This month it’s been five years since I first laid eyes on my cabin. That day was unpromising and gray with a somber cloud layer blocking the full sunlight. April is the most mundane month in the mountains. The snow has either disappeared entirely or hangs on in mud-encrusted patches, exposing a barren landscape that is a kind of raw brown that makes you ache for something green.
I had been searching for a cabin in the mountains for probably five years but every time I talked to a realtor, the prices were still out of my range. But that spring, a few cabins were finally affordable, and I had been driving around Allenspark and checking them out (with the help of my realtor and friend Shoney, to whom I owe a great debt). Most were either too plain, too cramped, too dark, or too deep into the woods with no views.
I think unconsciously I was trying to refind the Wisconsin cabin of my childhood where I had spent a few weeks every summer with my family, a place where I first discovered a deep love of nature (Thunder Lake, left). As a child, it was a place I loved more than anything, where I felt more at home than my family’s suburban house outside of Chicago.
When I first peeked inside the window of this small cabin in Meeker Park, I saw the same knotty-pine walls of the Wisconsin cabin, the same large stone fireplace and same intimate space—familiar and endearing. It wasn’t until I came back a few days later with Shoney and followed her lead down the road that I realized right above me was Mount Meeker, looming, powerful and enticing.
The thing about dreams is that you’re always afraid they’ll never measure up to reality. Buying a cabin is not an impulsive act; if it doesn’t work out you can’t just walk away from it and decide you’ll try something else. When it came time to make a bid on the cabin, I got cold feet. What was I doing? My sister gave me the best advice: Imagine your life without the cabin. And when I did, it felt empty, disappointing, like something was missing.
How can something be missing that you don’t even know exists? Yet every year at this cabin has revealed something new. Even though I had hiked in the Colorado mountains for more than 30 years, living here, even part time, has shown me things I wasn’t aware of: like the pollen released every June from the ponderosas—a green cloud almost smothering the landscape, or the frogs I hear every spring and the haunting sound of the screech owl across the valley. It’s being here through the night and able to stand on the deck and stare up at the countless stars in a black sky, framed through the tips of the poderosas, and feel like you’re touching infinity.
Here, I’m immersed in nature, not just a day visitor, but one with a front-row seat to unfolding nature: black bears, moose and elk ambling down the road, a bobcat on my front porch, hummingbirds coming to the feeder; pasqueflowers emerging in April (above).
More than that, I didn’t know that I would find a place where my heart could settle, that in this place of peace and beauty, away from the distractions of the world, I could finally settle down with myself, become aware of parts of myself I had long ago buried, and even resurrect them, bring them to the light.
I followed my dream, but I had no idea it would take me so far.