A multi-layered tapestry of vegetation stretches before my eyes, the various hues and heights snuggling against the backdrop of angular mesas, rounded knobs, and a morning sky that already carries the promise of afternoon showers.
Myriad swallows dart across the canvas. Their constant chattering fills the air, and is only disrupted by the intermittent approach of vehicles on the nearby highway. Slight gusts of wind rustle the leaves of the tree in whose shadow I have sought refuge from the sun.
A pleasant perfume pervades the air. The pollen is so thick that it makes me sneeze, even if I don’t suffer from allergies. When I step into the sage-filled meadow, a fine layer of yellow dust instantly envelops my boots and pants. Between my fingertips, it feels like fine powder.
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These are some of the thoughts I scribbled during a recent writing workshop, which took place at the former Buffalo Peaks Ranch (thank you for suggesting I attend, Andrea!). Situated in Colorado’s South Park, between the medium-sized hamlet of Fairplay and its smaller southern neighbor, Hartsel, the 1861 homestead, one of the oldest in the area, is named after the eponymous summits due west, which are clearly visible from the premises. The ranch and surrounding land were purchased by Aurora in 1985, to gain control of the associated water rights. The city is leasing the buildings to the Rocky Mountain Land Library, whose mission is “to help connect people to nature and the land,” with the vision to “open Buffalo Ranch as a year-round, residential retreat center and library…” In its still-growing collection of 35,000 plus books are reflected the geography, geology, biology, and history of the habitation of the American West—any bibliophile’s idea of paradise.
The erstwhile rooms of the main ranch building house the volumes that tell the stories of those who once inhabited this land, while some of the adjacent buildings are in the process of being transformed into lodgings. All structures evoke the ghosts of those who tread here before, whether on foot or hoof. Empty stables still strewn with golden straw and littered with manure seem to await the cattle’s return from its pastures. A nest under the eaves invites a pair of birds to move in. Save a little necessary TLC, it’s basically ready for a housewarming party.
During the seminar, we participants are encouraged to experience different corners of the property, and to note our impressions. The longer we are present, and the more we move around and observe, the more evident it becomes just how multi-layered the tapestry is, and how many strata underlie each single spot. My descriptions haven’t even scratched the surface.
Read more about the Rocky Mountain Land Library here, and find out about their history, philosophy, and workshops.