On Becoming a Mountain Mama

Rainbow near Maroon BellsAs of this month I’ve been a resident of Colorado for 40 years. As I thought about writing a blog about my transformation from a Tennessee girl to a Colorado mountain mama, I remembered a column I wrote for the Gazette on the occasion of my 20th Anniversary as a Coloradoan! So here it is again.

This month I’ve been a resident of Colorado for twenty years. Twenty falls gilded in aspen leaves. Twenty winters gazing at snow-covered mountains resembling pink cotton candy in the early morning light. Twenty summers of hot days under bright blue skies, and cool nights under a canopy of stars.

Although there’s nothing magical about the number twenty, it forces me to reconsider my status as a Tennessean just passing through. Tennessee will always be home. It only takes an instant to transport myself back to steamy Southern summers where the air is heady with honeysuckle as I sit on the back porch watching for the first lightning bugs to reveal their flight paths. Racing barefooted across the dewy grass to catch one of them in tiny, cupped hands is a memory every child should have.

Those are the summers of my youth, and I’ll always be able to recall them. But more and more frequently I find myself contemplating all I would miss if I couldn’t spend summer here in Colorado.

The Summer of ‘77, I didn’t care. I thought this was the most desolate place I had ever seen, and I couldn’t imagine being exiled here forever. The hot August winds blew through the house and threatened to blow the drapes right off their rods, so I closed the windows. Then, since there was no air-conditioning, I was just sure we would all suffocate.Black-eyed Susans

But soon the fields around our house were full of Black-eyed Susans as far as I could see. I remember walking the dog through those fields and feeling like I was part of a movie set. Just that simply, the twenty-year courtship began.

As if to entice me into declaring Colorado my home state, the Summer of ’97 is especially enchanting. Due to generous spring snows, the roadsides are greener than I’ve ever seen them. On a June road trip, we saw fields of yucca so plush it looked like a marching band in plumed hats was parading toward us. We drove past newborn foals frolicking behind their mothers and sheep lounging in beds of wildflowers.

I think we all come to love what we know. It occurs to me that I know Colorado. I know things like where to buy night crawlers in Cotapaxi or copper pots in Frisco. I know where the picnic tables are on our favorite ski slopes, and due to Colorado’s coquettish, unpredictable weather, I know I’m as likely to be able to picnic there in February as in July.

SunriseMore than anything, I’ve come to know and love these ever-changing mountains. I’ve seen the “purple mountain majesties” Katharine Lee Bates immortalized when she penned “America the Beautiful” from Pikes Peak. I’ve seen it “raining fire in the sky” in the Western sunset John Denver sings about in “Rocky Mountain High.”

Recently a young buck with fuzzy antlers chose to laze away his afternoon in our back yard. On assignment at an office building on the north end of Colorado Springs, I gazed out the window as a baby fawn on wobbly legs cavorted behind her mother. As I write this, two hummingbirds are vying for position at the feeder at my office window.Nancy at Tivoli Lodge Vail

Great show, Colorado! It’s taken twenty years, but I’m ready to profess my love for you. Now I officially have two home states. If home is where your heart is, then this feels a lot like home.

May I just add, this is how much I love you, Colorado—times two now that we’ve been together 40 years!


  1. Jan Keller says:

    As a native, I’m glad you’re still here and that you’ve discovered the delights of Colorado.

  2. that is a great one!!

  3. Jim B (your loving huzzband) says:

    I am REALLY glad you stayed around long enough to for us to find each other!

  4. Elizabeth Van Liere says:


  5. Charlie Fusco says:

    Early in our marriage we almost moved to Denver. Like you – it seemed so desolate to me that I really couldn’t imagine settling there. However, your blog convinces me I didn’t stay long enough to appreciate what Colorado had to offer. Truly, “home is where the heart is”. My husband being a New Yorker and me a Tennessean, we had to find compromise to accommodate both of our expectations of “home”. My husband’s first job dictated our first residence: Orlando, Florida, Promotions and changing careers led us to New Hampshire and Massachusetts followed by California, and Georgia. Finally, we found our “home” together in one of Florida’s historic little towns. Lined with giant oak trees and water, water, everywhere, we fell in love with Sanford’s brick streets lined with antique lamp posts which illuminate our many parks and the front porches of friendly neighbors during evening walks. We have learned early on what it means to “follow the shade around the house” as we sweated through our first summer of muggy, bad hair days. Like visitors who flood our state from around the world, we find respite at the water’s edge: nearby “home” at Lake Monroe and the St. John’s River (just thirteen blocks from our front door) or as we take in nearby cool ocean breezes and the sound of gentle waves. We officially traded four seasons for two: hot and not. Our lush vegetation is hard kept but the bright blue skies and sunsets we enjoy year round while others shovel snow and shiver under grey days for months are near impossible to beat. But sometimes, I’m over-taken by an intense longing that only Tennessee mountains and its people can cure. With fall approaching, I feel that coming on. And, I suspect you feel that way too. I’m thankful you always have those glistening, golden aspens and first snowfall to look forward to. As for me, I’m grateful that cooler days are just around the corner and while many of my friends are racking fresh fallen leaves, I’ll be sipping iced tea and tending my rose garden.

    • Wonderful images, Charlie. Thanks so much for sharing. We both learned to “bloom where we were planted!”

  6. alice ferguson says:

    My sentiments exactly, only I had to grow into feeling at home here in the extremes of the desert SW. Colorado will forever be home in so many ways…so many ways! Thanks for the exquisite word painting of this extravagantly beautiful state, Nancy!

  7. Deb Limoge says:

    As a fellow Southern girl, I was also initially shocked at the ” browness” of the Colorado landscape during spring house hunting. Ugh…. was I going to be able to leave the lush greenery of the south?. I quickly came to love aspects of Colorado such as lower humidity, open windows to allow fresh air breezes, brilliant blue skies, the crisp feeling of cool summer evenings. I could go on. Suffice it to say, more than 25 years later, the south still has a piece of my heart but Colorado is home.

    • I’m with you, Deb. And if we ever have doubts, we just need to return to the south in the middle of the humid season!

  8. I’m glad you stayed, Nancy! Perhaps most surprising to me was seeing teens in t-shirts, shorts, and flip flops on cold (but sunny) winter days!

  9. Eileen Somers says:

    On August 22 it was 46 yrs. for me of being a transplant. I too connect myself with my home state, Nebraska, and even after all these years I know it was that Midwest upbringing that helped me be the Coloradoan I am today. I have had the thrill of high places skiing, and hiking, and sights that have taken my breath away and bought tears to my eyes. I love being able to see for miles and miles even at my kitchen window while in overwhelming AWE of God’s creation. A yard that is tough when it comes to gardening but is visited by many deer, bear, bobcats, owls, hawks, rabbits, garter snakes and who knows what else. Above all I cherish the Colorado friends God has given me as my extended family so I could feel like this is home. Nancy, thanks for being one of those friends, and thanks for sharing the joys of living in this beautiful place.

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