Life’s What You Make It

Joe at the beach
Joe at the beach

Our oldest has had something of a rough re-entry into landlocked life since we returned from our Hawaiian vacation almost a month ago. I’m afraid that on our trip Joe realized that he, in fact, is not a mountain kid but is an ocean kid living in a city over a thousand miles away from an ocean. Since returning home, he’s immersed himself in ocean research, continually forcing us to watch episodes of The Blue Planet all about the seas. He’s been on Google Earth checking out locations for snorkeling vacations. (He’s currently leaning toward the Maldives. We’ll head there right after we win the lottery.) He’s also been driving me crazy by insisting that the incredibly crappy, gravel beach at the small reservoir a mile from our house has to be a regular destination for us this summer. I’ve tried explaining to him that I don’t see myself spending my summer on a bed of gravel next to a big pond that is occasionally closed to swimming because E coli bacteria is proliferating there. He seems not to hear my negatives, simply reminding me that this is the closest he can ever be to a beach and that he’s an ocean kid and not a mountain kid. Don’t we realize we’re torturing him by making him live in Colorado so far away from the ocean? Yes. He’s a bit of a drama queen. And he keeps asking us to move.

Today was the first nice day we’ve had thus far this year. The temps soared into the low 70s and everyone was out in shorts. After nothing but snowfall this spring, today felt like our deliverance. The hope of summer was so close we could almost smell the campfires and see the columbine. We imagined finally putting away our snow gear and justifiably pulling out our flip flops. Although we’re not quite out of the woods yet (looks like we might see snow again next week), we allowed ourselves today the opportunity to imagine the sound of nails being driven into the coffin of a long, cold winter. Joe was beside himself with glee, dreaming perhaps of our warmer days in Hawaii.

Late this afternoon, he asked us if we could go to the beach across the street. All I could think was that it’s starting already…the battle I will face this summer. We told him no. We’d just gotten back from a 30 mile bike ride and we wanted to hang out at home. But Joe persisted. Finally I decided to check the web site for the state park where I discovered that the swim beach was closed until Memorial Day. When I told him the bad news, the poor kid cried. He actually cried. Unable to bear his frustration, we told him we would drive over to check out the situation.

When we pulled into the lot at the beach, we found several families picnicking and having cookouts. The boys were thrilled. There was no going back. We got out of the car and headed onto the beach. Steve and I threw the beach blanket down and settled in for the half an hour of beach time we’d promised. Although they seemed to be a bit shocked by the 45 degree water temperature (not surprising to us given that the lake had ice on it until a month ag0), the boys got their feet wet and walked along the shore. They threw sticks into the water and were giddy every time a noisy speedboat kicked up diminutive, rippling waves. Steve and I watched with wonder as our sons seemed to have nearly as much fun on this beach as they’d had in Hanalei where the strong ocean tides had prohibited them from swimming from that beach. They didn’t care that the lake is so small you can see across it in every single direction. They didn’t care that the water was achingly cold and the beach was not comprised of fine, powdery sand. They enjoyed their moment anyway. After all, they were at the beach.

I am reminded sometimes that my older, wiser, more cynical view of life gets in the way of my appreciating the smaller things. I didn’t want to go to the reservoir. I could not see the point of sitting on a rough, gravel beach with no true waves and freezing cold water. I could not see it until I was there with my boys and I witnessed the incalculable joy this weak substitution offered them. Only then was I reminded that just because a situation isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it can’t be perfectly grand in its own way. Chatfield Reservoir isn’t exactly Poipu Beach on Kauai, but it’s something. Life’s what you make it.


  1. I lived in Denver for a short time (alas, I’m a country girl) and every, single, weekend day and weeknight I wasn’t working, my cousin drug me there – – – I’m more a mountain meadows or prairie plains person, so I sighed, rolled my eyes and went to Chatfield….Again…

    But it made her happy…. 🙂

      1. Perhaps – I still stick to the ‘different strokes’ theory – I swear, I had to trade 3 weekends at Chatfield for one durn visit to the Hot Springs…LOL

      2. I love Glenwood and try to make it there once a year – as I do better with the lower altitude – but when I lived in Denver (many moons ago) there was a hot springs pool/caverns near Idaho Springs – I don’t know if they are still open or not.

        I’m hoping to make it to some of the smaller, off-the-beaten-track ones in the south west corner of the state this year….like I’ve planned every year since being old enough to drive…LOL We’ll see how the summer goes..

  2. Living in Colorado was my dream, and I lived there for four years (Colorado Springs). Even though I dream of moving back to Colorado someday, I am able to find joy in the small things while living on the coast. A few weeks ago my wife and I saw whales (spouts)… and we’ve been to Seattle and Portland a few times.

    Happiness isn’t necessarily about where are you living … it’s about “living” where you are 😉

    1. I agree with you about living where you are, but I think for most of us that can be an easier said than done proposition. I once lived three years in a place where I was very unhappy. I did find pleasure in little things there but overall I felt very isolated and disconnected. I finally realized that I needed to be somewhere that fed my soul. Not all people require that, but I did at that time. For me, that type of zen, the kind that allows you to be happy anywhere, is something I am still working towards. Maybe someday.

      1. Colorado is where I found my zen. Twice a week I would hike in parks and mountains, and pray. In four years I undid the previous 32 years of frustration. When I left Colorado, I was scared that I might regress to the person I was before moving to Colorado. Thankfully that did not happen. I have continued to grow emotionally and spiritually. However, before my time in Colorado… I only dreamt of moving to Colorado because I could surely find happiness in the mountains. After all, Indiana is one of the flattest places on the planet (second only to Kansas).

        What I realized is that, after Colorado, when I returned to Indiana/Ohio to visit friends and family, my outlook on life was totally different. It wasn’t that Indiana was flat… it was that I only saw the negative things in the place where I was living. Do I want to move back to Indiana? No. I love the mountains. But if I did move back to Indiana, I would have a different experience this time.

      2. I can see that. It’s also about where you are in your life when you’re living in that less than inspirational place. I spent three years in central Illinois as a young newlywed with a husband who traveled abroad constantly with a job he loved while I missed my family and my beautiful home state of Colorado. I love Colorado, which is why we choose to stay here, but I also understand my son’s feeling that he belongs elsewhere because I have felt that too. Joe’s heart resides at the beach and, although I work to show him that beauty and peace are everywhere, I fully expect that someday he will reunite with his heart on a beach to fulfill his own dreams.

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