Oh lovely Paonia. I arrived in mid-February at the beginning of what turned out to be a long warming trend that carried me through my two (too-short) weeks at Elsewhere. I drove into a valley thick with darkness but awoke to views of Mount Lamborn and the West Elks, Jumbo, and high mesas rising all around. Outside my windows, snow banks glowed bright in the sunlight. In fact, those feet-deep piles of snow, long melted by the end of my stay, might serve as a metaphor for my Paonia experience: with each passing day, the town shrugged off another layer and revealed itself a little more.
I came to Paonia to work on a book manuscript, but I often found myself so distracted by the town, the valley, and the people that some days I didn’t write a word on that project. Instead, I was inspired to capture the scenes around me—this place is simply too rich for a writer to ignore. There are the characters: farmers, business owners, geologists, mountain bikers, miners, free spirits, painters, cowboys, drunkards, musicians, fruit growers, athletes, and young families. There are the places: mountains, valleys, and rivers, yes—but also a community garden, junkyard museums, a movie theater with bar(!), a brewery, a major magazine office, historic buildings galore, and a number of other finds you wouldn’t expect in such a small town. And then there are the events: beat night, live music, gallery openings, and political rallies. Always something to see, to do, to write about.
So while I could quantify my time at Elsewhere Studios and Paonia in days (15), word count (13,000), miles run (49.5), books read (1), or Rev beers consumed (too many), I think it makes more sense to qualify the experience this way: I’ll be back soon.
Thank you for the inspiration!