Goodbye Colorado

Colorado, so often you have been my escape from an overwhelming life. You have been a place to dwell when the current moment becomes too much, somewhere the darkness cannot follow. For years you have been where I go to be safe, if only in my mind. Now, I’m afraid I need to say Goodbye to you Colorado. I’m afraid I might not need you again.

I will miss your summers with the river burbling softly through downtown Breckenridge past the coffeeshop. I will miss being covered by a sky ringed with your mountains. I will miss the inky nights glistening with stars. I will miss your blazing aspens of fall. I will miss the safe solitude of your Rockies. You are my place to hide when the world around me is unsafe on the worst days.

Blazing fall Aspen over the mountains surrounding Breckenridge, Colorado.

During the summer of a decade past, the thin air of your mountains stole the breath of someone I’d been trapped in a relationship with. Your altitude defeated their body’s lungs, and so they were sent down, banished from your high country never to return. You opened your doors to me yet kept them out, an experience I’d seldom known. You showed me I could find a place safe from them and escape the trap of my life. You gave me a space where they could not follow, where I could be free. So, I used that freedom to build an escape I could use anytime.

In younger years before your summer gift, and long before memories fell out of their hiding place deep in my head, I visited you many times. I walked among your spiking, soaring, snowcapped mountains which filled me with awe. I found tranquility meandering your meadows on the roof of the continent. You lifted my heart to the sky and gave me hope. I was never sure why I needed your hope, but I found my heart grew less heavy when held in your embrace.

Mountian towering over the town of Frisco, Colorado in Summit Country.

Over the years following that freeing summer visit, I often returned to days spent with you in Breckenridge, seeking once again the calm and comfort I’d experienced. I used simple reminders to pull me back to you: a hat I’d purchased to support historic preservation in town, photos of your landscapes, and the intense memories of how it felt to be there with you. Any of these could take me back in an instant to your comfort and safety of that brief summer visit,

You became the first of a series of was bookmarks in the weather app on my phone: Breckenridge, Disneyland, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Seattle. Places I learned to hold for myself, to recall safety. All a means of escape. Yet you are my first and best momentary refuge from the world around me. Checking your weather in Breckenridge gave me stolen moments of snowy streets, cool summer days, and everything in between nestled amongst the peaks of the Colorado Rockies… a moment of safe disconnection from my current overwhelming experiences.

A fence post overlooking the Front Range across the dry fall meadows of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Not long ago the thought of never seeing you again, of never being in your safe embrace, would have been an inconsolable loss. And yet, now I can live with the possibility. Something has changed.

This fall I had the opportunity to visit you again, this time with my wife. It was our first real trip to a distant land since the pandemic changed our world in so many ways. It was her first time into the depths of the peaks of your Rockies.

A rock in the middle of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

On the morning of our second day, my wife awoke long before dawn with signs of altitude sickness. Most of a lifetime spent away from her birthplace on the edge of the southern rockies had dulled her acclimation to altitude. We faced a choice. We could wait out her sickness and hope she recovered before we had to leave in just over another day, or descend. Despite the pull of your spiring stone, your sky, and your newly fallen snow, without hesitation I told her we needed to descend. The thought of her misery outweighed any sense of joy I might feel in your arms.

Not long after dawn we descended through your mountains making a few stops- one for tea and two for photos. As we descended she felt better, and incongruously, so did I.

I felt content, even whole. I was comfortable with descending from my safe place within you.

Mountian peaks reflected in the  Dillon reservoir in Summit County Colorado.

For so long Colorado, I’ve needed you to survive, but now I’ve found that a peace dwells within me. I’ve found safety in the person I share my life with. Bit by bit I am discovering myself. I am no longer trapped by my past and so I no longer need you to get through each day. Now, I look forward to seeing you again soon to enjoy your embrace, instead of needing you to be able to escape my past just to survive this moment.

Sunset behind the Colorado Rockies Front Range with a contrail high above.

Goodbye Colorado, and thank you.