Ten Years: A Summary

August 1983, after our wedding

Ten years ago yesterday, the guy in the red shirt with his hand around my waist in the photo above died of brain cancer. He was 61 when he died, and I was 55.

(The photo was taken right after our Quaker-style wedding in the yard of the house where I lived in Laramie, Wyoming in August of 1983. Richard, 33 then, still had a full head of black hair; mine was still red, and reached almost to my waist when I let it down–the way he liked it best. Molly wasn’t at that informal ceremony, but she was our attendant at the legal one the next day. Susan Kask, Dale Doremus, Rosemary Harden, Tommy Williams and Cielette Karn, do you recognize yourselves?)

Now I’m 65, four years older than Richard ever got to be. In those ten years, I have explored widely, worked hard, learned much, laughed, loved, and survived more losses. I’ve embraced things I never imagined, including becoming conversant at tools and building, and living happily alone.

As I reflect on the past ten years and ready myself to turn the page into the next chapter of my life, here are a few things that stand out, in no particular order:

  • Helping visionary conservationist Connie Holsinger of Terra Foundation create the Habitat Hero program, now run by Audubon Rockies, to educate homeowners and landscapers about how to garden for pollinators and songbirds.
  •  Learning tools and building to finish Terraphilia, the big house, and Richard’s historic studio. Thanks to Andrew Cabe for finishing the guest apartment, Bob Spencer for teaching me to hang doors, to Grand Pound and the volunteers of Colorado Art Ranch for hanging the ceiling in the studio; and especially to Tony and Maggie Niemann of Tracks software, who coached and worked with me for months and months to finish the house. (They also created this website and blog.)
  • Using those skills to design and oversee construction of Creek House and Treehouse, my little house and guest apartment atop the garage. That was the first time I had ever designed a house just for me, and it turned out to be a very attractive real estate investment. (Who knew!)
Creek House (on the right) and Treehouse, atop the garage, from across the creek for which the house is named.
  • Which lead to my move to Cody, and the great adventure of renovating a mid-century modern house from basement to roof. Working with my friend and contractor, Jeff Durham, was a delight. (A good thing, because we spent two years on that project.)
The lovingly restored living-dining area at Spruce House, that mid-century modern in Cody. The house was so dilapidated when I bought it that my friends termed it “scary.” (Accurately, I admitted later).
  • Then on to Santa Fe, where I renovated two small condos–I lived in one and rented the other–and then moved to Casa Alegria outside town, which I also renovated.
  • This spring, I moved back to Cody and my house on the “rim” overlooking the river. Which, yes, I also renovated, because “re-storying” houses in need of love is what I do. And which is now on the market, because as the ten-year anniversary of Richard’s death approached, I realized that what I most want for the coming years is to downsize and be free to wander a bit more.
  • Writing: Some of my magazine feature articles ended up as cover features, including Reading the Rings on what tree rings tell us about history, climate, and our future for WILDFLOWER Magazine, a finalist for the Sybil Downing Journalism award from Women Writing the West.
Another feature article for Wildflower magazine, this one on gardening to provide habitat for pollinators and songbirds, a continuing passion of mine.
  • Winning four Colorado Authors League Awards for my blogs, articles, and “WildLives,” my spoken-word CD compiling favorite radio commentaries.
  • Being granted the life-changing gift of two writing residencies, one at Women’s International Study Center in Santa Fe, where I was privileged to spend a month sharing a casita with the incomparable playwright, singer, and actor DS Magid and professor Stanlie James, Vice-Provost at Arizona State University and a powerful voice for women, especially African-American women. The other residency, at Mesa Refuge in California, I shared walks, talks, and meals with Syrian-American writer, justice advocate, and lawyer Alia Malek, author of the stunning memoir, The Home That Was Our Country.
  • Writing, rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting Bless the Birds: Living with Love in a Time of Dying, published by She Writes Press this spring. And about which one reviewer recently wrote:
    Susan J. Tweit maps the immense capacity of the human heart to hold love and grief, gratitude and despair—and wonder, at the same time. Tweit shows such tenderness and wisdom in this beautiful memoir that I know I will turn to again.
  • Traveling to a place I had never been before, Ring Lake Ranch in the Wind River Range of western Wyoming, to teach a seminar, and falling in love–both with the guest ranch/spiritual retreat center, and the Guy. (Plus his dog, Badger, who sadly left this life this summer, and his four horses.) Another lesson in how much your life can change in a moment, and when you least expect it.
  • Re-discovering my love for riding and horse-packing, and spending time in the very wild, where grizzly bears and wolves still out-number humans.

So here I am at 65, turning the page on the last ten years, and readying myself to open my arms to whatever the next ten bring. Still living with my heart outstretched, still loving, writing, re-storying houses and landscapes, and doing my bit to heal this battered earth and our communities. Thanks for your support on this journey!

There’s still some mischief in that smile…

14 thoughts on “Ten Years: A Summary

  • Jean A. Hanfelt says:

    Well said Susan. You’re a survivor for sure. I so admire your sense of adventure and not afraid to learn new skills like restoring houses. I think of you often and I’m so glad we got to be friends. You have been an inspiration to me.
    Love, Jean Hanfelt

    • Jean, I have such fond memories of the times we chatted on the trail, or ran into each other in town or at book events. It was a treat to hear some of your Wyoming roots and stories. And I’m honored to have inspired you. Hugs to you!

  • That picture. That time. Exuberant youth. So much life. I felt quite blessed to be a part of your joy,

    And the homes you have brought back to life. You revived their exuberant youth.

    Your restorative powers are boundless; so much lives because of you, especially Richard’s memory.

    So inspiring.

    • We were so young then, and so idealistic! I look at that photo and think how fortunate I was to have such a warm and creative community around me. Re-storying houses has bought me competence I had no idea I had, and awakened my inner visual artist. Plus, with their inner beauty revealed, each house goes on to a whole new life, sheltering new people. 🙂 Much love to you!

    • Apparently I was. I loved Creek House; I just don’t love what’s happened to the town where it is. Too noisy and busy for me.

  • Susan, one of the houses hubby and I saved will begin a new chapter, with new owners, tomorrow, so your house work resonates.

    Wishing you fine adventures and all best in your new mobility. If you find yourself in central CO sometime, let’s go for a ride.

    • Andrea, Thank you! And congratulations on finding new owners for one of the houses you so lovingly saved. I hope it feels good to pass it along, and I know you’ll have made a good return on your investment. I never thought of myself as competent to do this kind of work, so it’s a surprise to realize that I am–I’m still learning of course!–and that I love it. And thanks for the invite. If I get to your neck of the woods, I’ll take you up on that ride!

  • Oh my. We were so young and so fresh in the world. What a journey you have had and so many stories shared. I look forward to the next ten years of stories and inspiration.
    Much love to you.

    • Weren’t we? So fresh is right! We’ve all been on journeys, and look at us–we’re thriving, wiser, still loving this life. Kudos to all of us! Hugs to you.

    • Sarah, I am only a rolling stone in the region where big sagebrush goes. And only because I am looking for the optimal place to settle. I would love that to be northwest Wyoming, because it will always be the home of my heart. But as I get older, I deal less well with the severe cold and the wind. So I’m still looking for that place in sagebrush country where the climate and I get along! Blessings to you in the farther north….

  • As I read through all you have accomplished in the midst of loss, grief, turmoil, immense tragedy, well, I told Jeff, “I’m out of breath just reading this.”

    I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished. Every accolade is deserved. Every award earned many times over.

    Keep on keeping on. I’ll run along behind you strewing wildflower petals!

    • Sharon, You are a dear and such an inspiration to me. Thank you. Especially the mental image of you running along strewing wildflower petals–you could do it!

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