On the east side of a wide mountain valley fenced to the west by unapproachable peaks is a place he dreamed about and she was talked into trying. She hoped for children and a good view.
They traveled west, leaving land where trees changed with season to voyage to where the sage brush deepens in color only in a rainy year. They left behind grey skies and occasional days of partly covered sun to put down under the bluest-blue sky in a place where the rare cloud rushed past and the sun warmed the earth even on the coldest day.
In time, the wild new home would grow civil and full. She dabbed as much as she possibly could into this new canvas–the painted white boards and the china and the mahogany and the silver and the linens and the pink paper walls in the parlor and the fine porte-cochere built only when things were looking up. These souvenirs from her earlier life linked to what she had known before and gave her strength to reinvent. Relics, they stood hard and fast against the strange backdrop of a ranch out West until they faded, like her memories, from the sun and the dust and the wind of the valley. What was unfamiliar became known. What used to be was largely gone.
That is how I imagine it.
For that is what I have known. I have carried to each new place at least some of what came before. I have brought along what I love and the books and the armoire and the dishes and the me that I know have nested and given comfort.
I am on home number fifteen. Permanence is an experience I might have liked. I followed change despite no preference for it. I have left plenty, used up and discarded too much. Time, people, things. Deep sorrow to leave what I nurtured. Pain to abandon friends, involvements, the space created in houses I have loved. Tears.
Then one last look back. Followed by a slow, creeping heart smile growing at the thought of unmet friends and unimagined prospects that lie ahead and with consideration for the best place in the new house to land the unwieldy armoire I used to never, ever think I could leave behind.
Reinvention forces decisions about leaving what no longer fits and what is worthy of keeping as the mainstay. It provides a new slate on which to sketch memories and experiences and attitudes that can stand hard and strong against the wind and the dust and the fading sun. What is important stays and gives strength. For wherever the voyage, the unknown becomes familiar and the known fades.
The Beckwith Ranch is one of the most photographed spots in Colorado. Established in 1874 by the Beckwith brothers, it was at its peak one of the largest cattle operations in Colorado. Sons of a wealthy shipbuilder from Maine, Elton and Edwin brought cattle to Colorado from Texas in 1869 with Charles Goodnight, one of the founders of the western cattle industry.
In the 1870’s, Elton married Elsie Chapin Davis and their Victorian “mansion” which they named “Waverly House” was built shortly after. Elton enjoyed a short political career, serving one term as a Colorado state senator. In 1907, Elton Beckwith died from injuries from a fall (jump) from the second floor of the Beckwith Ranch. It is said that he had contracted syphilis and it had driven him mad. After his death, Elsie Beckwith reinvented, selling all the property in the Wet Mountain Valley to move to Denver where she died in 1931. Elton, Elsie, and Edwin are all buried in the Ula Cemetery, located a few miles southwest of the ranch.