Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

Missing Out

In Colorado, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on January 19, 2018 at 8:46 pm







Once upon a time, the good people at Colorado Free University offered me a job as their assistant director of courses or some such title. It would have been perfect except I couldn’t live on the salary they were offering. A single woman on my own with no fall-back position, I had to be practical, and the job that eventually came along was one I thought I really wanted. I wanted to work with adult students who were creating portfolios of prior learning for college credit, and that’s the job I got, but as frequently happens, these things don’t turn out the way you expect.
While I became a master of portfolio learning, developing courses and teaching and helping hundreds of students, I also learned that colleges and faculty really don’t want people to learn outside the classroom. It’s more lucrative to keep students penned in by the way the teacher wants them to learn. Ultimately, the colleges want to maintain control.
CFU and similar programs across the country are different. They grew out of the upheaval of the 1960s and many remain today as both resources for and reflections of the communities they serve. CFU has grown a lot since then and become somewhat more corporate, but they still offer an astonishingly wide variety of classes open to anybody who wants to sign up. That’s what the “free” is all about. The cost of taking a class is definitely NOT free.
A recent Facebook post from CFU read, “Lots of classes in our building tonight. I love walking by and seeing the lively interaction and hearing the learning going on! Here are a few:
Carol Core explains a thrifty way to finance building your own custom home.
Lee Claymore talks about preparing for Medicare.
Lisa Sveland shows folks how to be Money Smart.
Caitlin Berve leads students in Origami.
What wonderful variety!”

In my “road not taken” moments, I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different it I had said yes to that job. It must be wonderful to be surrounded by people learning things they really want to learn. I like the idea so much that I set the cozy mystery I may or may not be writing at an adult education arts colony in the Colorado mountains. I’m learning that one of the reasons to write fiction is to create a world you’d like to spend time in. I can only live one life at a time, but I can imagine so many alternate universes. I may end up writing this book after all.


Losing. It’s a Good Thing.

In Colorado, Learning, Learning Tools on January 16, 2018 at 9:11 am

Someone once said that a world without men would be full of fat, happy women, implying that the only reason for us to get or stay thin is to attract men. Maybe. I started to gain weight when I was about 40, which is typically when our metabolism starts to slow, but in my case also accompanied a bitter breakup. On some level, I think I didn’t do anything about it then because I wanted to keep men away, at least in a romantic sense. I’ve always had great male friends.

Anyway, I joined WeightWatchers. Reading about the different habits of thin people informs me that thin people eat when they’re hungry. Fat people eat when it’s time. Being diabetic exacerbates this because we have to eat regularly, no skipping meals.

Thin people don’t sit still. They stand and move around and fidget.

Thin people weigh themselves. Oh, boy. If there’s anything I hate more than exercise, it’s weighing myself. These are habits I need to develop, though, and I can do that.

Apparently, Colorado has the highest percentage of people with a normal weight, neither overweight nor obese, in the nation. I guess I’m what you call an outlier.

The state has the country’s largest system of city parks, more than 3 million acres of national parks and forests, 10 major ski resorts, and 400 mountain-biking trails. In addition, 20 percent of Coloradans belong to health clubs―the second-highest percentage in the United States. (Delaware has the highest.) Colorado’s weather also helps with 300-plus days each year when it’s nice to be outside. Staying indoors is something else I need to change.

My reasons for losing weight are many:
To decrease my diabetes medication.
To relieve the pain in my knees.
To make exercise easier.
To buy new clothes in a size that doesn’t embarrass me.
To move through the world more comfortably.

And no one is more surprised at this than I am, but there’s this man. . .

Did You Miss Me While I Was Gone?

In Colorado, Denver, Friends on January 15, 2018 at 9:18 am

I took last week off from blog posting because I was entertaining an out-of-town guest, Florida Boy. To be clear, I don’t do that. I neither have nor entertain out-of-town guests, so this was a first for me.

I drew on my childhood when we had lots of relatives and friends visit, mostly from Iowa. Back then we’d head to Estes Park and Trail Ridge Road or Central City (before gambling) closer to town. I no longer go to Central City, although I understand that much of the original town remains unchanged and I’d like to see the face on the barroom floor again.

We did go to Estes Park but didn’t see any elk roaming through town. I pointed out the Stanley Hotel, and remembering The Shining, he asked if the town gets snowed in during the winter. It is winter, I reminded him, and there wasn’t a snowflake to be found. Too bad Trail Ridge Road is closed nine months of the year. That would have shown him some snow.

Nor did we see any snow on our trip to Idaho Springs, my favorite mountain town. The drive back through Clear Creek canyon did offer miles of thick ice on the creek and stunning up-close views of our famously rugged mountains. Just for good measure, we drove up Lariat Trail to the top of Lookout Mountain where we saw one lone deer by the side of the road but still no snow. He did love the view to the west from the Buffalo Bill parking lot showing range after range after range of mountains as far as we could see.

We went to the Stock Show one night and saw the wonderful gallery of western art plus the obligatory cowboys, ranchers, and cows.

Of course these days, the quintessential Colorado experience is a marijuana shop, and we went there, too, noticing that nobody lollygags there, presumably because once they buy their stash they’re eager to get home to enjoy it.

The quintessential Denver experience is the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant with Colorado’s first liquor license, and we went there, too. Everyone from elsewhere should go there for the food and the ambiance.

The Florida Boy was confounded by people wearing shorts here in January even though the weather was relatively mild all week. He was also amazed at people eating on restaurant patios in 40-degree temperatures.

While we stayed busy, we saved many things for him to see on his next visit. Here in Colorado, we have a never-ending supply of wonders.

A Matter of Time

In Colorado, Denver on January 1, 2018 at 7:19 am

It was only a matter of time. You had to know that this old hippie would eventually find my way into a marijuana store.
During the seventies and eighties my friends and I would dream of a day when marijuana would be legal, and we could just go to a store and buy some or stop at a neighborhood bar for a smoke. Now the former has been here for several years and the latter is on the near horizon, and yet I had never ventured into a dispensary even while they sprang up on almost every corner in Denver.
Did you know that Denver has twice as many pot shops as Starbucks? Colorado as a whole has three times as many pot shops as Starbucks, so they are far from obscure or hard to find. And, of course, its LEGAL for adults to just walk in and buy something, nothing illicit about it.
But I had never gone into one. I stopped smoking marijuana more than 20 years ago and no longer thought of myself as someone who “did that.”
In fact, it took a friend planning a visit from out of state to remind me that it was part of being a Coloradan now, and I really should take advantage of it. And now there are edibles, too.
So, I researched the best store in Denver (The Joint on West 38th, if you’re interested) and off I went. “I want something to help me relax that doesn’t make me cough up a lung,” I told the cute, young clerk. He eyed me and asked, “Are you looking for pain relief or do you want to get high?” Given my age, I suppose that was a logical question.
I just smiled and said, “Oh, I want to get high.” He recommended their best seller, a white chocolate bar containing both CBD for pain relief and THC to get high. “It gives you a nice full-body high,” he said, whatever that means.
He warned me not to take more than one dose because it takes an hour or so before you start feeling the effects and lasts a couple of hours.
I’ve enjoyed it enough to know that my first trip to a marijuana store will not be my last. And my friend comes to town in a week, so I’ll get to play host Colorado style and show him around. The only problem is that I really hate shopping, so I’m looking forward to someday being able to order my chocolate from Amazon.
As I said, it’s only a matter of time.

She Loves You

In Colorado, Denver, music on November 30, 2017 at 7:12 am

One month after the devastating assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit American radio stations, including KIMN here in Denver. I remember thinking it was a strange title for a song by a group named after bugs, but the song was fabulous—cheery and optimistic. If there was one thing this country needed right then, it was a little optimism and good cheer.

It debuted on the KIMN top fifty chart on my 16th birthday in January of 1964 and I’ve felt a special connection with the Fab Four ever since. Paul McCartney has broken my heart three times in the past 53 years by marrying other women when I was the one he was clearly meant to be with. When I was 16, he was too old for me. Now I’m too old for him. Sometimes the world just sucks.

That summer they came to Red Rocks and I wanted to go more than I’ve ever wanted anything before or maybe since. Somehow, I had the $6.60 for a ticket. Very expensive for that era. They went on sale at the downtown Denver Theater box office on a Saturday and my dad had to work that morning. I was inconsolable, convinced they’d be sold out before I could get there. Miraculously, they were not sold out and my brother and I both bought tickets. As we would later learn, the concert at Red Rocks was the only venue on their first US tour that didn’t sell out. I have no idea why.

Danny and I went to the concert and I am eternally grateful to him for taking his younger sister to the biggest event of the year. That was my first concert at Red Rocks and still ranks among my peak experiences. Watching Ron Howard’s sensational documentary Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years last night on PBS brought it all back.

If I seem to have a little extra spring in my step today, it’s because I’m feeling 16 again.

First Snow

In Arvada, Colorado, Learning, neighborhood, solitude on October 10, 2017 at 9:23 am

The woman in the grocery store gave me a big smile and said, “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day.” I agreed. The first snow of the season was falling in huge, fat flakes making everything seem peaceful and a little miraculous even in this aging suburban strip mall.

The national news, as usual, made a big deal out of our early taste of winter and people around the country congratulated themselves for not living in a place where winter came in early October. If they only knew. Here in Colorado, we celebrated the arrival of the peak tourist season with a foot or more of snow in the mountains and a few inches in Denver. A couple of ski areas plan to open this weekend.

Today, the snow has mostly disappeared in town with sunshine and warmer temperatures melting the rest before the day ends.

This is fall in Colorado, where a little blip of early snow doesn’t phase us. Some of us (me!) like it. The sun is shining and my maple tree has turned a bright and glorious red-orange. As I sit at my computer I watch the leaves drop slowly one by one. In a week they’ll all be gone for another year.

I’ll never understand those who think snow alone makes a terrible horrible no good very bad day. They live in warm climates and brag that they will never again have to shovel snow. My condo association takes care of that now, but at my house, I kind of liked shoveling snow unless we had a foot or more of heavy accumulation. If my back hurt, I didn’t have to do it all at once, and with my neighbors also outside shoveling and calling to one another, it was a social event. As I grew older, they sent their little boys to shovel my walk for me.

Remember that episode of Northern Exposure where the whole town celebrated the first snow by wishing one another “bon hiver” (good winter)? I wish we had that tradition here instead of having to listen to people lamenting its arrival.

Time to burrow in, light a fire or a candle or burn some pinon incense. Time to bake bread and make a pot of chili. Time to appreciate the quiet time and cultivate interior resources. Time to rest and rejuvenate.

Bon hiver.


In Colorado, Home, Learning, spirituality on October 2, 2017 at 7:29 am

“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”

That was written by an unknown author and is sometimes identified as a wiccan chant, which seems appropriate for this time of year.

Most people name fall as their favorite season and October as their favorite month. In Denver, October usually encompasses three seasons. We transition from fall to winter and, if we’re lucky, back to Indian summer unseasonably warm dry weather after a killing frost. That first frost comes around October 7 and the first snow on October 18. Get ready.

This is the only time of the year when almost everyone takes a drive into the mountains just to see the scenery. You have to be on your toes because fall color doesn’t last long in the high country. Blink and you’ll miss it. We’ve already had our first major snowfall above 10,000 feet.

Here in the city, the leaves turn more leisurely from green to yellow to red. It still ends pretty quickly. One day the trees will be glorious in their fall color, and then a wind comes overnight and the limbs are bare.

That begins a cherished fall ritual, raking leaves. Meanwhile, a few stubborn flowers still bloom –zinnias, pansies, asters, mums. People start stocking up on Halloween candy and decorating their houses and yards with witches, black cats, goblins and ghosts. We ask one another, “What will you be on Halloween?”

First, though, we have to endure the annual culture clash of Columbus Day, aka Indigenous Peoples Day.

This year the harvest moon—the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which usually comes in September—rises on October 5. I still have my windows and back door open for at least a few hours on most days. The farmers’ markets have ended and pumpkin patches and corn mazes sprout all over.

Grab a cup of hot apple cider, carve a pumpkin, and enjoy the show.

Winter soon will come.

Up, Up, and Away

In Colorado, solitude, spirituality on September 20, 2017 at 4:32 pm








Heading west on I70 from Arvada, it doesn’t take long to get out of the city and into the mountains. In a few short minutes, I pass Denver West and voila! Foothills.

Today, I’m heading south to Morrison and then west through Bear Creek Canyon to O’Fallon Park in Kittredge.

One of Denver’s 22 mountain parks, O’Fallon appears on the left just before the town of Kittredge. Bear Creek loops through it, and the park features fishing, plus picnic tables, restrooms, and hiking trails. It’s my favorite Denver mountain park with the possible exception of Red Rocks.

Nah, Red Rocks is beautiful but it has too many people.

At 6,900 feet, Kittredge isn’t high enough for fall colors this early in the season, but I didn’t come here to see aspen. I came for peace. Highway 74 winds through the canyon with craggy rock faces rising on either side. Occasionally, the valley widens for a small creekside meadow. Dark green pines cover the opposite hillside. I feel my stress level easing.

I turn into the entrance and park near the picnic tables. First, I walk along the creek, listening to the water rolling over the rocks and breathing in the pine-scented air. A highway sign at Morrison had warned of “bear activity in the area,” so I try keeping an eye on my surroundings. At the fork in the trail, a woman searches in vain for earwigs for her daughter’s biology class. Her dog, Zoey, greets me. I learn that I am the only one there without a dog. I see half a dozen other people, five women and one man, each walking a dog.

The weather is sunny but not hot, and I need my jacket to eat my lunch and read at a shady picnic table, the creek burbling at my back. I write in my journal and notice that foot and dog traffic is picking up. Too many people. Time to head home.

It only took three hours to clear my head and renew my spirit. I forget sometimes that the mountains are more than a pretty backdrop for the city and a way to tell which way is west.

I need to do this more often.

Fall Back

In Colorado, spirituality on September 19, 2017 at 11:01 am

Contrary to popular opinion, seasons don’t change because of a change in the earth’s distance from the sun. Rather, it’s because of the tilt of the earth’s axis. Whatever its cause, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t’ like fall. They may grouse about the coming of winter, which to me is a good thing, but the biggest complaint about fall is that it doesn’t last long enough.

Although it isn’t my favorite season—that would be spring—I always look forward to fall. Here are some of the best things about this time of year.

The weather, of course. The end of 90-degree temperatures and the great-for-sleeping cool nights.

Changing leaves. All news outlets have daily updates about the best places to see the changing aspen leaves in the mountains. We have to be quick because any day a snowstorm may obliterate the pretty vistas. In the city, we have both a longer season and more variety of trees and colors.

Jackets and sweaters. I don’t know why I love jackets and sweaters so much, maybe because they feel so cozy.

Socks. Fall signals the return of socks and we have a great sock store in Olde Town Arvada. They opened just before summer when just the thought of socks made my feet sweat. Now my feet and I are both (all?) ready.

School supply sales. I graduated high school 51years ago, and yet I still buy a few school supplies every year when they go on sale. Who doesn’t need glue sticks and composition books?

Jonathan apples. Like mountain aspens, they don’t last long, so I have to be quick. Young’s Market on West 44th is my supplier.

Scented candles. Time to stock up on cinnamon spice and vanilla candles so I’ll have them ready when I have to close the windows. Note to self: don’t forget matches.

Figure skating. My favorite sport returns in the fall and I’ll get to watch all the new young skaters and the still-hanging-in-there older ones.

Christmas music. My pastor starts listening to Christmas music in October because he’s too busy to enjoy it later in the year. If he can do it, so can I.

The end of daylight savings time. I hate it. Every year I hope the legislators will come to their senses and ban this semiannual scourge on the nation. Arizona has the right idea about this.

You won’t find me swooning over football or pumpkin spice everything or Halloween but to each his/her own.

Now I’m going to go listen to the all-time best song about fall, Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and drink a cup of hot apple cider.

Anyone want to join me?

Against the Wind

In Colorado, Friends, Home, spirituality on September 8, 2017 at 6:31 am

All I know about hurricanes is what I see on the news. Living in Colorado, we’re protected from such things by hundreds of miles of land. In fact, as natural disasters go, we don’t have much. Wildfires frequently rage out of control, destroying forests, homes, and wild life, although aside from stirring up our allergies they don’t affect us in the city. We don’t have major earthquakes, and tornadoes generally touch down in wide open spaces. We do have the occasional devastating flood, but again, since 1965, not in the city. The worst a blizzard does is make leaving home inadvisable for a day or two. Big deal.

I have never known anyone personally who was directly affected by any of these things. No one I know lost their home or their life in any of these events. To me, they’ve always just been stories I watch on TV for a couple of days until the next news cycle kicks in.

I go about my business, watching the carnival for this weekend’s Harvest Festival assemble in the theaters’ parking lot, wondering when the remodeled theaters will reopen, and looking forward to my church’s annual bluegrass tent service on Sunday.

Hurricane Irma is different, not only because it’s the biggest, baddest hurricane on record but because I have a friend in its path. That changes everything. He lives on the Atlantic coast of central Florida and gives me regular updates on his preparations. I’m scared this time, for him. If he decides to leave, given the gasoline shortages and traffic jams, will he be able to get out? If he stays, will he survive? What will he lose?

Having someone you care about affected makes all the difference, even if it shouldn’t. So, while I pray for all the people in Florida and the Caribbean, I’m really praying that God will protect my friend.