"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 - Dan paid the bills by touring for months every year. It was time to downsize.
The ranch went on the market the following spring and then, in June of 2004, Dan was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. After a few referrals and much discussion we decided to get treated 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.
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 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 that, after his death, his story would be told; he didn't want to be forgotten. So we set about recording his memories.
During that first winter in Maine, on nights when he was feeling full of stories, we would take a bottle of wine to his study and sit on his leather couch. Dan stoked the fire while I ran the MiniDisc recorder. At the start of each session, I checked 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.
Between our trips to Massachusetts General Hospital for tests, treatments and check-ups, Dan sailed, skied, delved into digital photography and began learning Photoshop.
In October of 2007, after one last two-week cruise aboard Minstrel, we returned her to her mooring in time for football season. Dan died at our home in Maine on December 16th.
On January 6th a big winter storm hit Colorado. A few 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.
Dan had been gone less than four weeks; I was still physically and mentally depleted, but I had to put my grief aside and fly to Colorado to view the damages and hire a contractor.
Cleanup of the barn rubble began and reconstruction would start once the snow melted. All I could do was wait, and all I wanted to do was sleep. So, I went back to Maine.
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. At the end of January, 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 replace the tile floor in the master bath (2nd floor) and the ceilings, floors, and sections of wall in the dining room (1st floor) and gym (basement). At least the contractor was already there. I was in continual contact with him and when it was time to paint the new walls I’d go back.
Our neighbor, Chuck, made an offer on the ranch in March so I returned 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. Paranoid about leaks, I moved all the valuable prints and art into the pool table room under the kitchen. We’d had the kitchen pipes replaced in 2003, so I knew they'd be safe there.
There was a mountain of records and paperwork to locate for the sale, so I began hunting through boxes of contracts and deeds. A current survey was required for the sale so I hired a local company to survey the property, with their assurance it would be done by August. A bitter dispute with another neighbor had been percolating since Dan first bought the property. It was a murky sludge of access rights, property boundaries and privacy issues that needed to be resolved. Now I got caught up in it as it devolved from friendly discussions to intimidation tactics and attempts to trick me into selling them the ranch’s water supply.
While Dan was alive I only got involved in ranch business when he asked me to. Now I was the interim owner and boss. The two managers resented taking orders from me, but I had been “the girlfriend” for five years and “the wife” for six, so I was used to being marginalized by some. We got along fine most of the time, but they questioned my decisions, covered for each other, and lied to me. I hated being a boss, but it was obvious I couldn’t leave them to their own devices, and I couldn’t fire them. Finding qualified ranch managers in the middle of nowhere is difficult and, besides, the ranch sale was almost complete.
The surveyors were dragging their feet, so I called again and pleaded with them to finish the job.
After I filed the claim for the three-story leak, the insurance company dropped me. The best 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.
The snow began melting so reconstruction of the barn started, to Chuck’s specifications. Much as I love the color purple, I wouldn’t have chosen it for the huge barn roof, but the view it dominated would soon be his, not mine. The house was full of workers every day so, once the contractor had repairs well in hand, I flew back to Maine.
August came and went, and still no land survey. 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. The possibility of finding another buyer in this economic climate was remote.
For the next six years I dropped the asking price when ever the realtor suggested it. 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 my income. Dan’s money manager, Rick, gently 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.
In 2009 I produced Love in Time from my bedroom office in Maine. I hired an engineer Dan liked to master the tracks, and started going through hundreds of slides and photos to create the package.
A few days after he died, I became convinced that Dan must have 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 note. My brain was foggy, I knew that, but I couldn’t shake the idea; I looked everywhere. My friend Rebecca came to visit and I told her about my search. We looked through the papers on Dan’s boat, Minstrel, but there was nothing. After a while I decided I must have been wrong.
I’d heard most of the tracks on Love in Time while he was working on them, but Dan made sure I never heard one track: “Birds,” written by Neil Young. As I worked on the package I listened to the music so the artwork would fit the album. All the songs were difficult to hear, but “Sometimes a Song,” the song he wrote for me for Valentines Day, and “Birds” were especially painful to listen to. “Birds” is told from the perspective of a man who is leaving a lover and moving on, saying, “It’s over.” Dan’s rendition gives the song a whole new meaning.
Liner notes and lyrics for each song had been carefully typed by Dan and organized into folders; I only had to copy and paste it all into the package. When I opened the “Birds” file, my heart stopped. At the top of the page he had typed, “For Jeanie, my one true love.”
As soon as I read it, I knew I’d finally found that last note from Dan. 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.
She sighed, “Well, duh...!”
It was the ultimate romantic gesture; professing his love from beyond the grave. Only Dan could have pulled it off.
“Birds” is the last track on his 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 of his first album. The fans were the first to make note of this, and they speculated that it was Dan’s way of saying goodbye to them. I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least: “To the Morning” opening with “Hello world,” and “Birds” ending with “Goodbye.”
I was so grateful that he’d died before all the costly disasters at the ranch. He left believing that I was financially secure, and that a buyer would come along soon.
The next accident at the ranch occurred when the on-site manager left two windows open in the main house from Fall to 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 piles of leaves in the herb room and the distance the water had traveled contradicted him.
I found a long-term house sitter for Maine and moved back to the ranch full time.
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. My sister and her husband were going to lose their farm and 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. He 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. At this point, 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 I had cancelled the contract with was a lawyer. He and his wife had already moved out of their house and bought a home in California. He filed a lawsuit against the Texas buyer, and me, for fraud. The notice was delivered to the ranch a few days before my birthday.
That was the final straw: I lost it.
I’d followed the rules my whole life and now 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.
I cried, non-stop, for three days.
Back in 2004, when we got that horrible phone call telling Dan he had cancer, an inner strength I didn’t know I had emerged out of nowhere. That same inner reserve emerged now, like the tip of an evergreen in the snow. I grabbed it and held on for dear life.
When I ran out of tears I went into the art studio and put a canvas on my easel. I had never attempted to paint abstracts, and that wasn't my intent now; I just needed to get these uncontrollable emotions out of my head and on to something I could see and touch. All that winter, I spread, threw, and scraped paint; it was great therapy.
I hired a Santa Fe attorney to represent me in the fraud suit. I now had a California estate attorney, a Santa Fe attorney, and a Colorado attorney, and they were all costing money. It was worth it, though: the Santa Fe lawyer got the charges dismissed and Bob, my Colorado real estate attorney, was a kind man who gave me moral support on top of his good legal advice.
I asked a real estate agent friend, who was aware of the legal threats, access issues, neighbor intimidations, fake buyers, employee dramas and numerous accidents, “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 writing a book. You just can’t make this stuff up. That decision saved my sanity.
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.
Hope Springs Sporadic
I fired the on-site manager and hired a woman to take his place. Lisa was smart, conscientious, and a joy to work with. I redecorated the main house as well as the guest house, painting walls, laying new carpet and sewing curtains. Preparing the ranch for each showing took two exhausting, sweaty days. When the next showing turned out to be an obsessive fan and her realtor grandmother, I didn’t freak out. I thought, That’s one more story for the book.
I created an office in Dan’s empty recording studio and started to write a memoir. With no sense of direction I just started to type, 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 I met Dan. 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 that I would be able to tell if she really liked it or not. Her email was effusive: she loved it and she 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.
Allegories and Allegations was the first painting to sell at the gallery, and I gave Hope Springs Sporadic to Kathy, to thank her for her support and encouragement.
I’d been with our original real estate agency for nine years and in all that time we’d had five showings so, in 2014, I didn't renew my contract with them. I photographed the ranch, created a website, and took out a “Ranch For Sale” Google Ad. Inquiries came in right away, and Lisa handled showings and communications.
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. At the end of August we were a few weeks away from closing and they asked if they could move in on closing day; they had two young children and wanted to get them registered at school as soon as possible.
I was emptying a moving truck, putting my belongings into a storage unit in Santa Fe, when they called my cell phone to say they’d been delayed. They never did come. Once again, a buyer who had been screened still turned out to be a con artist. Now I had to decide whether to move back into the main house at the ranch, or the Maine house on the east coast. My house sitter had already moved out, so I chose Maine.
On December 10th, a rancher in New Mexico saw the Google Ad and contacted Lisa.
2015 - 2020
On February 24, 2015, the ranch was sold after only two months of negotiations.
I settled into a quiet, but productive, life in Maine. I produced two more albums: Dan Fogelberg ~ Live at Carnegie Hall and A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg. I maintained Dan’s website and attended fan reunions, Part of the Plan musical events, and the tribute concert in Colorado. I taught photography workshops in Mexico, Bali, India and England, and ran a website to provide support for caregivers.
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 performances online to help break the tedium of self-isolation, but I’d been away from music for too long to contribute. 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 in Part I to last a few months and, surely by then they’d have figured out how to halt the spread of the virus. I was going to post 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 decided to post them here, on his website, every Friday just after midnight.
Visits to the site went up 1,732 percent, with spikes on Friday nights. After reading the latest chapter, many visitors explored other pages. I began getting email from people who had never heard Dan’s music before - new fans, young fans; it’s a legacy-keeper’s dream come true.
So here we are, twelve chapters in, with no idea when this pandemic will end. After each new chapter I get email and Facebook posts, entreating me to continue.
I’m intrigued with the history of the serial novel, so I’ve decided to keep going and see where this leads. There are five chapters left in Part I. Part II is about my life, growing up, getting into music, moving to Santa Fe, and getting a job at Cafe Romana. From there, Part III continues my life with Dan, up to the end. That format will have to change, and I’m not sure exactly how, so I’m going to take it one story at a time.
One day a great music biographer will write Dan's story - I am not that writer. I will relay stories he told me, when they pertain to a chapter or why we related to each other the way we did, but this is not a biography about Dan.
It’s going to be a challenge, writing new chapters with a weekly deadline, but I survived bigger challenges and each one opened a new door. If I hadn’t gone through the madness at the ranch, I wouldn’t have started a memoir. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be sharing it with you now. I hope each story will be a new color and 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.
June 27, 2020
Posted June 27th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020