Evolution of a suburbanite

It’s that time of year.   Damp and cold…and beautiful.

I’ve never been a fan of winter, or rain, or cold, or wind.    But somehow up here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills it’s much less of an annoyance and burden and so much more the wonderful fabric of life in the foothills.

The ground is still wet from the rain a couple of days ago and the wind is blowing the final dead oak leaves and pine needles from the trees.  The air is bitingly crisp in the mornings only warming  up in the late afternoon, just in time for the sun to go down to repeat that daily cycle.

Once an opponent and vocal critic of cold, wet, and winter  in suburbia I’ve turned into a lover of winter here at the Golden K.  It’s interesting. but not surprising, how a major life change (like packing up 25 years of suburbia and moving to the mountains) can alter  one’s perspective.   Over the past two years I’ve learned to appreciate all the seasons as I sit back in awe of  Mother Nature and all the artistry she so willingly and boldly displays.

I’ve come to know that life is too short to waste six months waiting for Summer to return as I once did as a suburbanite.

So I embrace this season as I will the next, and the next after that.  At a point in life one becomes retrospective more often than when younger.  Perhaps now is one of those times for me.   I want to appreciate all the days, all the hours, and all the minutes.  Many will be far from perfect, some will be sad, and some will be glorious.  One thing that can be said for all of those minutes is they will pass by in just 60 seconds and then the next will come and go, and so on and so on.   If I sit through all those hundreds of thousands of minutes just waiting for the one’s I perceive as ideal I will wish my life away, not to mention missing so many wonderful things.

The Golden K has helped me to evolve personally and to appreciate even the smallest things that life has to offer.  Like 120 foot pines swaying in the wind.  Or seeing the joy and excitement in my oldest Golden Retriever’s eyes when I start up the tractor.  Or a family of turkeys walking nearby.  And other things like my dogs going out to do their business first thing in the morning and watching them with their noses pointed high and low to smell where all the nocturnal critters were the previous night.  Hearing my neighbors horses whinny, looking out to the night sky and full moon with my bride of 35 years in the freezing cold.  Waiting for the return of the black tail deer.

It’s times like these that I recall what Jonathan Larson pointed out so insightfully in the lyrics of a song from Rent, the iconic musical from the nineties:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life
So yeah – at this moment in time this is my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.
A moment at the Golden K
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Leaves

The hot summer days only left us a few weeks ago.   Winter rain and snow is on the way soon.  Today, sandwiched between those two extremes of hot and cold, we sat in awe.  In awe of Mother Nature who, with occasional whisks of her breath, sent colored leaves falling from the majestic and plentiful oak trees around the Golden K.

And how easy it is, on a day like today, to have a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

 

Return of the Black Tailed Deer

Spring is in the air and the deer seem to know it.

We got to know “our” black tailed deer during the past year.  We enjoyed their visits each morning and evening as we became accustomed to mountain life and our new surroundings.  We got to know the regulars – three bucks we named Scratcher, Kicker, and Chester – and the occasional doe who would follow behind in an appropriate amount of distance based on pecking order.

In early summer we gushed when a spotted fawn accompanied a doe and the three bucks down for breakfast.  We watched in awe as the bucks antlers grew and made these mature males look all the more powerful and glorious.  We mourned the loss of Gimpy, the buck with a broken leg, who we found him dead on our property in early Fall not far from our driveway.  He was an older buck who hobbled along on a three legs for at least a few years (per the previous property owners) and apparently died of old age and not because of his injury that he seemed to manage relatively well given the circumstances.

In Fall hunting season is followed by rutting which drive the deer away from the Golden K with only an occasional visit by a stray buck.  The mostly absence of deer throughout Winter was striking and I missed them.  I wondered where they went, how they were doing, and if they would return back to the Golden K.

And then they did. Last weekend our black tailed beauties returned home in full force.

There were antler-less bucks with foreheads sporting only sockets where their magnificent antlers once were but fell off in the last month or so.  There were does, skinny and hungry and presumably preparing for birth later this spring or early summer.  And there were the yearlings.  Small and skinny but healthy “kids” who survived the winter when the majority of their peers have perished.  Fawn mortality rate runs between 50% and 70%.

So as Spring begins friends of the Golden K have returned much to our joy and anticipation.  Anticipation of more fawns, more grand buck antlers, and continued health and prosperity that all  creatures- man or beast – hope to experience and be blessed upon by Mother Nature.

It’s been almost a year since we arrived at the Golden K.  The return of the black Tailed have Deer reinforced the circle of life and most notably my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

 

Solitude

I’ve never been very good at giving the one word answer or the ‘in a single sentence describe the..”  I tend to be a little wordy.  Holly will laugh when she reads the last sentence and think to herself (or say out loud), “A little?!?”.  Often when I’m asked an important or provocative question, rather than take a thoughtful pause, I usually start talking to fill the space while my mind is thinking and formulating the right answer.  The succinct and meaningful answer.  The answer I wish I had  given after a moment or two of silence while I thought it out rather than vamping on gibberish until I “got there”.

And so it was last weekend at a friends house.  After a wonderful meal the six of us were enjoying after dinner banter and Jenny, our host, asked a great question.  A provocative question.  One of “those” questions.  Jenny and her husband Greg have lived in the mountains for many years; Greg his entire life.  Holly and I moved to the Golden K, thanks in a big way to Jenny, less than a year ago.  Jenny was lock step with us the entire way helping us to navigate the life changing journey from Suburbia to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  And she’s still there for us and interested in “how we’re doing”.

“So what do you like most about living in the mountains?”

There it was.  Jenny asked one of those questions.  My brain started going where I make lists, prioritize the list, organize it into categories, rationalize the motivation for the items on the list, and then put it all into a spreadsheet for the beginning of an executional plan.  Yikes – I was doing it.  But this was a great question.  It meant a lot to me that Jenny asked and then I could almost hear the ringside announcer saying, “Let the rambling begin….”.

I went on to describe the people, the slower pace of life, the laid back vibe, the blah blah blabadee blah blah blah.

I woke up the next morning thinking about this question and the answer was perfectly clear:  solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  Not solitude as defined in the dictionary (the state of being alone) but the solitude of being in the middle of a piece of our planet that Mother Nature has shown great favor to.  A  habitat shared (mostly) peacefully by man, beast, and plants.  The solitude of the fresh air.  The solitude of the sound of the wind blown pine trees.  The walks with dogs in the middle of a dirt or gravel road.  The silence of night.  The sunlight filtered through the pines and oaks sneaking into my bedroom at first light.  The solitude of a sustained stare with a five point buck outside my kitchen patio.  The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.  The solitude of walking out on a cold morning, closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath.  The solitude of sitting under the summer stars with my bride of 34 years and our two Golden Retrievers, all three whom I love desperately.

So yeah, solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  It’s solitude that fortifies my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.

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The Emerging Compound

One of the reasons we fell in love with The Golden K before it was The Golden K was the layout of the property.  It has a wonderful house, a wrap around deck that connects to a dog run that is totally contained (and safe for Kali and Kloe), plus many out buildings.  One of those out buildings was a large shed with an adjacent car port.  I say “was” because when we bought the property  we designated this structure to be renovated into my office.  I work primarily from home and rather than take up a bedroom as an office we decided to convert the shed.

Full disclosure.  There is a smaller out building that would be far less expensive to convert to an office but when one makes dreams come true why not dream big, right.  Just not too big…

My vision for The Golden K has always been that of a “compound”.  Those sprawling homesteads with guest houses, trails to explore, room for privacy if you want it, and common areas for family and friends to come together at the end of the day for meals and spiritual nourishment.  In other words, steak and wine!…

The original plan for the shed was to incorporate the area that comprises the car port into the floor plan.  That area would be a good size bedroom and the shed area would be my office that doubles for living space when guests were using it. There was to be a bathroom, small kitchenette, couch, TV, etc.  Unfortunately reality kicked in when we received our cost estimates and we prudently scaled back the project. (Reference dreaming “too big” above…)

The car port for now will remain just that – a car port and place to park my truck.  The shed will  be converted to my office with enough amenities to make it another place to hang out and watch a sporting event, play music (my piano and guitar will be prominent elements), and just provide another spot for Holly or I or friends and family to escape to for a little privacy or solitude.

And now construction has finally begun.  Seeing the contractors strip the generations-old cabinets and counters away, cut in new windows, and begin wiring for canned lights and modern amenities has made this project become very real.  While it may be slightly less grand than my original vision it is still a new and exciting element of our emerging compound we call The Golden K.

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UNDER CONSTRUCTION AT THE GOLDEN K