When I bought my cabin, I wanted a place to experience nature and solitude. Yet, at the same time, I wanted a community. Not friends necessarily but a place where people were connected to each other, where I felt part of a larger group.
At my home in Boulder, I live in a subdivision with big lots and wide streets, which is wonderful for cars but not so good for neighbors talking to other neighbors. I see very few people around; many come and go through their garages, and once the garage door is closed, so is any chance for a neighborly chat about the weather.
Yet in Meeker Park, I know neighbors up and down the road and onto the next one. I think this camaraderie is due partly to the fact that everyone walks—with their dog, as exercise, with friends and to their mailbox, which is at the entrance to our road. With homes scattered throughout the woods, it has the feel of an old village.
One day this summer particularly stands out. The man who plowed my driveway in winter and was putting in my septic system, Dan Crane, came by to update me and stayed to talk. We had been in communication for the past two years, discussing soil type, pumps and the ever popular topic of the county’s unreasonable requirements—conversations that often extended into discussions of the weather, vacations and retirement.
When I went for a walk later, I ran into a neighbor down the road, and we discussed our mutual septic systems: when he had his built, how far from the house, and how deep. As we were talking, two other Meeker Park residents joined us, two of the older women who anchor this settlement, and the four of us got on the topic of the 2013 floods and how it had affected his house. When I escorted one woman home, helping her across my weed patch yard and avoiding the two big test holes for the septic system, my next-door neighbor came out, and the three of us discussed the new addition to his cabin.
That kind of accidental, small gatherings would be rare in my Boulder subdivision. But in this mountain neighborhood I think we’re more bound to each other because of its remoteness and isolation. During the floods and in big snowstorms, we make sure to check on each other. But we’re also connected by our love of this place, our willingness to put up with inconveniences—dusty roads, no easy access to Internet, no cell phone coverage, no gas stations or restaurants nearby.
Maybe that’s why it was such a huge shock when Dan was killed in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago. He was well known in the larger Allenspark community, someone who always stepped in when help was needed. During the 2013 floods, Dan had done some heroic acts—rescuing people stranded on Coyote Hill above me when the creek took out the road (grateful residents renamed the road in his honor, adding a yellow ribbon after he died, above), and building a raft to extricate logs that had dammed a pond by Saint Malo, so the road could be opened.
In this small village, hundreds attended his funeral. For many people, myself included, it felt like a huge piece of this interwoven fabric of community had been torn out, leaving a giant hole. At the same time, I’m grateful to be part of a community where one person’s absence sends shock waves through this mountain enclave of cabins, forests and fields. It seems a rare thing.