A "Country Club" or a COUNTRY community?

When people ask me where I now live, I usually tell them I live in a rustic mountain community west of Denver. Which I do.

Sometimes I tell them I live in Mount Vernon Country Club, which is also true. But the term "country club" can be misleading.

I love this place. I love the people who live here. The old stone club house, though it's been remodeled many times, still sits perched atop Lookout Mountain and looks east across the city to the Great Plains, and west to the white-tipped peaks of the Continental Divide.

The wild onions that I used to eat as a child still grow in the rocky soil. Wild harebells still bloom along the trails. Ponderosas, once saplings, tower over the old picnic ground where my father used to pitch horseshoes. The original remodeled cabin where I live and where I host one-on-one retreats, was built in 1910.

A couple of weeks ago The Denver Post published an article I wrote about Mt.Vernon. Writing the article was a labor of love. I'm proud of this community.

You won’t find many paved roads in Mt. Vernon. Narrow dirt roads still wind in and out of the trees that surround the homes. We live here along with the elk, mule deer, bobcat, fox, coyotes, wild turkeys, golden and bald eagles, hawks. Even the rare tassel-eared Abert’s squirrel and the occasional bighorn sheep, mountain lion, and bear. Wildlife corridors still meander between the homes, much as they did a hundred years ago.

You also won’t find manicured hedges and mowed lawns in Mt. Vernon, nor private wells. A carefully monitored, gravity fed groundwater system developed by the residents serves all our needs.

The buildings are clustered on a few hundred acres, and it’s this “clustering” that marks Mt. Vernon as a pioneer in land use planning and preservation. Instead of 100 homes sitting on 10-acre plots, leaving no open space, the community has 100 homes sharing a few hundred acres, leaving nearly a thousand acres of land as communal, natural habitat for people and wildlife.

Mt. Vernon is a neighboring community. Appreciation of open land, and volunteerism, are two of our uniting principles. Land acquisition, conservation, and stewardship have been community priorities for decades. Mt. Vernon is a long-standing “preservation partner” of the Clear Creek Land Conservancy, part of the Colorado Conservation Trust. The CCLC, along with their partners, is responsible for preserving over 10,000 acres.

We have volunteer committes that take care of everything from keeping our history records up-to-date, to long range planning, to weed control and stewardship. We even had an informal covey of neighbors that helped my mother during the fifteen years she struggled with cancer so that she could remain living at home.

All, labors of love.

When I awoke this morning, a skiff of snow covered the wild grasses around my home. The branches of the native ponderosas bend toward the white roofs of the houses. A single set of elk tracks cut through the yard. The sun is shining now, and as the snow melts from the tree branches, silver tear-shaped drops catch the light and glisten on their way to the sodden ground.

What a beautiful day. What a beautiful place, this country club community.


Anonymous said…
This is a beautiful blog. Very well-written and genuine. I am also a writer in Colorado who has a blog and writes about elk and other wildlife (as well as the writing process)-- www.susangabriel.com/blog--if you want to check it out.

Good work!
Susan, thank you the great feedback. I enjoyed reading your interview on your web site blog. Congratulations on the good feedback on your novel, SEEKING SARA SUMMERS!
Anonymous said…
Page, I love this post. I love how you pay homage to your ancestors and to the land and the many different life forms with whom you share the land. ...I've been thinking a lot lately about the place where I'm from, often longing for it. It's a tiny Hamlet along Lake Ontario way back East and it's effect on me is unshakable. I try to find locations here that remind me of the land and sky (and water--though that's tricky) and smells... it's hard to feel comfortable in a place that doesn't feel "natural to me."

Currently, I live in the place where my husband is from, literally; we're in the house he grew up in. I'm trying to get inside this house, this property, its dirt and views, it's place here in Northern Colorado and in the West... my husband says, very strongly, he's from the West, it's part of his chemistry. I wish I could figure out how to embrace this place now and grow into it so it feels "natural" and like home.

Any advice?
Dear Invisible Bees - your question is such a profound one: how to find comfort in a place that doesn't feel natural to you. I just returned from speaking at a Women Writing West symposium in Denver with several other authors - Pam Houston, Deirdre McNamer, Teresa Jordan, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Alyson Hagy, and Karen Volkman. Three of the women were raised in the east (or south), and not the West. Creating a sense of "home" in an unfamiliar landscape is not easy. Are you writing about the little hamlet along Lake Ontario? I hope so. But I hope you are also writing about the stories that reveal themselves to you here in this new landscape. Not your husband's stories, but your stories - encounters, small and large, with the people you meet in your neighborhood, the plants you find growing in your yard, the birds you hear singing in the trees. By learning their stories, you will begin to create your own narrative and relationship with where you live. Reading authors who write about Colorado, and the West, will help too. All the best to you, Page.

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