Mountain “spring” carries many falsehoods, the main one being that it is actually spring—that time of the year when sweet birds chirp proudly, the deck furniture gets dusted off, and conceivably one can count on the days getting warmer. So is not the case in the mountains. Instead, several dumps of snow will occur in lieu of rain and the shady areas remain frozen far into May. Longtime mountain folk understand (and accept) Mother Nature’s schizophrenic behavior. They’ll even say something like, “We could really use the moisture,” as foot after foot of snow blankets their home and land.
Every year around springtime, I get an itch. I’m one of those mountain girls who prefers her spring to really start in March. To satisfy this urge for tank top weather, I venture down to Golden and perch myself on the rocks that frame Clear Creek. Family after family stroll lazily along the river walk behind me as I absorb the sun like my spirit animal, the turtle. I’m always envious of the “real” spring Golden (and surrounding Denver flatlands) receives long before the mountains.
Nowadays, however, I am much more patient with spring due to having experienced the other side. The following is a cautionary tale of one couple putting words into action and finding out if the grass really is greener.
February 2012: date night for two weary parents of kids, 8 and 6 years old. We barely say goodbye to the sitter as the lightning tracks behind us speak to our desperate need for a night out. The frigid evening didn’t deter our efforts to savor a meal at a Spanish tapas bar near downtown Denver. The drinks and conversation flow smoothly, we pay our tab and head out the door.
“This is amazing, isn’t it?” exclaims Bob with a fire in his eyes that I immediately recognize.
“I know, right?” I agree, feeling his same sense of freedom.
“What if we moved here?” Bob said. “Imagine what it would be like to just eat any type of food we wanted at anytime of the day—everything is right here! Kids could probably walk to school and I’d be nearer to work.”
“Huh,” I say as I realize his seriousness. “Well, it’s definitely warmer down here, for sure.”
Our words linger in the evening air like an unfinished thought while we stroll our way to a nearby bar with live music. As the soulful blues fill the room, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to live in Denver. Life would be so much easier. So many conveniences at our fingertips. Including this music! Could we actually do it?
Long story short—after some research and house hunting, we rented out our Evergreen home and moved to the Wash Park neighborhood of Denver by the end May, three months after our enlightening date night.
Ironically, it took us only three weeks to realize we are not city folk. All the conveniences didn’t replace the need to live within nature, not just near it; too many people, not enough trees, and the heat from the concrete was stifling. I’d open the front door and be greeted by half the block. Bored neighborhood kids would squint their eyes to peer into our front windows, longing for one of the kids to come out and play. A very unsettling experience, considering if someone showed up at the door in the mountains, something was terribly wrong. My daughter would hide in the kitchen and whisper, “Tell them I’m not home.” My husband would do the same.
In an effort to discover the “greener grass,” we uncovered more about ourselves as individuals and as a family. For example, having a huge public park nearby with a 2-mile walking path doesn’t replace a hike in the woods. For this family of four, we’d rather make plans to meet up with people than be ambushed at our own front door. Room to spread out is essential. And nothing compares to the stillness of a mountain morning or a drink on the deck at Willow Creek while baby elk frolic on the shores of Evergreen Lake. We learned more about what we loved while experiencing that which we didn’t.
I still remember, after having spent three months in the heat of a Denver summer, driving up to Evergreen and visiting a friend. The air immediately cooled 10 degrees, the proximity of things spread out, and I was able to take a deep breath and stretch my arms without hitting anyone. The rolling “hills” greeted me as I cruised down Evergreen Parkway. I knew this is where we were meant to be for now. The Denver experiment was all good and fine, but when the overwhelming urge to be “home” hit, we knew what to do.
We lasted 10 months and three weeks in the Denver Wash Park bungalow. No amount of rearranging, painting or expanding could have kept us there. We allowed our kids to figure it out on their own, but ultimately it was unanimous—we were mountain folk and the grass was not greener. But that’s okay—it was worth taking the chance to find out.