ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

A Serial Memoir

Shangri-La

We made the drive back and forth from Santa Fe to Pagosa Springs for two years. Then, one lazy Summer weekend, we were lying side by side on the chaise lounges on the back patio at the ranch. I was almost dozing when Dan turned his face toward me and, rather tentatively, asked what I would think about moving in with him.

    It took a couple of seconds for me to realize what he’d said. I looked at him and, in that unguarded moment, I saw desire, hope, and fear of rejection. I was crazy in love with this man; surely he knew I would say yes?! But there it was: that combination of yearning and trepidation that melts your heart, whether it’s a human being or a rescue animal, scarred and trembling, but finally allowing itself to be petted for the first time. After all he had been through, his valiant heart was willing to try again.

    Tears welled in my eyes. I took his hand and said I would love to, and we both started laughing with relief and happiness. We began making plans right away. I said I would have to give Rebecca and Nic two month’s notice, ditto my landlord. He said I could have half of the big art studio over the garage. 

 

    In August of ’98, I hung my clothes next to Dan’s in the master bedroom closet. He had cleared the left side of the bathroom counter, and the drawers beneath it, for me as well. 

    Most of my furniture stayed behind for the woman who was taking over my office manager job and the casita. Dan liked my couch, though, so it replaced the old one in the TV room at the ranch. I also brought my computer desk, chair, and easel.

    I loved the art studio, and my three-section desk fit perfectly into the bay window that looked out on the basin and mountain peaks. Buckaroo thought it was perfect too, and I always left a large space cleared for him next to the printer. My easel went under the skylight. There was an old wood cabinet with drawers, a storage closet, and a closet lined with shelves, and I filled them all with my paints, tools, canvas, primers and stretcher bars. A paint-splattered linoleum floor meant I could be creative without having to worry about being careful. 

    Dan’s half of the art studio had a small darkroom, two storage closets, and an easel. Separating our two halves were a half bath, a small sofa-bed, and a bookcase with a CD player and lots of art books. He never used his side, though; he was always in the music studio in the house, so I had the whole art studio to myself. Six hundred square feet of work space! It was bigger than most of the studio apartments I’d lived in, and it invigorated and inspired me.

    When you’re dating someone, you’re mostly seeing the surface. The deep stuff is hidden in the little details and unconscious reactions that emerge from lazy conversations with no itinerary. It’s kind of like the difference between flying and traveling by train. A plane will get you there fast and, from your window, you’ll get an overall view of the natural and manmade features. Traveling by train takes longer, but you get to see people’s back yards; the things they don’t show the neighbors.

    During long, lazy walks, drives, and talks by the fire, we were discovering each other’s emotional and intellectual back yards. We were in our forties, so we still had a lot of ground to cover.

    Dan was the youngest of three brothers; I was the oldest of three sisters. He grew up in the midwest, in a two-story brick house with an attic and basement. While watching TV shows like Where the Action Is, he longed to live in hip California with its beaches and surfer girls.  

    I grew up on the California coast, in a ‘60s suburban neighborhood with single-level houses. I read Nancy Drew and longed to live in an old neighborhood with basements and attics, and the occasional murder.

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After I moved to the ranch, our relationship entered a new phase. The commitment had added a light, downy layer of trust and we snuggled under it, content.

    Some mornings we’d wake up and begin a drowsy conversation that would slowly pick up speed until we were off on a madcap stream-of-consciousness discussion with no one steering, and no way of knowing where it would take us. Most people think of Dan as a quiet and serious guy, and he certainly could be that, but he was also talkative and funny. He was smart, curious, and an avid reader, so he could, and would, talk about pretty much anything.

    Maybe I’d mention a song I woke up with. (This has happened most of my life; waking up with a random song playing in my head. I sometimes wonder if the fillings in my teeth are picking up local radio stations as I sleep.) Dan would know what year the album was recorded and who produced it. I knew all the song's lyrics and some tabloid tidbit about someone in the band. Dan knew who played guitar on it, and what kind of guitars they played. The conversation would morph into something like the kind of wood guitars used to be made from, which drifted into, say, the plight of the Amazon rainforest, and so on. After half an hour, in the silence at the end of a completely unrelated topic, he’d blurt, “How in the world did we end up there?!” We’d laugh, and attempt to backtrack to figure out how we’d traveled from Boston to Brazil. 

    Eventually we’d realize we were hungry, and one of us would yell for our make-believe Swedish au pair, Inga.

Dan: “Inga! We need coffee!”

Me: “Tea and toast, Inga!”

Silence.

Together: “INGA!”

    When there was no answer, we’d give an exasperated it’s so hard to get good help these days sigh and get up. Sometimes, Buckaroo would wander in to see what all the ruckus was about. Once we were dressed, he’d follow us down to the kitchen.

 

    Another day in paradise had begun.

 

    We were always busy. Dan was often in the studio creating music. Sometimes he was on the phone with HK Management in Los Angeles making decisions about business, albums, and upcoming tours. Before a tour he did print and radio interviews. During the week he oversaw operations with the ranch manager. 

    Both DIY control freaks, we usually maintained the yard and the 6,000 square foot house ourselves, and cut each other's hair. Dan vacuumed, and mowed the lawn. I can still see him in his short orange swim trunks and worn top-sider shoes, pushing the mower back and forth on the long back lawn, turning a shade darker with each new pass. He did his own laundry and stopping including my clothes after he shrank my favorite wool sweater. 

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    I vacuumed and did laundry too, but my specialties were mopping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, computer maintenance, and tending the greenhouse and gardens.

 

    My sisters and I had been scrubbing bathrooms and washing dishes since we were too small to reach the sink without a chair, so I had a lifetime of experience in housecleaning. As a kid, to break the tedium of chores, I used to pretend to be my favorite female TV spies of the ‘60s: April Dancer of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Emma Peel of The Avengers, and Honey West.

    When it was my turn to vacuum the house, I’d close all the doors in the hallway. Vacuum cleaner in tow, I’d knock on each door in turn, and when I didn’t get an answer, I’d look both ways before pretending to pick the lock. As I vacuumed and dusted, I’d keep an eye out for crucial clues and evidence. When I found it, I’d remove Mom’s compact lipstick-brush from my pocket and open it. Then I’d whisper, “Open channel D, open channel D…control, do you read me?” into the gooey red “microphone.” My own disguise was genius: who would ever suspect a girl with glasses, braces, and orthopedic shoes?

    If we did a good job of our chores, Mom would say, “You’re my good fairy!” and give us a hug. It’s no wonder I grew up associating housework with the approval and affection I craved.

    Dan frequently told me how much he appreciated that I did things when they needed doing, without having to be asked. In both of my marriages, my doing the housework had been taken for granted, even when I was the main breadwinner, so it was nice to flex my fairy wings again.

    Sometimes the extreme remoteness of the ranch would prompt visitors to ask, “What do you do up here?” and we would laugh. Each day ended with a list of things we’d accomplished, and an even longer list of things we hadn’t.

 

    Pagosa Springs is a beautiful mountain town with the natural hot springs it's named for. In the summertime it took us forty five minutes to get there from the ranch; in the winter, it all depended on how much snow had fallen. The "Welcome to Pagosa Springs" sign on the highway said, The most snow in Colorado, and that is no exaggeration.

    Dan drove to town once a week, to go to the grocery store and post office, and sometimes the hardware store and liquor store. I was usually in the middle of a painting or website, and rarely left the ranch. We were driving in together once when I commented on a building I hadn't noticed before. "They built that three months ago!" Dan exclaimed. "You're more of a hermit than I am!"

    When we went in together, we'd run our errands and then have lunch in one of our favorite restaurants. In the summer we'd eat where we could look out on the San Juan River, which flows right through town.

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    Dan enjoyed wandering through the grocery store, carefully selecting ingredients for the coming week's meals. The locals were used to seeing him in town and didn’t make a fuss, so he could relax and take his time. When I went in I made a list, zoomed through, and got it done. I had a few recipes that Dan requested now and then, but usually, he cooked dinner and I did the dishes.

    He was the head chef, so things were done his way: the pasta was never broken, and cumin was always added to refried beans.

    We were learning about our quirks and oddities as well. I tend to walk rather quietly, even when I think I'm stomping, and on more than one occasion I startled Dan by "appearing out of  nowhere."  So I started announcing myself when I knew I was approaching him. "I'm coming down the hall...I'm nearing the office door..."

    I also have a strange habit of not closing drawers all the way. Dan would walk along the kitchen counter, closing all the drawers that had been left slightly ajar, and staring at me pointedly.

    We both liked potato chips with our sandwiches, and Dan would pick each chip up and shake it up and down over the plate until he was ready to put it in his mouth. It was completely unconscious and I never remarked on it, preferring, instead, to keep this little secret between his hand and me.

    The only habits of Dan's that really bothered me occurred while he was driving. When he looked out the driver's side window to view the scenery, his hand would follow his gaze. As we crossed the center dividing line, I would bark, "Tack. Tack!" - a sailing term that refers to changing course. Also, he would get into the passing lane and then stay there, miles away in his head. People would pass us on the right and glare through me. It made me much more tolerant of others who do the same thing. Instead of honking or tailgating, I pass on the right and think, "Just like Dan."

    If he wasn’t working on an album, evenings might find him reading a book on the living room couch with a crackling fire in the fireplace and a glass of red wine on the coffee table. He was a serious wine collector, labeling and arranging the dark bottles by year and region in the small stone cellar beneath the stairs.

    Sometimes we’d watch a movie at night, and he’d brush my hair while I sat on a cushion on the floor between his knees. Then we’d switch places and I’d rub his shoulders. He had told me about his adolescent acne; about the shirts ruined by bloodstains. I loved those shoulder scars; they told me more about what he’d endured than a thousand stories ever could have.

    During NBA playoff seasons we watched the Lakers (in the Kobe/Shaq/Fisher/Fox/Horry days) and in NFL season Dan watched every Broncos or Vikings game, on a huge rear-projection TV he bought in the late ‘80s. 

    One night the Broncos were losing an important game when Dan, to relieve the tension, offered to brush my hair. The Broncos came from behind and won. After that, if it looked like his team was going to lose, he’d say, “Go get your brush!” and, most of the time, they’d win. Afterward he lamented that the players would never know how much we’d contributed to their winning seasons.

 

    I was starting to paint on bigger canvases and they were a bit wobbly on my old easel so, for Christmas, Dan bought me a beautiful Santa Fe easel. Big enough to hold a 48” x 72” canvas, it had inset brush holders. Inset brush holders! I was thrilled.

    In the past, I’d always painted my Native American figures with fairly plain backgrounds. Now I started combining them with elements of Italian Renaissance and Egyptian art. When I wasn’t painting, I was teaching myself Photoshop® as well as HTML website design and animation. My muses were lining up like it was Studio 54 and ideas were tickets to get in.

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    Sometimes I’d look up from the canvas I was working on and stare out at the mountains surrounding the basin. It was easy to imagine that, rather than the southwestern Rockies, I was viewing the western Himalayas, while standing in Shangri-La. When I think back on those years at the ranch, that’s how I remember it: a beautiful, secluded paradise where love bloomed and anything was possible.

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Posted August 1st. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020

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