My friend Leah and I have started meeting for a weekly walk around Breckenridge.
I do not remember whose suggestion this was, but I do remember that the idea surfaced around the same time that it occurred to me: I have not exercised in a year. We decided to limit our walks to one hour – which addressed my reluctance to take time off from my obsessive need to be productive, to have my days filled with “getting things done;” from work, to writing, to home and family matters.
“This cabin is one of the earliest structures in Breckenridge,” said Leah, as we began a walk along the narrow Klack Placer. The old log cabin is tucked in behind a neighborhood of modern houses. “It was picked up and rotated on this original site so that its entrance would face away from the other houses, so visitors wouldn’t disturb local residents.”
As we moved on from the site, a neighbor with a loud barking dog burst from her house and strode towards us, believing that we were town officials. “Someone needs to do something about this cabin!” she shouted “The town moved it here from another site and it doesn’t belong here! It’s run down! It’s a hazard!”
Leah turned to her and firmly stated, “Madam, you are wrong. This cabin has been on this site since 1878. It was rotated, it was not moved.” And that was that.
Our walks have taken us to visit an empty lot on Main Street in between two old structures that still survive amid the fancy renovated buildings. Every year, a family of Breckenridge foxes are born under one of the structures, and are often seen playing in the lot. We did not, unfortunately, see any fox kits on that afternoon.
On a rainy day, we went into the Breckenridge Welcome Center Museum where Leah was pleased to see that there is still a photo of her grandmother, once one of the town’s great gardeners. A different walk took us along a lovely pathway at the south end of town, which runs behind a neighborhood of big, modern, houses. It’s a little oasis of greenery, dotted with wildflowers and with a small, busy stream running through it. “I was one of the people who fought to keep this bit of open space, when all these big houses were being built. I remember this was just woods and fields, when I was growing up here.”
Our conversations during these walks are often about history. The history of Breckenridge. Leah’s history. My history.
History becomes more important. I’ve discussed with Leah a novel I am working on, the inspiration and motivation for which are my need to capture a piece of my own personal history. Yesterday, when we took a walk in the woods overlooking the Wellington Community, I did most of the talking. I’d just returned from visiting my mother who is ill and now lives in Florida. “I went to help Mom with legal and medical stuff, but what was really important about my time with her was sharing stories of our history: who she is, and how she grew up. And who we are as a family.”
Leah knows my husband, Alan. It was Alan who actually introduced us when I first moved to Breckenridge five years ago. There is perhaps no greater appearance of history in my own life than in my relationship with Alan – the man I love, moved to Breckenridge for, and married. Alan was my best friend in 9th grade. We share a history of growing up in a particular time and place. “We had the same childhood,” Alan has often said.
I recently came across a quote from the writer Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” (Annie Dillard, The Writing Life). This made me think about the tension between being productive and being present, and about asking the questions, ‘How DO I spend my days? What is the history I am creating and how can I understand it?’
As Leah and I walked through Breckenridge talking about the town’s history from gold mining to resort skiing, it was clear that history is created through actions and getting things done. But understanding history, and our place in it, comes not through performing deeds but through ruminating and processing, talking and listening. Through spending some of the time we have, some of the days we are given, being present.
Christina Holbrook writes about life in the mountains, from the beauty of the natural surroundings, to the quirkiness of friends and neighbors, to what makes a good life. She moved to Breckenridge in 2014 and is the author of Winelands of Colorado. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece appeared in the Summit Daily News, June 24, 2019
Illustration by Sean Lewis, from Shamantube