Snow Sunday: Arriving in Telluride for the First Time

Snow Sunday: Arriving in Telluride for the First Time

When I was 21 and a student at Colorado College, I caught a last-minute ride in a friend’s pickup to a place called Telluride. Toby was headed there for a bluegrass festival. “Get in. You have to see this place.”

The Light Gathers Around Telluride's Peaks

The Light Gathers Around Telluride’s Peaks

We arrived late at night, too late to find his friends. Instead, we pulled over on the Valley Floor and unrolled our sleeping bags by the river. The stars overhead seemed to have known that they’d found a good place to shine and gathered in great dazzling clusters. I had grown up in Baltimore where the stars were few in number and mostly clouded by city lights.

Looking up at Telluride’s sky, I realized, for the first time, how utterly little I knew. There were entire worlds out there I’d never considered. Such possibility seemed to exist in those stars. It took me a long time to fall asleep that night. I didn’t want to stop looking at that sky or stop listening to the river running beside me. When I finally drifted off, I dreamed of riding a horse from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, cutting and mending fences as I went along. It was as if the vast space overhead had breathed into my sleep.

I awoke the next morning with the sun and discovered I was surrounded by mountains. At the end of town, where the road ended, two waterfalls cascaded into the river below. It was the most enchanting place I had ever seen. We drove into town, hunting for a place to grab breakfast, yet I couldn’t concentrate on Main Street’s restaurants. All I could see were those mountains that boxed in every inch of the place. That early morning purple light that seemed to coat everything. And all I could think of were the people who got to live here and see this every day.
DSC_0004A few years after I graduated from college, I found a job teaching in Telluride. Now that I am one of those people who gets to call this place home, my relationship with it has changed. I know more of its history, both contemporary and ancient.  I’ve been here when the April dust storms barrel through town, covering everything in a choking red silt. In June when it’s snowing sideways. In July when it’s so dry, we can smell the smoke of wildfires encroaching on all sides. And in February, when two feet of snow has fallen overnight, and the whole town lines up to make turns in the snow. I’ve hiked on trails that have no names, and I’ve gotten lost on those same trails, still discovering after 13 years of living here, new places I’ve never explored.

Yet, although my relationship with Telluride has grown deeper and more complex, my enchantment has remained much the same. I still look up at the night sky and am awed by the possibility of it. And I still awake in the morning and look to the east, to the peaks bathed in that purple early morning light and feel gratitude for the place I get to call home. Telluride is more than just a pretty view; it’s a part of me. When I feel lost in the world, I run its trails to find my way home again. I take it in; in exchange, it takes me in.

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