many back and forth trips this August.

The next major event to arrange was hauling Esperanza over the mountain, and for that I am grateful to my Jaroso friend Clara and her daughter Caitie who made the entire round trip from Jaroso to Dolores in one day, and to Clara’s powerful diesel truck and long stock trailer, and to Esperanza, who loaded without hardly any hesitation, and to my friend Julie in Alamosa who agreed to board Esperanza with her two mares until we have our own digs.

Now Henry and I are nested in a pop-up camper in back of Mark and Rhonda’s house, our current, cozy home between homes. Despite Henry’s and my concerted effort to organize our essential day-to-day stuff into “Don’t bury” boxes, we ended up losing control of the U-haul unloading , so most of those boxes are now buried somewhere in one of three storage lockers. Ask us where something is and we are likely to throw up our hands. I was so relieved that the first thing Mark said to me was “My casa is your casa.” It can be so tricky to live in someone else’s household without stepping on toes or giving unintended offense, so we are doubly grateful for the relaxed feel of this house, not to mention hearing Rhonda’s smoky voice singing in the bathroom.

As Rhonda has quipped, it is taking a village to move Kathy and Henry back to the valley.

One more thing: Although it may sound pop-cultury of me to say this, I am actually very grateful to have the social platform of Facebook because checking in daily helps assure me of the support of my community, both near and far. I needed to feel that connection, especially this last winter which was truly one of my lowest times, full of self-doubt and disappointment, confusion and depression. The paintings I made (and posted on Facebook) during that time morphed into mosaics of horses; the first of the series is titled Horseshards. I slowly realized that the paintings were about reassembling a shattered dream, and that painting them was helping me.

In the same way, the greater San Luis Valley community, from the borderlands of Jaroso to the hub of Alamosa, is helping Henry and me reassemble our lives and continue our dance along that delicious and dicey edge. And for that, we are deeply grateful.


2 comments on “Gratitude for the village: on moving back to the SLV
  1. Kathy, Thanks for sharing this remarkable and amazing journey with your readers. I knew some of the pieces but your written words helped me put the complete story into perspective. Like that BIG YELLOW sign said, Welcome Home Kathy and Henry!

  2. And of all people to thank that I have forgotten to mention, I need to include you, Mary, for your physical help during the unloading, and for your friendship and support throughout this whole process, and over the years. Many thanks.

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