Pittsburgh

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You may be wondering if this is going to turn into a doggie blog. It might rabbit, it just might. Nah. That said, we are in serious doggie mode here. Our schedule has been upended, with us more regimented, rising earlier, so we can get at least an hour walk in every day, though Juniper sometimes behaves as though it’s only been fifteen minutes, darting around the yard like a race horse before deciding she is REALLY hungry and devouring her food in a minute flat. She’s energetic like that.

Our choice of books has been augmented to include everything dog, heavy on the Cesar Millan. We our doing our best to be calm-assertive pack leaders. She is doing her best to keep us guessing, well behaved dream doggie to a spazzy-zig-zaggy pup in the blink of an eye. She’s goofy like that.

But that’s not all I want to talk about, partially to prove that we are not all dog, all the time, and partially because it’s what is on my mind. I am pretty sure I have already mentioned this, but because I am human and rather fallible, I’m going to act like I didn’t. Part of what I love about Colorado Springs, besides its close proximity to near and dear ones and New Mexico, is that it reminds us of all the places we have ever lived.

Much like me, the hubster, and our new pup, our fair city is quirky, complete with a Keep Colorado Springs Lame bumper sticker. Our house is blocks away from a very Powell Boulevard-esque street. It is a five mile bike ride from downtown (though it would have been a treacherous one in Pittsburgh) in a very walkable city, for which we thank goodness, because we are going to cover every inch of it with our sweet Juniper Beulah. Palmer Park is almost equidistant as Mount Tabor was, complete with a snow capped mountain in the background! Capacious Red Rocks Park and Bear Creek serve as fine Forest Park and Frick Park stand-ins, swapping geologic wonders of granite and sandstone for dense woods and towering trees.

Though Portland reigns supreme in this category, we have some super organic food and grocers and stellar local restaurants. One of our favorites, insert spooky sound effect, even has the number 503 in its name. Whaaat?! Though it refers to an address, not the area code of our favorite rainy city. But still.

It is a collection of hills and dales and flat plains, coal mines slipped in and amongst a perfect grid and bowl of spaghetti collection of senseless winding streets, the best and the worst of East and West Side Portland and the whole of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

It is blue collar and higher ed, an hour from every beauty imaginable, save the stellar Oregon coast.

It is HOME, and we are so happy to be here.

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A final look at our Pittsburgh house. It was that first glimpse of the fireplace in the living room that made me want it. I was house shopping without the hubster, and he, much to my great wonder, is a rather big J.R.R. Tolkien fan. He’s read all the books, in English and in French, and seen the movies, too, even “dragging” me to the first fil-um in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, during which I was so bored that I read a magazine in the half light of the theater – different strokes for different folks, dear peeps. Anyway, one glance at that Tolkien-esque metal work and I knew he would love it, that it was the place for us. And it was!

We loved it as best we could in the time we had, with light fixtures, paint and plants, odd repairs and new doors, while squeaking around on century old floors (it’s a rhyme!). We spied birds through wavy glass and marveled at the solidity of the stone foundation, the sturdiness of brick. This great house has seen so much.

And my prediction, that it would all feel like some strange dream, is already coming to fruition. Out walking together, we laughed aloud, “Wow, Pittsburgh! That really did happen!”

And home, again. The Front Range capped in snow and those bewitching Colorado skies. Not for a moment realizing the adrenaline that was keeping me fueled, it took a good few days for me to recover from the trip west. There were many long naps for this non-napper and even longer nights of sound slumber. Thankfully, I am more myself and inching my way out into the world. Maybe I’ll see you around. I’m the one with the camera, gawping at mountains and blue skies like they were only recently invented!

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Language

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

T.S. Eliot

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Today, this 30th day of December, is our last in Pittsburgh. The house is sold, quiet, and for a short spell, empty. Our car is packed to the gills and ready to roll along home to Colorado. Colorado, where we were born and raised, landlocked anchor to our drifting hearts.

When we are far greyer than we are now, and reminiscing about our life, we’ll gaze at each other and say, “Do you remember that year we lived in Pennsylvania?” We’ll wonder aloud if maybe it was a wild shared dream, the two of us living in what our friends called the mansion, a century-old beauty of red brick, chock full of gleaming wood, stained glass, four fireplaces, and three stories, the top most we rarely visited, save to gaze upon and photograph the sky.

We will, always and forever, be glad for our choice, to have been courageous enough to pick up sticks and live on the other side of the continent and known yet another part of America: the undulating hills, hardwood forests, ravines and deep river valleys; the diversity, having come from the whitest city of Portland; the kind faces of generations of poverty and souls broken by back-breaking labor, giving all they had; the vast brick mansions, museums, and every last vestige of the steel age; the wretched air pollution and ridiculously high property taxes that buy virtually nothing ($7,200 on a $200,000 house!); the road trips to places we had longed to see: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, the New York and Quebec countryside.

We will smile, conjuring the streets of Bellevue: the kids of all ages at the skate park, the fabulous library, the lights at holiday time; the pitch perfect weather and four gloriously distinct seasons; the new vocabulary and that crazy Pittsburgh accent, how we drove sahth on the parkway with a bunch of nebby jagoffs to go aht dahntahn, bought groceries at the Giant Iggle, and watched the STLRS play.

We will remember surviving and thriving during a year of massive grief and wonder: a mother with breast cancer, a cousin with a cancerous brain tumor, a soul broken enough to attempt suicide, the sorrowful loss of our beloved cats and our two grandmothers; the quiet evenings of summer, lying, jubilant and awestruck, under a sky alive and shimmering with fireflies; the hills ablaze with the dazzling colors of fall; having walked and driven, mile after mile, eager and curious, to big places and small spaces, forests and towns, and gotten lost, lost, lost.

We will be glad to have learned more of our own selves, the roots we never knew we had: how living in and amongst the rolling hills and winding roads of Appalachia drove us absolutely mad, and flat cities with grid systems make us as giddy as children with a secret; how we found a gaping hole in our collective soul, one that could only be filled with the nearness of our aging family and the dreamy-big skies, sage scrubland and open spaces, and mountains, giants snow-capped and cloaked in evergreen, of the West; how there was simply no substitute for being T H E R E.

Most of all, we will be grateful to have such marvelously generous and big-hearted Pittsburgh friends: Peggy. Mike. Kristen. Patrick. Dale. Therese. Dan. Janet (times two!). Ron. Megan. Tricia. Jonathan. Andrew. Kelly. Beth. Peter. George. Jordan. Rose. The beautiful women of the Non-Native Pittsburgher Women’s Social Meetup. The Sisters at Bethany House. The creative men and women of my Writer’s Group. The kindly businessmen and women of Bellevue. The cashiers at the Whole Foods in Wexford. To all, we give our love and sincerest thanks.

It was a great and wonderful year. Here’s to an even better 2016!

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A hodge podge of photos, a pack of stray cats…

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