change is the constant

DEVIL MOUNTAIN CHRONICLES: The Only Constant in Life

I’ve walked the earth for more than 63 years and one fact I know for certain: there is no permanence. We all know that change is the only constant in life, but change is also what people fear most. I wonder why?

When my wife and I moved to sleepy little Pagosa Springs 23 years ago, there was only one stoplight. Now there are seven. Since 1991 the population of Archuleta County has more than doubled. Back then, no one wanted more traffic lights or much of anything new and improved; they said it would ruin the “small town feel.” The only trouble was, our population was increasing and our antiquated infrastructure would soon be overwhelmed. But things changed, and a lot of the changes were good. (Do you remember the old Post Office, or Town Hall?)

The people kept coming for the “small town atmosphere” but more new arrivals meant a larger town. (Let’s just say that we are a small town with some big growing pains.) If we want the town to remain as it is now, then we must forbid anyone else from moving here. That’s a nutty proposition, but a lot of folks think in those terms without even realizing it.

Not too long ago the people of Pagosa Springs bemoaned the fact that suddenly there would be a huge development popping up called Fairfield. Now the Pagosa Lakes area is the population center of the county. Retirees flocked to this ‘suburban utopia in the mountains’ to escape city life — but brought their big city ways and needs. Suddenly we had a new shopping center and a second City Market, a McDonald’s, another service station, a new bank, and more traffic… gee, it started looking like a Dallas suburb with mountain views.

The service industry was booming and more people were needed to tend to the retirees, ex-city dwellers, developers, and tourists. The poor ranchers took a back seat and realized their worst nightmare: change.

What was once a ranching community is now a big retirement village slash tourist trap; but it’s still a wonderful place. What we have to remember is that there are families here who actually work for a living. They don’t necessarily care about the “small town feel” but are simply trying to raise a family and find happiness in a cozy, low crime town that is child friendly. Why not? Pagosa is a great place to raise a family. But the more newcomers, the more development. Change is a fact of life.

“God give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I can’t change the fact that Walmart is here, and I have accepted that. The Walmart people did their demographics and decided that little Pagosa Springs was ready for the onslaught, especially after finding that, at the Durango “superstore,” a large number of credit card transactions had Pagosa Country addresses – including some of the very people who have complained the loudest. The Walmart executives are only doing what they thought their valued customers wanted. The new “big box store” won’t ruin this town anymore than it ruined Durango (the way a huge number of Durangotangs claimed that it would.) We are at a point in our development where the Walmarts of the world are starting to knock at our door, but we can’t simply hide behind locked doors.

We are growing, but growth requires careful vigilance. Perhaps we need the courage to change the way Walmart treats its employees – and how about those sweat shops manned by underpaid workers and child labor? That would be good change for sure.

As far as wisdom is concerned, there is a shortage. Hopefully we will have made wise decisions at the ballot box. I’m quite sure that a lot of folks are voting for a change and are not the least bit afraid.

Lately I have been experiencing some weird changes in my thought process, and my body seems to be changing in ways I dislike. Everything is going to hell in a hand basket. We’re all getting older, and some of us will move on to that retirement village in the sky. Change really sucks, sometimes — but it’s all part of life.

The other day I found out that A Chivalrous Shark — Pagosa’s premiere seafood restaurant — had gone out of business. You know, I can live with short-term memory loss, arthritis, balding, wrinkles, gas, loss of reflexes, a general lack of regard for personal hygiene and appearance, but my favorite restaurant going out of business? No! How can I accept this? But I must – it’s all part of life…

This year has brought about great change. Ross Aragon retired from office after an amazing 36 year run. Mayor Volger has taken the reins and the sky hasn’t fallen – yet. We have a relatively new Chief of Police and the town hasn’t erupted in chaos. A new sheriff is in charge and the transition was bloodless. There have been changes at our schools, our hospital, and our highways and byways. It’s all good…

There’s a change in the weather
There’s a change in the sea
And from now on there will be a change in me.

I am playing drums less and less. The music business was my life for over forty years and I supported my family with it. Up until now I always put my occupation as ‘musician’ on my tax returns, but those days are evidently over. I am totally burned out playing in bars and playing genres of music I really don’t love. (Jazz can’t pay the rent in these parts.)

It has been a long time coming and a lot of the problem is where I live, and the nature of the business (which has been changing for the worse.) The real problem is that I’m getting older, and I’m tired all the time. It’s time for me to ‘change partners’ and dance to the beat of a different drum. I still have to play now and then, of course – music is a siren sweetly calling me – but the long nights and driving home in lousy weather over mountain passes at three in the morning are over.

I’m changing, just like Pagosa, and hopefully for the better.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl