I try not to complain about the rain; here in the Southwest, moisture should always be considered a blessing. And while it was becoming more and more difficult to thank the dark clouds for swathing the sky (and sending me indoors to tackle tasks like sewing curtains) or be glad for the torrents that watered my garden (which began looking swamped and bedraggled,) now that the sun has returned – at least for now – I’m again grateful for all those early summer rainy days.
Because now that the sun has come out, the haze that had hung around for most of June has finally dissipated, leaving a crisper, cleaner view of summertime in its wake.
I can pinpoint the exact moment that summer, with all its flashy colors and bold energy, arrived in full. Elle was sitting at a picnic table sharing blueberries with two daughters of friends I grew up with here in Telluride, while their dadas played softball in the Town Park diamond just behind them, and the near-solstice evening sun colored the quaking aspens dancing in Bear Creek with golden highlights. Hamburgers sizzled on the grill and kids chased each other screaming through the playground and every few minutes someone on some softball team did something that made everyone cheer.
It was already past Elle’s bedtime, something sticky was smeared across one of her cheeks and her pink T-shirt was wet down the front. She couldn’t have looked happier. And in that moment I couldn’t have been any happier, as the sweet syrup of summer enveloped my being and left me feeling cozy and a bit buzzed (although, the PBRs may have had something to do with that).
Telluride’s summer has a way of sneaking up on a person like that – one week, leaves are just trying to unravel and you’re still wearing wintertime’s fleece pullover. Then, abruptly, the mountainside is blanketed in green and you notice your feet are no longer pasty (but, you may not know if the dark triangles around your sandal line are dirt or a tan.) And in a single moment you realize, for the umpteenth time, that you live in one of the most spectacular places on the planet.
I know, too, from having spent most of my life here, that summer tends to pack up and leave just as suddenly as it arrived. What we enjoy during the four or less months that can be called summer here at nearly 10,000 feet is precious. And I realized at the park last Sunday night, as Elle reached into a bag of someone else’s potato chips and went for strolls holding hands with people that I held hands with when I was a kid, that some of the most treasured ingredients of the season are actually the things that remain here even after winter’s snows have smothered summertime’s bravado.
I moved to Telluride when I was nine, graduated from Telluride High School, and instead of working on my thesis at the end of my senior year of college I came back here to find a job. I did, ultimately, finish the thesis, but promptly moved back here after graduation and I have been here ever since (minus a six-month stint in France.) In my more than 20 years here, I’ve of course come to adore the things that bring newcomers flocking to our little valley: Dynamo on a powder day; rainbows strung like banners over main street; and, need I say it? The Telluride Town Park on a summer evening. I’m sure what has kept me here to raise my family, however, are the potent relationships that blossom between neighbors sharing small town lives.
Sunday night at the park, Elle played and snacked with a Drew and a McTigue and a Guest – all daughters who, like Elle, are unwittingly carrying on a Telluride family tradition into the second, and even third, generation. Throw in the DePagter (Kusuno) boys and Elle’s closest-aged pal Lily Mahoney, who we also often share juice boxes and germs with at the Town Park on softball evenings, and suddenly it feels to me like I’m watching myself as a kid through the eyes of myself as a parent.
It’s strange, in a heady and heart-warming kind of way, to see your child doing the same things you did in the same places you did them in, with kids that are the kids of kids you used to play with. Like time is going in reverse. Like, in some way, I’ll be playing in the park with my friends forever.
Like I said, summertime in Telluride has a funny way of sneaking up on you… in more ways than one.
This Saturday, as Telluride families new and old spread themselves out like blankets across Telluride’s best outdoor living room, to play games and eat barbecue and watch fireworks explode against the crystalline ceiling above the Town Park’s softball diamonds, I know that I’ll once again feel summertime tug on my already stretched-taut heartstrings. Because summer, and specifically the Fourth of July, is when so many of the people I know and love – my neighbors – come out to play.