The last two weeks in our town have given me lots of reasons to love living here.
The New York Times, CNN TV, and US News and World Report have all done feature stories on the Darkness of our sky out here. We’ve worked hard (or our friends have worked hard) for Westcliffe, Colorado to be designated one of the world’s few Dark Skies Communities. That means we’ve committed to keeping the sky dark by minimizing the light we throw off at night. Stars are harder and harder to see in our densely populated world. Here, there is no problem (save a cloud or two) seeing all the stars you could hope for. On the bluff at the end of town, locals have installed a powerful telescope so visitors can get even closer to the universe above and around us.
This past weekend my husband and some other noble volunteers put together the first of what we hope will be an annual event called Wet Mountain Western Pilgrimage. From Friday morning through Sunday afternoon, town folks and visitors could take themselves on a self-guided tour to various sites around our valley. A person could learn about Ute Indian history at Bear Basin Ranch, they could learn about weaving at Historic Beckwith Ranch, they could learn how to train a horse, like I did, at Music Meadows Ranch. Or they could hear stories delivered by the people who were there when Willow had a one-room schoolhouse. That same room was filled with nostalgia when 40 of us got there on Saturday afternoon. We danced with brooms, we laughed at the old songs they taught us, and we teared-up, or at least I did, watching an 85-year old man joyfully tell us about life on the family ranch when he was growing up: riding a horse to the wooden school building we were sitting in, leaving early when the snow started piling up, and making friends with the boys and girls he grew up with and still leans on everyday. I’m sure those days were harder in many ways, but the simplicity and affection warmed my heart.
Then last night a miraculous dinner convened in the center of town. Over 1200 people showed up carrying bowls of soup, pasta, bread, and beans. In a county that has only 4200 people, seeing 1200 of them in one place at one time was something special. Community Dinners are cropping up all over the place and I recommend you host one in your neighborhood. Nothing else but dinner happened. There were no speeches, no prayers offered, no opinions expressed, just a whole lot of people enjoying each other’s good cooking. It rained a bit as we ate but no one moved. We just kept eating and the rain passed. The kids from the high school volunteered to serve and clean-up, and within three hours the place was back to its old self, no sign of the dinner except for porta-potties, tables and chairs, waiting to be picked up.
Sometimes I question why I live in a far away place like this. But then weeks like the ones we’ve had recently make me grateful to be here.
Community Dinner last night in Westcliffe, Colorado.
These were our tables, numbers 33 - 35, in the foreground.
Behind me were tables # 36 through 145!