Autumn Phillips: Goodbye -- for now

There's a movie starring Richard Gere that opens with him in a bar, throwing darts and watching his column deadline rush toward him on a nearby clock.

That was part of his creative process -- throwing darts and trying to come up with a column topic hours before it was due.

Just when the deadline was dangerously close, an angry man at the end of the bar stands up and says, "I know what you can write about."

Thus forms the premise of a really bad movie called "Runaway Bride."

Maybe I thought a similar thing would happen to me as I sat in a quiet, mud-season empty Mazzola's, pining for the muse.

I knew what I wanted to say in this column. Something like, "Goodbye for now. I'm going sailing for the summer. See you in September."

Somehow that didn't seem wordy enough to fill this page.

Besides my companion and me, there was one man sitting at the bar. He was 67, he said. He had been in Steamboat for a year helping his stepson build a house.

The man had a curious problem, he said. After a few drinks, he either wanted to dance or arm wrestle. His first night in town, he won the shirt off the back of a man almost 40 years younger than him after an arm wrestling draw at the Old Town Pub.

He had a thick construction worker's tan but looked like the kind of man who spent his life before retirement making deals on the golf course and closing them over a bottle of perfectly aged scotch.

He told us about his travels in Europe with his wife. He told us about renting a house in France for a year and the things he learned there. He gave me a few pieces of advice about enjoying life no matter how many decades have passed, but he didn't give me any ideas for a column.

He ended the conversation with, "I believe you should have as many chapters in your life as possible. It's all an adventure."

I didn't tell him that I was leaving Steamboat in a week for a summer in Maine or that my mind was busy packaging the past 2 1/2 years in this town into a neat little chapter so that I could turn the page.

This chapter began on my second day in town as I drilled a local with questions. I was curious where to find all the essential places that make a town a home -- a funky used bookstore, a record store and an independent video store.

At the time, Epilogue Book Co. did not exist but Pic-a-Flic did.

As I asked more questions he said, "Listen, this place is an onion with very few layers. You'll figure it out in a week."

He was on his way out of town and he had Steamboat Bitterness Syndrome. Whatever he planned to find or whoever he hoped to become when he moved here had not happened for him and he hated this place because of it. He hated it in a way that I have seen in a lot of people as they pack their cars and slam the doors.

I had the opposite experience here. For me, the onion keeps peeling. In two years, I have grown and changed, and this community has been very kind to me.

This valley is a very healing place.

I remember discovering the Yampa River for the first time. It blew my mind that it ran through the middle of town and I sat by it every day in awe that I could have discovered such a beautiful place.

But feeling safe can sometimes lull you to sleep and you forget to be amazed as you pass the river daily on your way to work.

It's time to wake up from this nap I've been taking and venture back out into the world for a look around and a fresh perspective on my return.

I'm going to see if you can grow roots without them becoming chains.

I'll miss you most of all, scarecrow.

Thanks for reading.

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