One of my strongest memories of growing up is of listening to John Denver playing on the record player as I fell asleep at night. My dad was a huge JD fan. We listened to those songs all the time– in the car, in the family room, everywhere, round the clock, all year long — and to this day I know every single line of every single song by heart. But what I remember most was falling asleep to it. It was like a great thick fluffy down comforter surrounding me as I drifted off dreaming of the great big world. And one of my favorite John Denver songs, despite never having been to Colorado, was always, and still is, Colorado Rocky Mountain High.
I always wondered if Colorado was all that John Denver sang that it was. And this past weekend, I got to find out. And yes, it was.
We returned Monday night from a whirlwind, 5-day, completely awe-inspiring, life-affirming trip to Colorado for Maggie and Eric’s wedding. John Denver’s Colorado Rocky Mountain High was the literal and figurative soundtrack to our trip. I started playing it for the bambinos about 24 hours before we left. They hadn’t heard it before, but started hearing it over and over and over again blaring from my iPad through stereo speakers. Luckily, they liked it. By Day 2 of our time in Colorado, they knew the song by heart and were belting it out from the backseat of the rental car. The whole entire trip was a Colorado Rocky Mountain High for us. Them singing JD at the top of their lungs is the perfect symbolic memory of our experience.
Don’t get me wrong. There were lows. There always are. It is a choice to focus on the positive. A choice I choose.
“But the string’s already broken and he doesn’t really care. It keeps changing’ fast and it don’t last for long…”
The wedding was in Maggie’s parents’ hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Waldo Canyon Fire was blasting flames and smoke throughout canyons and ridges for the days leading up to the wedding. It was scary, overwhelming at times, and extremely troubling, to be visiting that place (and trying to celebrate a wedding) during the time of such a massive disaster. That can’t (and shouldn’t) be sugar coated. It was awful.
above: smoke in the mountains, along the side of the road as we drove into Colorado Springs from Denver on Thursday
above: fire and smoke coming over the ridge, view from our hotel room after the Rehearsal Dinner on Friday
“I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky…”
There is no way around something like that. When a major disaster is occurring in those precious days right before your wedding, you can’t go over it or under it either. It is just something you have to go through. I know about this firsthand since my own wedding took place just four days after September 11th. I know how it feels to be a bride in the midst of a terrible crisis. What we learned (again) from this Colorado trip was that the best that we can do is to go through these things together; to be the best we can be for the people who need us to be present; to not try to push it under or blow it over, but to really just be there, to go through it together.
above: early morning firefighter thanks, on a street corner as we drove by to Pike’s Peak on Friday morning
We learned so much from that experience.
There were other lows too. Not so profound, but lows nonetheless. Like the time difference. It is only a 2-hour-difference, so we hadn’t expected it to be a big deal, but it turned out to be a very big deal for our three kids. The bambinos (Owen and Meera, especially) didn’t adjust until our very last day (just in time to come home and face it in reverse on the other side… ugh). It wreaked havoc on our sleep schedules and we’re still not recovered from it. Our time in Colorado involved late nights (for wedding events), and very early mornings — with Owen and Meera up at 4am, raring to go. While the rest of us tried to sleep in the hotel room, those two tried to play quietly by the light from a crack in the bathroom door on a blanket on the floor.
But this low had a silver lining (at least for them). They won big with front-row seats for amazing sunrises from our hotel room window~~
And that’s where I’ll end with the lows. Because really, the Lows List is a very short one. Those two items — plus some fussing and whining from an over-tired 4-year-old, some hard-core sibling fighting, and some attitude from a certain set of 8-year-old twins — that’s all I’ve got. Because really– the rest?– it all gets put on a very long list of highs.
“But the Colorado Rocky Mountain high…”
Did I mention our hotel room window? The view. The view was a high in and of itself.
Oh my gosh it was beautiful there. We loved visiting it. This trip to Colorado will be long remembered in the folklore of our family. It was an amazing experience. A big huge Colorado Rocky Mountain high. A high that was such a high, in part, because of the lows that were folded into it. We found Colorado to be just as John Denver sings about, all beauty and brilliance and rugged and ragged wrapped up together. And that, in part, is what makes it so darn beautiful– the complexity and simplicity, the good and bad, the high and low, all at once.
In addition to the above, I’ve tried to make a short list of the top three highs of our trip in the following posts: