Monday, September 20, 2004
My aunt is Martha Stewart, without the unpleasant demeanor or jail time
OK, I didn't take this picture, but Mom and I spent the weekend in Winter Park with my Aunt Sissy and Uncle Fred and this is what it looks like. See the appeal? It's amazing country -- a golden valley surrounded by enormous mountains. In fact, it's up so high that the trees just give up at a certain point, because there isn't enough oxygen. (This is called "timberline" actually, as any mountaineers among you may know.)
One commenter--and I'm so happy to have comments!--said he wanted more pictures of actual people. Those who know me know I personally don't love being in pictures, but I also lack a digital camera so once I get one, my blog pictures will be more personal. I promise.
We had a delightful weekend in the high country, actually one of the big reasons I was compelled to move back to Colorado. There's something tremendously healing and peaceful about tromping along through the woods. We ran into several mountain bikers while hiking and I started thinking about getting a mountain bike. You can't live in Colorado without catching the outdoor bug, it's like living in LA and not caring about TV and movies or living in DC and not caring about politics or living in Seattle and not caring about coffee. And if you are going to get addicted to something, better hiking and biking than road rage.
Anyway, to the topic of this post -- my aunt as Martha Stewart. Seriously, and my aunt and uncle are my role models in life so I mean this in the best possible way, but I'm so glad Shelley is not my older sister because I would have the biggest inferiority complex. While we were in Winter Park, Shel made us three unbelievable meals. The first one was a crab salad in which all the ingredients were pre-prepared and then were beautifully laid out on plates for us. After hiking, dinner was chicken and snow peas in apricot sauce, wild rice with dried mixed fruit and mixed greens with raspberries and pecans in raspberry walnut dressing. Fred enhanced the meal by offering expertly mixed gin and tonics. Honestly, life doesn't really get much better than wonderful company and delicious food.
If Shel were just an amazing cook, that would be one thing, but she also gave us all our Christmas presents, and keep in mind that it's September. Usually she gives them to us in July, but she didn't have the opportunity this year. Shelley also is the kind of person who makes a delicious casserole for anyone in the congregration who had a baby or a sickness or a death; who is always there for her daughter, son-in-law and grand-kids; who buys gifts for, I think, literally hundreds of people. It's overwhelming to contemplate. I have difficult returning phone calls.
On Sunday we went to the Church of the Eternal Hills, a Presbyterian church up there. Considering that only 662 people live full-time in Winter Park, they had the most gorgeous building. The windows in the sanctuary framed the stunning view of the mountains. That distracted a bit from the service, but I think we all got something out of spending our Sunday morning there. Fred just retired after serving as pastor at the United Church of Christ in Columbia, Mo., and it's a big change for both of them. Bigger than I think they've yet realized, but I've found change is best handled by digesting small bites, rather than whole banquets. Columbia UCC was a wonderful community of close-knit people, who were the realest of real in my limited experience. It even feels hard for me to have them retire, and I know I can't really imagine how it must feel for them, but they are among the strongest people I know and if anyone can manage it they can.
We ate lunch at The Hungry Bear, a building that's stood in Winter Park since 1847 or something like that. Fred and Shelley's condo complex was also being frequented by a hungry bear, or four to be exact. Every night, a mama and her three cubs were ransacking the garbage bins, even they were really rigged up to keep bears out. The little guys were crawling under the locked wooden doors to retrieve garbage and give it to their mother.
The bears showed up at 2 am so we didn't see them, but the racket woke up a neighbor who Fred questioned first thing the next morning. Fred was very interested in meeting said bears; he was trying to lure them with the remains of apples from Shelley's 19-apple cobbler, but she put the kibosh on that considering that wild bears aren't really the company you want to keep.
After the church service, Fred confessed that he was considering sleeping in the car to see those bears. (We agreed later that the mind wanders a bit when you aren't the one leading the service.) I'm not sure getting close to bears is the safest idea, but I have to admit I wanted to see those bear cubs myself. We'll see if Fred does it by the time they leave at the end of the month. My money's on Fred.