Take Time To Learn

This summer marks 22 years since I took my first job as a landscaper at Gold Lake Resort near Ward, CO in the mid 90’s. My years there were both physically demanding and enormously satisfying.  Working alongside a rag-tag group of hardened mountain dwellers at 9,000’ elevation below the snowcapped Indian Peaks, often in a cold, blustery wind, we crafted flagstone patios and walls, erected yurts and teepees, installed tile and stone around lakeside hot pools, installed 100 yard 5’ deep water supply mainline (with some help from explosives team!), collected gopher soil and native seed to restore heavily disturbed and compacted areas, erected fences and art installations, and  repaired and replaced sewer pipes (often full of frozen sewage. Long rubber gloves and a hotsy pressure washer usually got things moving again).
While I learned to do a lot of useful stuff there, what makes it most memorable was the eccentric group of characters I would break a sweat with day in and day out, even when it was 20 degrees and windy.  “Cowboy Dan” taught me the science of native restoration using gopher soil. “70’s Matt” taught me the art of stonework and that in fact, owning a car is not a necessity so long as you have two legs and a thumb. Rick, a local Ward kid who suffered a debilitating head injury growing up, taught me that a big heart trumps being smart. Byron “Dr. Fix It”  taught me that with a good toolkit, fabrication skills, rusty parts, an old backhoe, a pinch of grit, and a whole lotta patience just about anything is doable. And Danny Elmo, an oldtimer mountain legend taught me the value of singing bluegrass songs while swinging a pickaxe … “turnin’ big rocks into small rocks all day”. R.I.P Danny Elmo. You were bigger than you ever imagined.  We all are. In our own unique way.
Every day, remember to take a little time to learn from someone.  And give a little time to teach someone. Life is short, don’t overcomplicate it. The most significant impactful moments can be the smallest, most simple experiences we share each day in our work together.
-Tom Sunderland