Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Colorado livin'

How is life in Colorado?

I've answered this question several dozen times in the past month, and no doubt I've given slightly different answers every time—but for those I talk to less regularly, here are some bits and pieces of how my life has changed since leaving Seattle.

From an outsider's perspective, the culture in Carbondale feels pretty similar to that of Seattle: a left-leaning community of outdoor enthusiasts, dog lovers, NPR listeners. The restaurants have vegan and gluten-free alternatives and plenty of microbrews on tap. When people ask what you do, they mean "What do you like to do on the weekends?", not "What do you for work?" Beards, Subarus and coffee dependence are prevalent; work attire is plaid flannel and jeans. The local grocery has banned plastic bags. Everyone loves Whole Foods.

So every now and then, I'm floored by some of the differences. On the pro-Colorado side...when people pass me on the sidewalk here, they look me in the eye and say, "Hi!" This happened approximately once in every 99 encounters with passersby in Seattle. I love how astoundingly warm, friendly and hospitable people are in this valley. Steve and I moved into our new home in Redstone the day of the Super Bowl, and we hadn't been unloading our Uhaul twenty minutes before a neighbor rolled up on his dog sled to offer to help us unload and invite us to his house for a Super Bowl party that evening.

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed at how magical this place feels. If it's cloudy one day, it's pretty much guaranteed to be sunny the next day. The sky understands; we did our time, we deserve some rays. The sky in Seattle did not understand this. 

While I worried that my blog name would no longer be apt once I left my beloved Puget Sound, I do, in fact, still live in proximity to water. I live across the street from the lovely, rippling Crystal River, and a five-minute drive from an awesome natural hot springs that makes for terrific post-run soaking.

The Crystal River
On the pro-Seattle side...apparently no one here has ever heard of recycling. Not only is there no recycling pick up at our house (let alone yard waste/compost pick up!), the closest drop-off recycling center is 25+ miles away. Putting glass bottles, cardboard boxes and even banana peels in the trash can feels like nails on a chalkboard to me—yet, at some point, doesn't driving all those miles counteract the environmental benefits of recycling in the first place? We just have to be all the more mindful. 

Snowboarding is not cool here, the way I like to think it sort of was back in the Northwest. I get asked all the time, "Do you ski?!" To which I say brightly, "I snowboard!" Inevitably, the inquirer's face falls. "Oh," they say. Oi vey, the disappointment in their eyes!

The restaurant scene in town also leaves something to be desired. It's pretty hard for anywhere to compete with Seattle—but oh, I am homesick for my malai kofta from Annapurna, my phad see ew and red curry from Jamjuree and phad thai from Amazing Thai, my injera at Queen Sheba. Carbondale has decent pizza, Mexican food and all-American diner grub...but the ethnic options are sorely lacking. With that said, I really have nothing to complain about, because the eating at home is fabulous, and I'm undoubtedly saving oodles of cash not eating out anymore. 

Steve's Amazing Thai rendition. Amazing is the correct adjective to describe what is pictured here.
Teaching my body to run at altitude has been an another beast entirely, which I could ramble on about at length. I think I'm finally starting to turn the corner on what's essentially felt like a month of miserable, asthmatic slogs in the snow—but more on that in another entry. (Soon!)

Adventures in unplugging continue. I’m compelled to share the following excerpt I came across in a productivity book published in 1976. From a section called Information Overload:

“The office duplicating machine, the mimeograph, the offset press, the videotape recorder—all these and many more products of modern technology have one common goal: the production and distribution of more and more information to be absorbed by the human brain. But no one has come up with any ideas for increasing the human brain’s capacity to absorb more information. Most people are already taking in more information than they can usefully assimilate. Why multiply the input…[and] make it difficult for you to concentrate on the big picture?”
– from ‘Getting Things Done’, by Edwin C. Bliss

I must confess I have no idea what a mimeograph isbut funny how much things change, and how much they don’t change at all.

My jeans, for example, will stop wearing out rectangular holes in the right butt pocket, where my iPhone dwelled in Life Before Redstone. My internet-less evenings have afforded me swaths of free time I never imagined possible alongside a 40-hour-a-week job. Granted, this probably is also due to the fact that I went from having 30-40 friends I regularly spent time with in Seattle (thanks to the communities of REI folk, Oberlin alumni, and the Seattle Mountain Running Group) to having precisely two friends here—if you count my cat.

Then, there are things that have not changed.

The addiction to checking things, to hoping someone has reached out in some way, has not disappeared altogether. After Mt. Sopris interrupts my car radio’s reception, I spend the better part of my drive home from work fantasizing about the letters, cards or packages I might find inside our mailbox. After several weeks in our off-the-technology grid experiment, Steve and I succumbed to the lure of the modern world and got a landline in our cell-phone-receptionless new hometown—so now I wonder, too, if we've gotten any voicemails.

The frenzied checking continues.

Granted, it’s mediated. On Facebook, there are roughly 700 possibilities for people who might interact with me at any given moment. My iPhone has 217 contacts on it, at least a couple dozen of whom I’ve texted with semi-regularly.

In sharp contrast, there are exactly four people in the world who currently have our landline number, so the possibilities for voicemails are slim—“your mom or mine?!” Though a few more folks know our mailing address, the mail quietly shows up only once a day, six days a week—not 24/7 the way the Internet is incessantly alerting, notifying, pinging, poking. Back in Seattle, I’d developed the habit of checking my email first thing in the morning, on my iPhone, while still in bed…turning off my alarm clock and opening Gmail with concurrent swipes of the thumb.

FYI that’s dumb.

As I am again composing this blog entry offline at home for posting later, I am now off to look up “mimeograph” in my dictionary.

P.S. A number of you have asked me to share pictures of Redstone and our new home. As I wrote before, I hope to stop participating in the look-how-great-my-life-appears-when-I-present-it-this-certain-way-on-the-interwebs business…so just know that all these come with a necessary disclaimer to shred any perception you might have that life here is perfect: I'll reiterate the complete and utter lack of decent Thai food here. Also, because I do not have the Internet and Facebook to look at pictures of other people’s cats, I spend inordinate amounts of time taking pictures of my own. It's a pretty unglamorous life here, I promise.

Okay, now on to the good stuff:

Our street! Population 94 now.
More from our street
Looking toward Coal Basin, the snowshoeing paradise across the street from our house
Inside Coal Basin

Running up by Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs
I generally see more deer than humans on my runs

Sunset run on the bike path near my work

Enough of that snow! Let's go inside, where it's cozy. Here's home sweet home.
Chloe knows what's up.
The day she figured out she could climb up and down the loft ladders was an exciting one indeed. Cat paradise, this place.


  1. Love your new place Yitka! Miss you in Seattle.

  2. Hi Yitka-
    I admire you for trying out the unplugged lifestyle. I've been practicing this a bit too and it is amazing how much more it seems you can get done!

    I was convinced that no place was better than Carbondale, CO when you said that you live just a short distance from a natural hot spring. Seriously. Wow.

    I am excited every time I see your name in TrailRunner. We miss you!