I’d been away from Boulder for a while.  Busy with some travelling and a brief stint in the big city, I hadn’t dropped into the valley for over a year; but coming over that hill and seeing the Rocky Mountains rise up behind town made me forget why I ever left.  After driving cross-country through 800 miles of grassland, it was a sight for sore eyes.  If I was a settler, I thought, I would probably stop here, too.

The university and downtown are the only places that rise above the trees—which is funny, because they’ve all been planted by people.  Only the mountain pines and creek-side cottonwoods were around before the white man.  It’s a study in contrast to see old photographs.  (Although it always is).

I drove down to my old college house to see if the place was still standing.  My brother moved in after I had graduated, and it seemed as though he had turned the yard into a landfill.  In the spring, Chinook winds come down off the mountains and whip through town, giving everything a good blow.  One such wind took down part of their fence.  But with the ingenuity of a college education, my brother and his friends patched the hole with a soggy mattress.  Problem solved.

Leaving the trash pile, we took a walk downtown.

“Is that old Rasta man still fitting himself inside a box?” I asked.

“Yeah, I just saw him the other day.  He’s got dreadlocks in his beard now, too.”

I wasn’t surprised to hear it.  All the characters come out in full force on the Pearl Street mall.  Jugglers, clowns, ratty vagabonds playing un-tuned guitars, they’re all there.  One time I saw two homeless people get in a fight over prime pan-handling real estate.  It ended when the girl tore the other guy’s cardboard sign in half.  I’m pretty sure she won.

We headed over to the park where the farmer’s market was going on.  Bushels of produce and friendly faces filled the stands.  We got some lemonade and sat in the shade by the creek. People practiced yoga in the grass; a drum circle started nearby.  The smells of herb wafted into the breeze.

Inspired, we sampled the food at the market.  Artisan cheeses, heirloom tomatoes, smoked fish, all of it delicious.  At the last booth we tried a small-batch granola bar.  The woman cheerfully explained it was organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and, of course, local.  She gave us some for the walk home.

On our way back I looked up at the mountains and thought to myself . . .

Oh, Boulder.