Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

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.

Almost Native

In Colorado, Home, spirituality on June 9, 2017 at 6:47 am

Colorado is the most beautiful state in the U.S. That’s a stupid statement, I know. First, beauty is subjective. Science has yet to invent an objective scale to measure relative beauty. Second, while I have seen quite a lot of the state, I sure haven’t seen it all. Third, even if I had seen it all, I haven’t seen every bit of every other state with which to compare it. Nevertheless.

My family moved to Denver on my third birthday. We had a party in the morning, and then packed up the car and left Des Moines for good. I always considered both the city and the state to be my birthday gift. When they came to visit (and a lot of them came to visit), my Iowa relatives told me how lucky I was to live in Colorado.

We would take them up to Central City (before gambling) to see the face on the barroom floor and to Garden of the Gods and to Estes Park.

On my parents’ summer vacations, we ventured farther afield. Most of the time we camped in a station wagon with roof top tent my dad made from a pattern in Popular Mechanics.

When I was 10, we took our most memorable trip, driving west to Grand Junction then south to Ouray, “The Switzerland of America.” Still heading south we drove the harrowing hairpin turns of the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton. Carved into the side of a mountain in the 1880s, the narrow road is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. Ask anyone.

We also rode the narrow gauge railroad between Silverton and Durango and then headed west to Mesa Verde. The ancient and mysterious cliff dwellings moved me deeply although the precarious cliffside position scared the piss out of me (literally, but that’s Too Much Information). Let’s just say I learned that year that I have a fear of heights.

Our last stop was Four Corners, where we took the obligatory pictures standing in four states at once before heading home to Denver.

I defy anyone to take that trip and not believe Colorado scenery, from the city to the mountains to the desert, surpasses everything else in the country.

I feel the same way about Colorado that Eliot felt about E.T.

It’s mine. I’m keeping it.