I’m planted in a comfy chair. Sitting at my writer’s desk, I try not to slouch as I strategically reconstruct the finest details of Janet’s life. I attack her biography as if I had won a coveted position as a writer in residence, focused only on finishing her story.
Sunshine comes streaming in through the window and coaxes me to look away from my work. I gaze outside to admire the winter scenery: blue skies muted by white clouds; pine trees lined upon rolling foothills; grass, dried and yellowed, but interesting none the less. There’s snow at higher elevations, and just a short twenty-five feet from my vantage point, I spot several mule deer as they tiptoe their way to the stream. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching them.
Despite all this natural beauty, the setting before me doesn’t quite represent the perfect place to write that I had once romanticized. The window glass doesn’t muffle sounds of waves as they crash upon the shore. In fact, there are no waves; there is no sandy beach. My longed-for sanctuary by the sea has been exchanged for this home, a mile-high fortress in the mountains. With land spreading out so far and wide, I conclude that Colorado may afford the perfect compromise between metropolis and wilderness. Even Green Acres’ Lisa Douglas could be happy here.
But this Rocky Mountain imagery is also just another daydream. I haven’t yet moved from my home state of Michigan. That very real adventure will be underway, however, by the time you read this.
Throughout twenty-eight years of marriage, I’ve promised my husband that I would go wherever he needed to go. “We’re a team. Together, we’ll do whatever we have to do.” Now, for the first time, Greg’s accepted a job that requires us to leave family and friends, our church, and well-established routines. He and I are relocating to the Wall Street of the Rockies. We need to find a place to live; discover new, favorite restaurants; make friends; try to fit into a different cultural environment; and learn the traffic patterns that allow for shortcuts in and out of an unfamiliar city.
Do you know what people say when I tell them that we’re moving to Denver?
“Oh! It’s so beautiful.”
Even people who have never been there promote that claim as if they have first-hand knowledge of the truth.
“Have you ever been there?” I’ve started asking.
“Well, no. But that’s what I’ve heard . . .”
Ah huh. Blue skies and sunshine, over three-hundred days a year. That’s what I’ve heard. For a born and bred Michigander who thinks “g-r-a-y” spells a nasty four-letter word, I immediately feel energized by Colorado’s reputation. The problem is that the statistic I’ve come to love and embrace isn’t true!
When I was in college, a journalism professor ingrained in me the need to cross-check facts. The rule of thumb was that if I could find the same information in three or more reputable places, I didn’t necessarily have to cite the source. For example, I could state that cigarette smoking leads to lung cancer without the need to reference a specific finding of the American Cancer Society. Many independent and credible reports support that statement, now considered common knowledge.
So, when this writer from the lower peninsula of Michigan is being displaced to one epically gorgeous and Colorful Colorado, she wants facts, not fancy, to guide her expectations.
Enter Colorado State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken—also known as Senior Research Associate; Director of Fort Collins Weather Station; and past American Association of State Climatologists President. He has the credentials this girl is relying upon. Doesken explains that Denver’s 300 days of sunshine are a bit overstated. “Only about 115 days per year fit the classic definition of ‘clear,’” he says.
That’s better than the 75 days the greater-Detroit area squeaks out. One point for Denver. And yes, I’m keeping score. You can’t expect me to leave the only home I’ve ever known and not compare it to what will be my new one. Michigan may be gray from time to time, but it’s breathtakingly beautiful too.
You know, we Michiganders are surrounded by the Great Lakes. They’re as vast as Coloradans’ mountains are high. When I long to kayak Lake Superior’s Pictured Rocks, I’ll try to conquer Mount Evans instead. When Sleeping Bear Dunes is calling, I’ll make a point to visit Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes and try not to favor the National Lakeshore over the National Park. And when family and friends cross two time zones to visit me, I’ll prepare for their overnight stay by gently placing a Sanders chocolate on each of their pillows . . . alongside a little bit of legalized Kandy Kush.
Before you judge me, dear readers, let me say that of course, I’m only joking. I wouldn’t be so cruel as to leave pot on your pillow and not include an entire box of chocolates also.
Heaven help me! I’m moving to Denver.