Colorado is growing on me. We are in a gorgeous park with bunnies everywhere. I'm like a Disney princess. A blue butterfly alighted gently on my royal hand and stayed there for a full five minutes. There are brightly colored birds all around. It's lush, green and temperate.
Chatfield State Park is grassy and has a blue lake at the center that I can see from the Airstream window. It's flat and entirely un-scary. When I woke the first morning here, it was to the strong smell of pot - and when I peeked out the window to be sure Stephen had not taken a new hobby, I saw a woman with long white hair doing yoga. This is the Colorado I expected. The sites here are spacious (huge) and spread out far enough that we could even practice music around our campfire late at night, were we not too tired.
We have two shows scheduled right near our return - one at the ever-intimidating Eddie's Attic, where we are splitting the bill and not opening for someone - and someone remarked as we were leaving, "I can't wait to hear all of the new songs you'll write on your travels!" Maybe the songs will come later, but we are tired and we smell like bug spray. Generally our campsite neighbors have been super close by, and serenading people against their will is awkward. Singing telegram awkward. So we haven't practiced much.
Disciplining children is extremely tiring, and all the more so because we have to experiment all of the time to find the best way of setting about it. I can't stand to read parenting books - when I do, I alternate between feeling irritated and feeling guilty. I am very wary of giving parenting advice (we have no idea what we are doing) and while I hope the kids turn out well, I'm not entirely confident that they will. I've seen the most lovely, wonderful families struggle hard with grown children. It seems like a crapshoot, and it's disheartening.
Parenting in front of family and friends is stressful. Parenting children who have been camping for three weeks is particularly stressful. I wanted Jane to be charming and sweet with my family - they've hardly seen her. Jane was curmudgeonly and rude and fussy. This child has the most amazing vocabulary. She is a well-spoken toddler, smart and witty. Jane kept all of this hidden and refused to do anything but point and grunt all week.
I write this as we sit at ALMOST the top of Raton Pass, right between New Mexico and Colorado. We are not admiring a scenic view. We are waiting for a tow truck, as our poor, tired Suburban decided that it could not make the pass. The engine began to overheat and we heard a high, whistling sound (radiator? is that a thing?) and we pulled right off the road at the top of the pass.
And now we are back en route after being towed up the pass, Airstream and all, by a REAL LIVE COWBOY, with a holster and pistol, tall and lanky and innately trustworthy. He tied our Suburban (trailer attached, all of us still inside) with a cloth strap to his tow vehicle and dragged us to the summit. After some poking around under the hood, he told us we ought to be ok back down, and that we could "probably make it to Santa Fe, most likely". So we are headed to Santa Fe now, in the dark, on a road that goes through absolutely nowhere. Skipping dinner and getting in quite late is a disappointment, but when I imagined this trip, I pictured many side-of-the-road waiting-for-a-tow moments, and this is the first, so I'm happy and relieved.
The best part of our Colorado visit was seeing friends. We visited some of our oldest, dearest friends and hung out with their five little ones. We drove up to Greeley to visit new friends that we met last summer at Escape to the Lake (family music camp). Though we didn't get to spend much time together there, I could tell they were kindred spirits, and our visit was comfortable and wonderful without any of the usual awkwardness of visiting someone you don't know well. Betony had just culled their bookshelves (funny, all of my friends have just Kon Mari'd) and this quickly confirmed my kindred spirit suspicions.
My college roommate and her five children also live in Colorado, and after a few nights at Chatfield we moved to a campground nearer her home in Longmont. She also has five children. I knew it would be nice to be with other big families, but it was surprisingly nice. There are things about parenting a half load of children that, while others can certainly understand, these moms and dads know deeply. I hate to say that I enjoyed particularly their worse moments - rude kid responses, toddler fits, sassy preteens, irritated parental reactions. These are some of the best people and most wonderful parents I know, and it reassured me greatly to see that things are not perfect and dreamy in all the other homes but mine, because I am not Catholic enough or organized enough or consistent enough. Kids are just kids.
Shaun and Joy are raising a curious, chatty, delightful little brood, and I am so glad that I'll get to watch them grow up, if only from a distance. Our children walked and hiked together with their arms around each other's shoulders. Mandy and Jon are new to Colorado, and I sat in her yard in a lawn chair and listened as she filled me in on the struggles her sweet children have had in school and with their recent move. Mandy is as authentic and loyal as they come. Once during college, I was particularly homesick and Mandy made me red beans and rice and sweet tea to cheer me up. She even scoured the Ohio grocery stores until she tracked down some Tony Chacheres. I can't believe my luck with friends. I know more than my share of outstanding people. When I think of the friends I have, I feel a little more confident - maybe I'm not as weird as I think.
Out of Jane's window, the strawberry moon is rising in a most spectacular show over a flat field, and out of my window, the sun is setting over the far off Sangre de Cristos mountains. I could stretch out my arms and touch both at once. The clouds around the sunset look like pink angels and seem a perfect welcome to mystical New Mexico, "land of enchantment".