Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why Colorado?

It occurred to me that the 80 frillion strangers faithfully reading my blog every day might not know why I'm so drawn to Colorado. Obviously, my nephews are there, but me and Colorado go way back. Me and Colorado are old friends.

It all started back in the late 70s, when my family went to Spring Canyon for our summer vacation. Spring Canyon was/is a retreat-type place run by OCF -- Officer's Christian Fellowship. It was/is a beautiful, rustic, friendly and affordable vacation spot for those in the military and their families. For two summers, we went there, and I fell in love. Those two weeks, one each summer, affected me greatly and I truly believe that's where my wanderlust began. Being an army brat anyway, I already wasn't afraid of living in different places, but CO might be somewhere I would choose to go on my own someday. Tucked into the Rocky Mountains and neighboring a small town appropriately called Buena Vista, Spring Canyon was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. I also made several friends I would connect with again in later years.

Here's the deal: Spring Canyon is kept clean and orderly by a volunteer staff of teenagers from all over the world. In exchange for free room and board, they would rotate several groups of 16-20 teens throughout the summer, teens who got the "camp" experience without the yucky tents and stuff :) The food was home-cooked, and part of the support staff's job was to help in the kitchen and serve meals. We had a few hours of downtime each day where we could do our own thing, and even one day off a week where we didn't have to work at all.

Ok, I already gave it away with the "we" -- as soon as I was old enough, 15, I applied and was accepted as a staff member during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. Knowing I had this to look forward to helped me make it through some rough boyfriend moments that year in school. I couldn't wait to go and experience my first real bout with independence in a "safe" venue. As expected,I loved it. I was there for a 5-week stint, which was the longest I'd ever been away from family. I missed them, but also discovered how good it is to miss something sometimes, so you appreciate it more when you return. I made lifelong friends that summer and even had a mini (very mini) romance with one of the guests. This was against the rules and scandalous, but hey -- what did they expect with a bunch of teenagers and pretty mountains? It was very innocent, but it was enough to make my boyfriend back home jealous and actually shape up for a month or so before deteriorating back to asshole-status. But I digress.

The second summer I went was for 6 weeks. I was 16, a little older and wiser, and embraced the whole experience with joy and no fear of the unknown. This was the summer I truly came into my own. I found I wasn't that "shy" after all -- the label I'd always had in school was not true, much to my surprise. I felt popular for the first time in my post-elementary-school life, but we were such a close-knit group that there were no "outsiders", unlike "real life". Spring Canyon was an amazing, life-altering escape from reality, which was something I really needed. It was a little pocket in time where I could laugh til I cried and be myself and feel spiritual, stuff I was too tied in knots to do at home during the rest of the year. And the second summer, I had a summer romance. His name was Marshall and he was the first soccer player I would be involved with (in an ongoing stream of soccer players...heh). We were 16, beautiful, filled with the magic of the place, surrounded by people we liked and respected, and we fell in love. I still had my boyfriend back home, but what a difference it made to finally have a comparison. Marshall made Chris's faults all the more hideous, and I came back that summer not quite as susceptible to his bullshit. Marshall and I wrote tons of letters that year and called each other once a week, taking turns. He lived in North Carolina. We finnagled and prayed and crossed our fingers and toes, and somehow ended up on the same staff for our third summer.

The third summer. I was gone a full 7 weeks this time, because I went up early and stayed late with my friend Kelly at her home in Co. Springs. In between was the joy, the drama, the heartbreak, the strength, and more dear friends. Every year it was harder to go home to my blah life in San Antonio and my disappointing boyfriend. Things in Texas just weren't as shiny as in Colorado. My friends in CO "got" me. I didn't think most of my friends in TX "got" me. Of course Marshall and I had a disastrous and dramatic breakup within our first couple days together, but I learned how to concede with grace that summer. It was painful, yes, but my heart had already been ripped into bloody shreds by my h.s. sweetheart, so it was not unbearable. Even when Marshall paired off with another girl on staff, Becky, I couldn't be mad at her because she was so awesome and I loved her so much. Plus, I knew they didn't have the same spark we had the previous summer. The point is, I didn't freak out and it didn't ruin my trip, like it might have two years prior. I had grown, as a person and as a friend. I left my third summer at Spring Canyon to return to TX for my senior year, which is a whole novel in itself.

Every summer in CO, I became more convinced that I felt more myself there, that I felt more at home, more comfy, more at peace. I could hear myself think there. And the mountains made me feel closer to all that is good in the world. I continued flirting with Colorado during college, when I would go home with my friend Kelly for Spring Breaks. Yes, the one from Spring Canyon, who lived in Co. Springs. She ended up being my roommate in college for a couple of years.

When I met who would become my husband (then ex-husband), I was very clear with him that I had no intention of staying in TX forever. That I was biding my time until I could move back to CO. He would laugh and roll his eyes and pat me on the head, like "silly lisa, whatever you say..." It wasn't until we were married that I realized he had no intention of ever leaving Texas.

In fact, I had a job opportunity AT Spring Canyon right after I graduated from college -- but I chose to stay in Texas because my ex and I were supposed to get engaged. I chose him over my true love. Live and learn.

When my sis and her family moved to Denver last summer, it was bittersweet. I was sad they wouldn't be nearby anymore, but at the same time, I was excited they'd be in one of my favorite places on earth. And in the back of my mind, I was thinking "hmmm....." I would tell people "well if something were to happen with my job, who knows...". Well, people, that something happened and I have a promising job lead in Denver -- and THAT'S Why Colorado.

As afraid as I am to uproot the life I've built here in Austin, all my dear friends, my career contacts, my sense of "home", I am just as excited to start fresh somewhere else. And not just any somewhere...but Colorado.

So. We shall see.


Babs said...

Makes perfect sense.

Gotta say that I had a hard time not picturing you as Baby from Dirty Dancing during the first part of this. :-)

Nicole said...

Ah yes, I remember you going off to camp and leaving me behind so mom could focus all her energy on me. Thanks ;-)

I know it's gonna happen and you're going to end up living on a mountain as Mrs. Lisa Garverick. He he

Crazy MomCat said...

Lis, what beautiful memories you've shared here. You know, you'd mentioned some of that to me before, but I never realized how long during the summer you spent there or how many summers you went. That had to have been an amazing experience as a teenager! I can totally see why you'd want to go back and settle there too. I will miss you if you leave, but maybe it'll give me an excuse to explore CO too!

Hope said...

That's cool you have such a connection to CO, it would be neat if you could come full circle and end up least for a while :)

Wonder what the kitty will think of such a drastic change.

m2williams said...

Guess now the question is Why Not?! Sounds like it's definitely one of those situations where you just gotta do it and remember there's always a road back to TX.

I was recently remembering my camp days too, gosh those days were fun! Thanks for the insight.

Michael Corwin said...


I just found your post as a result of Googling to find Volunteer Staff Alumni of my and my sister's vintage (2nd Staff '87, Teaching Staff '88; my sister Amy worked 2nd Staff '88 - '90, Teaching Staff '91, Girls Staff '95).

Loved your story. I mean, LOVED your story! It is as if I wrote the story about my own experience. Like you, I found myself at Spring Canyon. My staff experience continues to positively impact me to this day.

What staffs were you on?

Michael Corwin

Michael Corwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.