ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg
I didn’t wake up and decide to write a book one day, you know. Fate beat me over the head with stories until I submitted. Here’s what happened...
All the Time in the World
The Making of a Serial Memoir
In the winter of 2003, Dan was 52 years old and planning for a future where he would tour less and have fewer responsibilities. He wanted to live in Santa Fe and get back to painting. He wanted to spend more time in Maine, sailing and getting into digital photography. For all of that to happen, he would have to sell his 600-acre ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Running the ranch took a lot of time and money, and to pay the bills, Dan toured for months every year. It was time to downsize.
The ranch went on the market in the spring and then, in June of 2004, Dan was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. After a few referrals and much discussion, we decided to seek treatment in Boston. Leaving the ranch in the hands of the ranch manager and on-site manager, we headed to our home in Maine.
The battle had begun, and it would be our focus for the next three and a half years. Between trips to Massachusetts General Hospital for tests, treatments and check-ups, Dan sailed, skied, delved into digital photography and began learning Photoshop. There were times when life seemed almost normal. We never lost hope that we would defeat the cancer, but the prognosis wasn’t good; the odds were against us. So, Dan began planning for a future where he wouldn’t be here.
He finished his last studio album, Love in Time, and asked me to release it after he was gone. We had been running his website together for five years and he didn’t have to ask; he knew I would continue to maintain it for as long as I could. He hoped his story would be told one day, so that first winter in Maine, we set about recording his memories.
On nights when he was in the mood, we would take our glasses of wine to his study and sit on the leather couch. While Dan stoked the fire, I set up the MiniDisc recorder and microphone. At the start of each session, I reviewed my notes and told Dan where we had left off. He would take it from there. If we got to the end of a section, and I remembered something, I’d say, “What about the story you told me about….” and off he’d go. When he was satisfied that we’d covered everything, we put the tapes in a safe place.
In October of 2007, after a two-week cruise aboard Dan's sailboat, Minstrel, we returned her to her mooring in the cove in time for football season. Dan died two months later, at home in Maine, on December 16th.
On January 6th a big winter storm hit Colorado. Three days later, an accumulation of ice and snow collapsed the roof of the 16,000 square-foot horse barn and riding arena at the ranch. It had been just three weeks since Dan died, and I was physically and mentally depleted. I trusted our ranch foreman and on-site ranch manager to oversee repairs, keep me updated, and make sure the rest of the ranch buildings were secure.
That was a mistake.
The most important job of the on-site ranch manager was to walk through the main house every day and check that all was well. Two weeks after the barn collapsed, a leak in the master bathroom made its way down through three floors. Both managers assured me there’d been no dereliction of duty and yet, three water-damaged rooms said otherwise.
I would have to pay to replace the floor in the master bath (2nd floor) and the ceilings, floors, and sections of wall in the dining room and gym (1st floor and basement.) At least the contractor was already there, working on the arena. I was in continual contact with him, and when it was time to paint the new walls in the dining room and gym, I would return.
Our neighbor, Chuck, made an offer on the ranch in March so I flew to Colorado. On April 5th, I showed Chuck and his wife around the house and let them pick the tile for the new bathroom floor. A current property survey was required for the sale, so I hired a local company, with their assurance it would be done by August.
While Dan was alive, I only became involved in ranch business when he asked me to. Now I was the interim owner and boss, and the two managers resented taking orders from me. We got along fine most of the time, and I liked them both, but they were constantly questioning my decisions and covering for each other. I hated being a boss, but after two big disasters, it was obvious I couldn’t leave them to their own devices. I couldn’t fire them, either. Finding experienced ranch managers in the middle of nowhere is difficult and, besides, the ranch sale was almost complete.
After I filed the claim for the arena, and then for the three-story leak in the house, the insurance company dropped me. The lowest quote for a replacement homeowner’s policy was $70,000 a year. The ranch was mortgage free, but the 600-acre property with ponds, fences, barns and residences cost over $200,000 a year to maintain and operate. A quarter of a million dollars a year! It was a staggering amount to me. Thank goodness I had a buyer - Dan’s touring income had always paid the bills, but that income was no more.
When the snow began melting, reconstruction of the barn started, to Chuck’s specifications. I wouldn’t have chosen blue for the gigantic barn roof, but the view it dominated would soon be Chuck’s, not mine. The house was full of workers every day and the contractor had repairs well in hand, so I flew back to Maine and began work on the Love in Time CD package.
August came and went. It had been five months, and still the land survey wasn’t completed. It was holding up the sale at this point, and I was growing anxious.
In October, the world’s economy collapsed under the weight of the 2008 global financial crisis. On October 10th I got an email from Chuck, asking me to call him. He felt terrible, but he was going to have to back out of the purchase of the ranch. He could have left this to his realtor or lawyer, so I appreciated his telling me himself. I realized that the possibility of finding another buyer in this economic climate was dim, but, of course, it only got worse.
For the next six years I cut expenses where I could and made repairs only when they were absolutely necessary, but upkeep and payroll continued to cost way more than the income from Dan’s music. Dan’s money manager, Rick, counseled me during this time. We sold the bonds, then the gold. I sent some of Dan’s guitars to Nashville to sell, and took out a loan.
Not long after he died, I became convinced that Dan had left one last message for me. It was just a notion, maybe because any time he went into town without me, he’d leave a lovely little "back soon" note. My brain was foggy, I knew that, but I couldn’t shake the idea, and looked everywhere.
My friend Rebecca came to stay with me for a week, and I told her about my search. We looked through the books and papers on Dan’s boat, Minstrel, but there was nothing. After a while I decided I must have been wrong.
In 2009 I produced Love in Time from my bedroom office in Maine. Designing the CD package was a difficult, but rewarding process. While I worked, I listened to the music so the artwork would fit the album. I’d heard most of the tracks while Dan was working on them, but he made sure I never heard one track: “Birds,” by Neil Young.
All of the songs were hard to listen to, especially “Sometimes a Song,” the Valentine’s day song he'd written for me. But “Birds” was downright painful. Told from the perspective of a man who is leaving a lover and moving on, Dan’s rendition gives the lyrics a whole new meaning.
The credits, liner notes, and lyrics had been carefully typed by Dan and organized into folders; I only had to copy and paste the text into the package. When I opened the file for the last track, “Birds,” my heart skipped a beat. At the top of the page, Dan had typed, “For Jeanie, my one true love.”
As soon as I read it, I knew I’d finally found that last, lovely "back soon" note. I cried so hard I had to wrap my arms around my body to hold it together. I called Rebecca the next day and said, “I found Dan’s note.”
“Where was it?” she asked.
“In a song,” I said.
“Well, duh!” she said.
“Birds” is the last track on Dan’s last studio album, and it ends with a haunting strain of violins which sounds eerily like the opening strain of “To the Morning,” the first track on his first album. The fans noticed this right away, and they speculated that it was Dan’s farewell to them. I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least: “To the Morning,” opening with a sunrise, and “Birds” fading into night.
I was so grateful that Dan had died before all the disasters at the ranch occurred. He left this world believing I would be financially secure for the rest of my life, and emotionally secure in the knowledge that he had loved me to the end, and beyond.
In January of 2010, my youngest sister had a massive heart attack, so I drove to Kentucky to care for her. I returned to the ranch in May and, three months later, a buyer from Texas made me an offer and we went under contract. I was immensely relieved, to say the least.
At this point, a bitter dispute with a neighboring rancher erupted. It had been percolating since Dan first bought the property, and was a murky sludge of access rights, property boundaries, and privacy issues that needed to be resolved. Now I got caught up in the dispute, as it devolved from friendly discussions to intimidation.
My sister and her husband were going to lose their farm, so, with the sale of the ranch imminent, I took out another loan and lent them the money to pay off their mortgage.
In August of 2012, after two years of contract negotiations and extensions, closing day arrived and the Texas buyer wired the money to the title company. All that day, my attorneys and I waited for word of the received funds. They never arrived. The buyer accused the title company of incompetence and asked for another extension. It was obvious he didn’t have the money to buy the ranch; never had, so I refused.
I was forced to cancel my contract on a house in Santa Fe. My parents were all ready to move into that house with me; now I had to call them and tell them it wasn’t happening. I was devastated. The seller of the Santa Fe house was a lawyer. He and his wife had just moved out of their house and bought in California. He filed a lawsuit against me, for fraud. The notice was delivered to the ranch a few days before my birthday.
That was the final straw. I lost it.
A compulsive rule-follower my whole life, I was looking at jail time and a lifetime of debt. Worst of all, though, was the thought that Dan had entrusted his legacy to me and now that legacy would be tarnished by news that his wife had been accused of fraud. It felt like I was caught up in an avalanche that was dragging me toward my ruin.
Back in 2004, when we got that horrible phone call telling Dan he had cancer, a hidden inner strength rose in me. That same inner reserve emerged now, like the tip of an evergreen in the snow. I grabbed it and held on for dear life.
I cried for three days and then, when it seemed I was out of tears, I went into the art studio. I didn’t have the energy to create my Native American figures; I just wanted to spread, scrape and throw color. All through the winter, I stretched and painted canvases, and it was great therapy.
I hired a Santa Fe attorney to represent me in the fraud suit. I now had him, a California estate attorney, and a Colorado real estate attorney, and they were all costing money. It was absolutely worth it, though: the Santa Fe lawyer got the lawsuit dismissed and Bob, my Colorado real estate attorney, was a kind man who gave me years of moral support, on top of his good legal advice.
In February, a gallery in Santa Fe accepted the paintings I’d created that winter. You could clearly see the transition of my emotional state in them. The early pieces were mostly black and gray, with titles like Allegories and Allegations and No Way Out But Through. The later works were bursting with color, with titles like Hope Springs Sporadic and A Brand New Year.
One day I was talking to Lisa Hayes, a licensed real estate agent and ex-rancher, who knew all about the bogus buyers, legal threats, access issues, neighbor intimidations, employee problems, and numerous accidents. I asked her, “Is this normal, with a large property like this?” She burst out laughing and said, “I have never heard of anything like this, ever.” Hearing that, I made a decision: “If one more crazy thing happens, I’m going to write a book; you just can’t make this stuff up.” That decision saved my sanity.
I needed to return to Maine, but before leaving, I moved all the valuable prints and art into the pool table room under the kitchen. Dan and I had all the kitchen pipes replaced in 2003, so I knew the chances of a leak there were remote.
The next accident at the ranch occurred when the on-site manager left two windows open in the winter, causing a pipe to burst in the herb room off the kitchen. The water made its way to the pool table room and soaked the carpet, ruining many of the prints I’d put there for safekeeping. He assured me he’d been checking the house every day, but the contractor said the pile of leaves in the herb room, and the distance the water had traveled to get to the pool table, meant the window had been open since the Fall.
I found a long-term house sitter for Maine and moved back to the ranch full time. I let the on-site manager go, and hired Lisa to take his place. She was smart, conscientious, and a joy to work with.
Dan’s recording studio was empty, so I created an office there and started to write. With no sense of direction, I just started typing, wanting, needing, to write about my life; to somehow process everything that had led me to this point.
My working title was All the Time in the World, because Dan was always saying that to me. We'd be talking about doing something and I'd jump up to start. "Wait, come back here," he'd laugh, "There's no hurry, we have all the time in the world."
The prologue emerged first, then “Thank God For Ravioli,” the story of how Dan and I met. The words poured from me, and when five chapters were completed I sent them to my friend, writer Katherine Hall Page. I knew she would be kind, but I also knew I would be able to tell if she thought it was any good.
Her email was effusive: she loved it, and couldn’t believe this was coming from a first-time writer. She urged me to continue, saying “You’ve found your voice - some authors work for years to achieve that.” Encouraged, I continued, writing when I could.
Preparing the ranch for showings took two exhausting, sweaty days. When one showing turned out to be an obsessive Facebook fan and her realtor-grandmother, I didn’t freak out. Instead, I said, “That’s one more story for the book.”
I’d been with our original realtor for nine years, and in all that time they'd brought just five potential buyers, so in 2014 I opted out of my contract with them. I redecorated the main house as well as the guest house, painting walls, laying new carpet, and sewing curtains. I photographed the ranch, created a website, and took out a “For Sale by Owner” Google Ad. Inquiries came in right away, and Lisa handled communications and booked showings.
In August, a couple from Texas (many residents of Pagosa Springs are transplanted Texans) came to see the ranch. They loved it, and we quickly progressed toward a contract. Lisa and I liked them very much. We were a few weeks away from closing and they asked if they could move in on closing day; they had school-age children and wanted to get them registered as soon as possible. I said of course they could, and I was moving my belongings into a storage unit in Santa Fe when they called to say they’d been delayed.
They never did come; I’d been duped again. Now I had to decide whether to take my things out of the storage unit and move back into the ranch, or to return to the Maine house. My house sitter had already left the house in Maine, so I chose there.
On December 10th, a rancher in New Mexico saw the Google Ad and contacted Lisa.
2015 - 2020
On February 24, 2015, the ranch sold, after only two months of negotiations and paperwork. I settled into a quiet, but productive life in Maine, producing two more albums: Dan Fogelberg ~ Live at Carnegie Hall and A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg. I maintained Dan’s website and attended fan reunions, musical events, and the tribute concert in Colorado. I taught photography workshops in Mexico, Bali, India and England.
A kitty came out of the woods and moved in. I named her Sofia and wondered what fabulous name Dan would have given her. And that’s how it goes, every day; wondering what he would have thought, or said, or done, but with gratitude now instead of grief. Like a copper weather vane by the sea, all that was hard and glaring has become soft and green, and every direction points toward home.
The Making of a Serial Memoir
The COVID-19 pandemic changed so much. I watched as musicians from around the world posted home performance videos online, to help break the tedium of self-isolation for people. I wanted to contribute something myself, but I’d been away from music for too long to perform. I was 300 pages into the book about my life, though, and I could pull out the Dan stories to share with his fans.
There were enough chapters to last a few months and, surely by then the virus would be under control. I considered posting the stories on my website, but that might look like I was trying to use Dan’s name to draw traffic to my own work. So, instead, I put them here, on Dan’s website. I began posting in April, every Friday just after midnight.
Visits to the site went up 1,732 percent. After reading the latest chapter, many visitors explored other pages on our extensive website. Long-time fans were listening to the old CDs with a new understanding, now that they were hearing the stories behind the songs. I began getting email from people who had never heard some of the songs before; old fans, new fans, young fans; it was a legacy-keeper’s dream come true.
June 27, 2020
So here we are, twelve chapters in, with no idea when this pandemic will end. After each new chapter I get emails and Facebook comments, entreating me to continue. I’m intrigued with the serial novel concept, so I’ve decided to keep going and see where this leads. The format of my memoir will have to change, and I’m not exactly sure how, so I’m going to take it one chapter at a time.
It’s going to be a challenge, writing new chapters with a weekly deadline, but I’ve made it through bigger challenges and each one has opened a new door. If I hadn’t gone through the madness at the ranch, I wouldn’t have started this book. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be sharing it with you now. I hope each story will be a new color; every word a brushstroke, until you have a portrait of Dan in your mind full of feeling, depth and texture.
Please open the next door and continue on this journey with me.
Posted June 27th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020