House Therapy: Chapter Two
John and I grew up in Minnesota, surrounded by lots and lots of water. Our birth place is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and that’s not just a trite motto, though it is a misnomer: There actually are 11,842 lakes more than 10 acres in size, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and thousands of smaller bodies of water, plus wetlands, creeks and rivers.
When you drive around the state, it’s nearly impossible to travel very far without seeing water of some sort. “There are five lakes within one mile of where I’m sitting right now,” one of my brothers who lives there told me last night via FaceTime from his backyard that overlooks a pond.
Water is omnipresent and plentiful.
In Colorado, where we’ve lived for more than 20 years, water feels more special, and we aren’t even as choosy about what size body of water we casually call a “lake.” In selecting this beautiful state for our home, we traded The Land of Sky Blue Waters (start humming, my Minnesota people) for the land of blue skies and mountains, which are both very plentiful here.
The several times I was in a car traveling to Colorado from the Midwest as a kid and young adult, I remember getting so excited as we got close and constantly scanning the horizon until I finally saw the dramatic outline of the Front Range beginning to rise. And for many months after John and I moved here, every time I caught a view of the mountains while I was driving around Denver, I would pinch myself and smile with the glee of a five-year-old, and feel a rising rush in my chest at how lucky I was to actually live here.
Decades later, the vistas in our state continue to astound and thrill me, and the loss of summers at the beach, exploring lakes by watercraft, and experiencing the peace of quiet, lapping water, has never felt like a sacrifice.
Yet when John and I first “discovered” the northern part of Grand County, Colorado, one summer, it was like finding a little bit of Minnesota, but on steroids. As we drove north on Highway 34 and passed multiple lakes and saw marinas, waterside houses, people hauling boats behind trucks, white sails dotting the water, and canoes stacked in yards, as well as smelled the familiar scent of boat-motor exhaust, nostalgia hit me big time.
This area has such a similar vibe to northern Minnesota, but is even more visually spectacular because the lake and forest views are punctuated by an exclamation mark of mountain peaks from the Never Summer Mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Indian Peaks and Byers Peak Wilderness areas that encircle it. It truly is Grand. And to us, it feels like the perfect mix of Minnesota and Colorado.
“Can you imagine living here?” we asked in wonder.
That seems like such a long time ago now; so much life has happened since then. But I’ll never forget my reaction to the area my first time driving it.
So when John approached me in 2018 about maybe finally buying mountain property, there was no question about where said house or cabin would be located. Over the years, we had begun to spend more and more time in northern Grand County for long weekends, particularly during the winter when we came up for cross-country skiing. We had even found our favorite neighborhood, staying in the same VRBO cabin there three times. John had been following the real estate market in the area for years, keeping track of listings that came available, even though I had never up to that point said, “Yes.”
It has never occurred to me to ask John, “What made you bring it up at that time, so soon after I was assaulted? Why then? What was your thought process?”
I had thought about it from my point of view. As I mentioned in Chapter One: “Are you insane? I don’t have the mental energy for this right now!” At that point, I had just started to venture back out into the world a bit and was working some, but was still overwhelmed by everyday tasks and fearful because my attacker hadn’t been caught.
So as I’m sitting here writing this post in headphones across the dining-room table from John, who is remote-working due to COVID, I decide to catch him in between conference calls and ask.
And the conversation goes something like:
“I’m almost finished with this blog entry, but I need to ask you a question.”
“Do you remember why you brought up buying a mountain house when you did? You know, after my assault?”
“That’s a really good question. I don’t know. I think maybe I was thinking about how bad the ski traffic was the previous year and that it was really getting to me.”
“I don’t know, maybe I was thinking about how it’d be good to finally have some annuity income.”
Pause. Frustration. OK, well that sort of makes sense because I wasn’t able to work much at the time. And maybe he was thinking we’d need more sources of income.
But is my hope for a more blog-worthy anecdote for the origin story of this “love affair with a house” going to bear more useable fruit?
“I think I also remember us having a conversation about how maybe you’d feel safer if we weren’t in Denver.”
Aha! There it is! I can use that!
… But of course, I don’t remember that conversation at all.
So I am left with, basically: “We just decided to do it.”
It happened after a string of events and a life lived together, 30 years of marriage, lots of conversations and car rides to Grand County, and sharing our dreams with one another, and falling in love with a place.
That moment? It wasn’t poetic or overly sentimental. I was tired; he needed something. I said OK, and he said OK.
We made the decision using the memory of our dreams and the map of our lives that remained with us, ever a constant.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of House Therapy.