Holbrook: What to bring to Colorado: spike heels or Tevas?
In the fall of 2014, I moved across country to live in Summit County. A crucial question was: What do I bring?
I love the advice expressed by Freya Stark, the sassy English writer who traveled throughout the Middle East in the 1930s. In Valley of the Assassins (1934), she lists her few travel essentials: “my saddlebags disclosed in their depths a crumpled gown and a powder puff.”
What we bring, I’d suggest, offers clues to our hopes and our intentions; Freya clearly meant to travel in style without a lot of baggage to weigh her down.
Heidi, a friend who works at the yoga studio where I teach, is a young woman with adventure at the forefront of her mind: “I brought my hiking gear, a photo album and basically what I could fit in my duffle bag.” From Breckenridge, she’ll move on to Alaska for the summer and, after that, Hawaii — and then the Appalachian Trail. Many years ago, when my boyfriend Alan moved from New York to Colorado to be a ski bum, he stuffed skis, boots and two enormous 1980s-style stereo speakers into his small Renault Le Car. His intention? To ski, party and meet girls.
When we’re younger, travel or a big move can be a way to discover who we are and who we are becoming. Later on in life, moving can offer the tantalizing possibility of re-inventing ourselves, of starting fresh. And once again, we may be tempted to travel light.
By the time I moved to Colorado, I had sold two houses and unloaded most of what had been inside of them. When it came time to travel West with my dog, Luke, the possessions I brought were mostly of sentimental value: a dresser that had been my father’s and a set of Burgess Animal Books for Children that had been my mother’s as a child. A hand-woven Scandinavian rug. Eight gold-embellished champagne glasses and a fancy tablecloth that had belonged to my grandparents. Paintings. Two tubs containing my life, in journal form, from third grade to the present.
Luke brought his dog bed, bowl, leash and his friend Chipmunk.
A friend who sits on several boards, Deborah moved decisively into her new life: “We sold everything before we moved to Summit except for one antique bench. It was the first thing my husband and I bought together.”
“I brought only what had sentimental value” said Meredith, a yoga friend who gives facials at a local spa, “like an armoire that I collected when I was a young, single mom in Telluride.”
What happens next?
For those who plan to stay, we settle in. It may be tempting to re-create our previous life. When the author Isak Dinesen moved to East Africa in the early 20th century, she surrounded herself with many of the trappings of her former aristocratic life in Denmark; the film Out of Africa memorably captures the strange juxtaposition of fine china, Persian rugs, Victorian furniture and even a gramophone with the rugged landscape under the Ngong Hills. In a less grand manner, when I moved into Alan’s house in Breckenridge, I somehow managed to make the upstairs guestroom look just like my apartment in Florida. Alan, coming home after a day at work, surveyed my labors and asked, “You’re not going to move up here, into this bedroom, are you?”
On the other hand, we may intend to put together a totally new and different living environment, in line with a vision of our new selves in this new place — only to unwittingly create a “mountain” version of the home we left behind. Similar décor, but now everything has bark on it or is decorated with antlers.
Sometimes we have to compromise, which was the case when I moved in with Alan. We had heatedly different views on how dishes and cookware should be put away. When we finally came to an agreement about how things should be stacked, I whipped out my iPhone to take a documentary photo for future reference (and to emphasize to Alan how fussy I felt he was being).
We get rid of more stuff. I was convinced that I had pared down as much as possible, but eventually it became clear that there was still more to unload: mainly much of my Florida-style wardrobe. Obvious offenders: the pastel-colored garments with seashells on them. Next, the sheer-blouses-with-the-black-bra look, Muy Atractivo! in Miami, yet oh-so-inappropriate at an upscale Summit County cocktail party. I was also horrified to learn that “women don’t wear pumps” in Colorado. This turned out to be an exaggeration, though not a huge one.
Kate, my designer friend in Frisco, revealed: “I suffer from wearing Dansko clogs and chapstick more often than I’d like to admit.” Personally, I’m finding myself mostly in hiking boots or Tevas these days, my glam spike heels gathering dust in the closet.
At last, there are those small things that just make us feel at home wherever we are. The great food writer M.F.K. Fisher settled happily into her flat in the south of France with a few stems of flowers, “a bottle of cognac, four fine tangerines and some grapes, in case of emergency” (About Looking Alone at a Place, 1971). I have a green bottle, sitting on the bedside table, which I bought long ago in Venice. It is the color of a parrot’s wing, with a cobalt blue rim and a citrine stopper. Even in a dimly lit room it holds the light, its luminescent glow full of magic, and of hope.
And for Luke, everything is right with the world if he has Chipmunk.
Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge. One day, she hopes to be a “local.”
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