When The Old is New, Yet Again

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A frosty morning, from the north-facing office window.

We moved to this property in 2001, and settled into the new house in mid-March, 2003, which means that I’ve been looking at the view from this home for eleven years now.

A few months ago, I did some mental tallying and realized that I’ve now lived in this house longer than I’ve lived in any other dwelling in the span of my life thus far. I’m a little shocked at this, although I’m not sure why. I’m also not sure why it is that I still find myself referring to this as the “new” house.

My best guess is that this linguistic bias is related to the heightened awareness I brought with me when we moved in. I arrived with a writer’s intention—a plan to explore my new home ground in both experience and words. The landscape and the animals and the weather have not stopped obliging my interest over the past decade-plus. The familiar has gained ground on the novel as the years have passed, to be certain, but there are still surprises, still new things to see, still lessons to be learned, still firsts to experience—such as my travel travails in the storm that hit the region on March 7.

It was a perfectly ordinary spring storm—fast-moving and wet. I’d been watching the forecast and knew snow was coming. What was unusual was that I’d decided to keep my afternoon appointment in town in spite of the approaching weather. Snow had not yet started falling when I left home, and I was only gone a couple of hours. By the time I headed back up the hill, though, heavy rain in Cañon City was changing to fat wet flakes a few miles west of town. Although it’s getting older, my little Saturn SL2 is still pretty good in snow and ice, but two-thirds of the way home, it was clear the car would not be able to push uphill through heavy slush sitting atop a thick layer of ice on the pavement. I turned around and headed back to town, arriving almost two hours after I’d left, utterly spent.

This was the first time I haven’t been able to make it home in the thirteen years we’ve lived here, and the experience was a reminder of why I usually throw extra clothes and snowboots into the car when heading out in inclement weather—something I failed to do that day. I hadn’t exactly taken the weather for granted, but I also hadn’t prepared for a worst case scenario. I assumed I’d be home sooner, assumed the warm roads would get slushy but not icy. Back home the next day, a bright sun fast burning the slush off the roads, I remained mired in a funk. I was exasperated at finding myself relearning a lesson I already knew.

As my place-based exploratory project keeps running across the years, however, I realize that it’s too much to expect that everything I still have to learn will be truly new. The place where I live excels at keeping complacency at bay, but what keeps this not-so-new home place feeling “new” has less to do with outright novelty than with tracing the iterations in which a new day or a new season puts a fresh twist on the familiar or offers an altered perspective on the commonplace. As the northern hemisphere prepares to notch another spring on the belt of its vast timeline, I’m reminding myself that recycling—re-cycling—is simply how the world works.

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