Leaving Loveland

There’s a line from a Rich Mullins song that has been haunting me the past year or so – “lonely even here in paradise.” Not that he came up with the “lonely in paradise” phrase, but the song (“Land of my Sojourn”) especially connects with me, with its images of roads and mountains and traveling and song.

For nearly four years our family of four has lived in what feels like paradise, where gray days are few and even many of those still have moments of sunshine. Where, when the trees aren’t fully leafed out, I can see snow-capped mountains from my back door. Where my man and I can walk to our choice of three really good microbreweries for a little after-work date and be home in an hour for dinner with the kids. Where we can get to world-class vacation destinations like Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park just by driving 45 minutes through the breathtaking Big Thompson Canyon, sometimes spotting big-horned sheep and elk along the way. Where winter doesn’t overstay its welcome, and snow melts in a day or two under the mile-closer golden sunshine. Where cars don’t rust from a six-month bath of road salt.

Yeah, yeah, you get the idea. It’s beautiful here. It’s been a four-year working vacation – emphasis on the “working” for my husband Nathan, who has worked full-time all four years we’ve been here in Loveland, something neither of us had done for nearly ten years before moving here – and something we are very excited for him to be finished with NEXT TUESDAY!! when he moves to part-time for a couple months while the kids finish school and we prepare to move back to Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota. Oh, Minnesota. I didn’t know I’d miss you. Colorado has delivered on the rugged-yet-hip mountain man image it’s been given, but Minnesota, you are my boy next door. I just didn’t realize how much you meant to me, with your green growing everything and your ten thousand lakes and your rivers and prairies and woods.

Oh, I know about the snow – which becomes the slush and the chunks and the salty spewing splash on my car and my boots and my pant legs. And the mosquitoes. And the humidity. And the gray days, and no mountains to miss behind the gray anyway.

But I guess, after a lifetime of not really knowing where I’m from, I might just call you home. I might just say I’m a Minnesota girl after all, though I will always be eager to travel, even to leave you again and live somewhere else for a while. I’m an adventurous hobbit maybe, like Bilbo and Frodo, loving my cozy Shire, and itching for the road.

But the heart of it is, my people are in Minnesota, and I miss them dearly. It’s magnified because I have two children who are very close to their grandparents and cousins and it got harder and harder to feel so many hearts breaking each time we piled back in the car to drive 800 miles away from those people who make Minnesota home for us.

And I began to feel terribly lonely in paradise. Like living in a beautiful mansion all alone. No calling up my mom for a coffee date on the weekend, no possibility of grandparents attending soccer games or orchestra concerts. I know this is the reality for many families in our highly mobile society – it was my reality as a child – but I’ve decided to opt out, and I am grateful for a husband who is willing to leave this paradise even though he doesn’t share my feelings of homesickness. Maybe we’ll be back some day when the kids are grown. Loveland is a popular retirement destination after all! Or maybe we’ll go further west – all the way to northern California, where mountains and ocean converge.

For now we’ve decided to live in Saint Paul, because we have some good friends there, there’s more access to bike trails around the river, and we’ve already lived in Minneapolis (which was great, but why not try something new?!). It’s been eleven years since we lived in the Twin Cities (we were in our hometown of Owatonna for seven years before moving here to Loveland), and there’s a lot I’ve missed about being there. So I’m excited to rediscover the familiar, and explore the new.

But for now, I live in Colorado, and I’ve got at least two months left to enjoy this place.

Last year I wrote and posted a song a week on my blog. It’s been good to take a few months off, but now I’m ready for a new challenge, and this time I’m going for a DAILY one. I’m going to post a photo of something I love about Loveland (and surrounding area probably) every day starting today until the day we load the moving truck or unplug the wifi or whatever I deem the end of our sojourn here in paradise.

Obviously this will probably be the longest post in the series! But here we go.

Today’s little piece of Loveland is my own back yard. I just missed the full blossom, but here is our little cherry tree, next to the chicken coop (that’s our neighbor’s house in the background):

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Loveland has a cherry festival every summer – apparently there are a lot of cherry trees here! This one hasn’t produced all that much fruit, but we have gotten a few bright red handfuls each year, which never make it into the house – we just pick and eat!

I like to sit at that table on weekend mornings with a cup of coffee. It faces east so I drink in the morning sun too.

Our house is on a corner lot, so most of our yard is in front of or along the outside of the house, but I did make a small area between the garage and the deck into a more private nook (every introvert needs her private outdoor space!) I even dug up a spot and laid all these rocks down to make a little patio:

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And that’s blue-eyed grass, the first thing that flowers in our yard, the first bit of spring color we get to enjoy.

54 Comments

  1. I enjoy your writing, Julia. Thank you for sharing so honestly. I wish you well in Minnesota! Your decision to return to extended family makes super sense to me.

  2. Colorado’s loss is our gain, and my, what a haul!!! I’m already in full praise mode for all the good times ahead, and that’s not even considering eternity.

    To combine Petty and Yoda: Wide open the future is…

  3. Maybe your goodbye be full of GOOD this spring, and may you find a decent microbrewery or two in St. Paul!

  4. We are traveling this season of our life and enjoying it immensely. There are moments though that I wonder where my roots really are. Usually it comes back to where my children are which is Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. Another reason to explore our grand country. Keep writing and making music Julia. I enjoy both so much.

    • Yes, Nathan and I were talking about how not only are we connected to our parents, but also our children – that where they end up will definitely impact our future choices too. Sounds like you are doing well being mobile in order to connect with all of yours! You are living one of my dreams. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

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