A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Mountains Are Calling, But.................

Sarah and I made a fast trip to Durango, Colorado last weekend.  It's a beautiful small town and it didn't disappoint! It was 62 during the day and 45 at night. The air was clear and clean.

The aspens were still holding some color, the spruce, the crabapples, and the ponderosa pines were beautiful. The mountains were amazing. It's a clean, neat town with a lot of history.

Durango is known for the friendliness of its people and they proved that to be true. We shopped in the little stores downtown, in the old historic buildings. They cater to hikers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. We bought shoes, a jacket, and a plush toy wolf to take back to Bixby. We ate supper at one of the breweries and that night took in a movie, The Magnificent Seven, in keeping with the cowboy history of the area.

Saturday, before we flew back home at noon, we had brunch at an amazing little restaurant downtown. They have a few tables on the sidewalk and we sat out there and ate. It happened to be Cowboy Poetry Gathering weekend and there was a parade that morning. We had a front row seat as the cowboys and cowgirls rode by, some of them singing the songs of the range and of Roy and Dale.

We took in a farmer's market where we found apples, bread, huge beautiful beets and carrots. And more singing. There was a Master Naturalists' booth which brought back my plan of becoming one when I retired, before the reality of all the work I had to do here made me realize I didn't need to add any more work to my day.

Everywhere we went and everything we did, we felt welcome and at home. I felt, as the Navajo say, that we walked in beauty, with a light heart. It was the first time since I lost Rick that I felt a glimmer of happiness and a sense of looking to the future. A joy, planting a seed of hope, that I might one day laugh more than I cry or at least as much. I had plans of hiking the many trails to replace the work I do here at the ranch. Rickie and I, and Sarah when she was at home, vacationed in this part of the country on all our vacations, and on our last trip together Rick and I went to Durango. On every trip we talked about moving that way but we couldn't work out how and we had jobs to consider.

My little town is not this kind of town. I love it and many of the people are very kind and wonderful. They have been kind to me both before and after my loss. But it's not this kind of town and I wasn't born here. That will always make me an outsider. They are steeped in ranching history and they are a solid, conservative, Christian town. I am none of those things, other than I do love ranchers and cowboys and cattle. But I'm not a real rancher; I'm a version of a city girl that loves these things and tries to find a small taste of that life and that history.

My plan for myself after selling the ranch was to move to Durango and try to find some new version of myself, to be some place where Rickie and I had also been happy, to see if I couldn't make a life on my own, to carry him with me but not to be rolled over by the memories of this place we planned to spend our last years on.

We tossed around different options for making this happen, even considering that Sarah and her family would make the move with me and we would find a place for all of us. The high cost of housing in Durango made us face the reality that that wouldn't happen. And there were other things to consider on a move of that size, such as Sarah's job. So we went to what was actually the original plan. That I would sell the ranch, buy a place in Durango for me and for the family to use, and that I would spend my time between there and Austin, staying in the tiny house I had built at Sarah's. This would keep me close to family when I wasn't in Durango. And when I was too frail and old to do this division of time, I would have the tiny house to stay in full time. This would also enable me to keep more of what I've downsized to and carry that part of the ranch with me.

It would require me to go outside my comfort zone. To try and join groups, such as the Naturalists, to be in a place new and a bit different to me. To be farther from family, though it was a short trip by plane if I needed to go quickly. And I could stay in Austin for extended periods to offset this. I probably wouldn't have many visitors, but to be honest, visitors are rare here at the ranch. It was a chance for adventure, something missing from my life these days. And, as my sister Kathy says, we're not so old we aren't up to a new adventure or two.

But added to the hard decision to leave the ranch was the burden I carry of being sure I do what is best for my family in the long run. To be clear, they don't give me this burden. They have been supportive, in varying degrees as the pain of giving up the ranch hits them also, but all clear they support my decision and it should be mine alone. They will continue to support me in whatever decision I make. But, as all you who are parents know, we consider what we leave behind in all things we do. Will they regret not having this place that has had 28 years of our history here. Or will they regret that they had the chance to have a place to go in Colorado, to do some things new to us. That's something I can only guess at and they themselves can only guess at.

My family, including extended family, is not one of those families that is open to making big moves and that's how I was raised. We are steady and we put down roots and stay where we are. I used to be like that, even preferring to stay somewhere I hated just to keep from making a change. We don't go far from where we were born and the one time we did, we all went together, all uncles and grandparents, and even some friends, making the move to Houston from Louisiana back in the 1960s. Other than a move on the part of some of us back to Louisiana, we haven't ventured away from even the area in Houston we lived. Some of us travel widely but we don't move. My grandson Jeremy shocked the family by moving to Chicago this past year to go to college and live.

So I have no family history of packing up and heading off to a whole new place. Most of my family and friends have been supportive and some even encouraging. But I've met with a few shocked responses to my decision and a few questioning why I would do this, why I would go so far from the rest of the family and especially go alone. They don't do it to be discouraging; I know they wish only happiness for me. And in their way they want me to be sure I've considered everything and don't regret it later. But it does add to the hardship of my decision. If we were a group of people that said, hell, yeah, let's do this and I may even get there before you do, naturally, it would be easier. Ha!

So it falls on me to make the decision and to hope in the end it was the right one, both for me and for the family I love so much, the family I live for. Even not considering them but only myself I am conflicted as to whether I will be uplifted by a move or destroyed by leaving the link to my life with Rickie that the ranch offers me. I think of all the many times we almost made the decision to sell and didn't. Is this simply one more of those times. Once the ranch is gone, it can't be taken back. Would the happiness I hoped to find in moving to Durango be short lived and I would be right back in the same emotional state but without this link to Rickie.

It's been a rough few months for me, in many ways worse than the first year without Rickie was. I finished the projects and the focus that kept me going. And being here so long by myself alone the last years Rick was alive, I could almost get by pretending it just wasn't his weekend to come out and he would be here soon. But after almost two years, that isn't working any more.

I am also burdened by the question of am I just hitting a rough patch, compounded by this being Rick's favorite time of year and the holidays approaching, and it will pass. I don't know. I can't answer that.

I told Sarah I wish her dad was here. He never had a problem making a decision and when he made it he never looked back. He was a doer, a person that weighed the options, decided the likely outcome, and adjusted as he went if things didn't quite go as he hoped. But he never looked back once he made a decision. I can hear him saying in his stern voice "Look, this is what we're going to do." I wish I could hear him now telling me what to do. All I hear and see is him shaking his head and being exasperated at my indecision, one way or the other.

Last night when it got time for me to actually sign the contract to sell, I could not. I thought I could, but I couldn't. The burden of the decision and the consequences overwhelmed me and I found I wasn't as brave as I thought I was. That disappoints me in a way. I like to think I'm a badass and a doer, not a whiner or a talker. If I made the decision to stay and was content with that I would be ok. But I'm not sure that is the right decision and I wonder how soon I will regret that, or in a few months will I be glad I stayed. All the reasons I had for leaving are still there. Other than the longhorns are moving to a new home in a couple of weeks, another painful but necessary decision, and I'll have freedom to get away and visit family and friends more. 

So, while I wait for some vision that may never come, some clarity that will steady my course one way or the other and make me content with my choice to either stay or go, all I can do is hope it comes soon so I can find peace and move in a direction that will be good for us all, for both me and those I cherish and live for.