Water Relief

Rain. Rain. And then rain again.

Well, hello, stranger.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one doing the happy dance recently when the drizzles turned to showers and the showers turned to storms. Even at the best of times, moisture gets a warm welcome throughout the Front Range. (With the noted exception of 2013, of course.) But when we’ve spent way too long as dry as a bone, a snowy winter and wet spring are just what the doctor ordered.

Mind you, I’m kind of weird about rain anyway.  Some people sing about blue skies and cheer on bright summers. I’ll take the gray and the falling water any day. You could blame it on my English ancestors, I suppose. Or maybe my book addiction, where the whisper of page-turning merges perfectly with the patter of drops on the window and roof.

All true. But there’s also a memory of triumph. One going back to the 90s.

And I never would have discovered it if I hadn’t been the world’s most clueless camper.

When Heather and I were about to reach our first wedding anniversary, we wanted to do something special. We’d been living in Kansas for about a year and wanted to come back to Colorado – but we were also ready for something different.

Then the thought came to us.

“What about the Sand Dunes?”

If you haven’t been there, the Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa are breathtaking. Take an ordinary southern Colorado vista – and then drop a big dollop of Tatooine into it. The gigantic hills of sand draw the eye. They stagger the imagination. And they definitely beg to be climbed.

So we planned a camping trip. We bought a tent and got all the vital supplies: sleeping bags, a stove, a game of Boggle. We even practiced setting things up so we knew we could do it when we reached the site.

The one thing we didn’t do is consider the calendar.

You see, Heather and I got married in the last week of July. And if you’ve lived in Colorado for any length of time, you’re already shaking your head.

That’s right. Our wedding anniversary is in Colorado Monsoon Season. The stretch in late July where, in all but the driest summers, afternoon rainstorms are practically guaranteed. Steady as a clock. Sure as a disappointing Rockies season.

Just the thing to pitch a tent in, right?

Our week followed an increasingly predictable pattern. Get up early. Climb the sand dunes in the morning. Hurry back as close to noon as possible. Then huddle in the tent and listen to the water pour.

Amazingly, it worked.

In fact, it worked even better because of the rain.

Loose sand is a tiring thing to climb in. But with daily rain, it congealed and became a sturdier surface. For beginners like us, it gave us the footing we needed to reach the heights. A potential disappointment became a victory.

There are worse metaphors for a marriage. Or a life.

Some things you only discover in a storm. Sure, it’s not always a comfortable place to be. But if you make yourself take the next step, sometimes there are discoveries that can take you higher than you imagined.

So rain, rain, come and stay. Don’t be quick to go away.

The future may be cloudy. But we can still be the raining champions.

Another Story

My name is Scott Rochat, and I am a notebook addict.

It clicks in without fail, every back-to-school shopping season. Ten- or twenty-cent spiral-bound? Fifty-cent composition book? Drop a few in my basket every shopping trip and never mind the growing stack at home until the sale’s over.

My co-workers would laugh if they knew. After all, they’ve seen how quickly I go through the things at work. My desk isn’t quite the Great Wall of Hastily-Filled Notepads but I’m a strong second-place contender.

But the ones at home – these are different.

Granted, sometimes they’re an emergency reserve. Reporters don’t really have an “off time” and when a call comes from the desk, I need to be able to grab something and run. But that doesn’t quite account for the whole Leaning Tower of Spiral.

There’s been a lot of other reasons over the years. Fantasy football prep. Roleplaying games. Scattered notes for columns and parodies. All of it reasonable, all of it true – and all of it, maybe, putting off the real reason.

Namely, the book.

Sure, there’s a book. Or there should be. Ninety percent of people in newspapers plan to “write a book someday” and 10 percent are liars. Heather’s pushed me to do it since we were dating; friends and family, colleagues and readers have all added their voices every so often. “You know, you really ought to …”
I know, I know.

I don’t disagree. I have some ideas kicking around. And since the age of 5, I’ve known I was going to write something – fantasy or mystery, young adult or non-fiction, a new thought with each passing year.

And each year, the idea waits a little longer.

I’m not quite sure what it is. I’m obviously not a writing rookie. I’ve churned out literally hundreds of news articles and columns, dozens of off-kilter parody songs for theater friends, even a couple of children’s plays. But the book still looms ahead, forbidding and massive, like my own personal Rocky Mountain range.

Or maybe it’s my own Great Sand Dunes.

If you’ve ever been to Alamosa, you know what I’m talking about. Tremendous piles of sand deposited over countless years by an odd meeting of wind and earth. If you haven’t been, picture a gigantic section of George Lucas’s Tatooine picked up and dropped into Colorado, just in reach of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

It’s bizarre. Beautiful. And a little imposing.

Heather and I camped nearby for our first anniversary, about 14 years ago. We looked at that high ridge and knew we had to get up it. But we weren’t sure how much we could push ourselves – even then, her health wasn’t great – and sand isn’t the most forgiving hiking surface, giving you two steps forward, one and a half steps back.

But two things worked in our favor. First, this was “monsoon season,” the week in July when afternoon rains left the dunes more stable than they would have been. Second, as we got higher and higher, we only occasionally looked out at the valley. Heather’s focus was on me, just ahead. Mine was on her, just behind. Each urging the other to make just a few more steps.

Between the circumstances, and the shared tunnel vision, we made it. We found the view from that ridge was even more beautiful than we’d expected.

And we also found there were a whole lot more ridges behind the one we could see.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe any imposing journey is just a matter of steps and circumstance, going just a little farther while you can, as you can. Always with the hope of achievement – and the promise of yet another journey behind.

It’s still an intimidating thought. But there’s some hope mixed in with the intimidation. After all, plenty of people hike the ridges, write the pages, do the difficult. Who’s to say there can’t be one more?

Who, indeed.

This calls for another notebook.