And though one says that one is part of everything,
There is a conflict, there is a resistance involved
An accident gradually gets accepted as the thing that needed to happen.
Native landscaping costs less to maintain
than non-native plantings and turf grasses.
—”Home” with Meg Mogrin, Grand Junction Style
SHE HAD BEEN BORN HERE and so had to learn that eyes from wetter climes saw brown as the color of failure. The dismay of northerners weary of rain and snow should have been obvious from those unhappy years in Denver when she looked toward the alien east unstopped by the mountains. Farmtowns dustbowled out of existence. Cattle living in feedlot shit. A dachshund-colored haze lapping the sky. The city clutching the skirt of the Front Range and burying its face in snowcaps, granite and redrock. Though not so apparent here, the west slope of the Rockies shared that arid reality with the relentless high plains.
Homebuyers craved green. Green represented sanctuary, abundance, progress, fecundity, and until they encountered it in full sufficiency, Meg Mogrin might as well have been showing them burial plots. Her job was to guide the immigrants gently, since surely they had hoped to find in these brown barrens their own little patch of swampland.
She made sure retirees saw the orchards and vineyards and golf courses. Families she drove past the sprinklered ball parks and the waterslide at the pool, pointing out the gasflame blue sky through windows sealed against its swelter. And in season, the Botanical Gardens. In the west, she would say, towns thrive only because of water and here we are at the junction of two grand rivers. From drive-by distance, the tamarisk remained a distant splurge of olive foliage and pink feathery blooms, not a creeping riverbank strangler. Butterflies shimmered among lavender blossoms, unmindful that the soil once hosted mill tailings and scrapyards.
On glorious mornings like this one, it was easy to forget how much of the town had settled atop ruin and reclamation.
MEG STOPPED TO WATCH five made-up little girls strut across the parking lot toward the Discovery Castle. They looked like barhopping bridesmaids wearing leotards and leg warmers, saggy tees and pixie tutus layered in bright pastels, hair bunched by head scarves, wrists rattling with plastic bracelets. Their ten-year-old voices piped the chorus of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” A watchful mother young enough to be Pat Benatar’s daughter followed, no doubt conscious of how closely the Botanical Gardens bordered the river camps. Her smile sought Meg’s reassurance and solidarity. What can we do? she seemed to ask, and Meg could only shrug. She had given up on shepherding children when she forsook the classroom for a profession that offered more finality. After she sold a house, she never once worried what would become of it.
She put her pickup back in gear, the company truck, a GMC three-on-the-column half-ton from the seventies. In the flush of getting her broker’s license she had purchased it already spiffed up with a tri-tone paint job and slapped on a High Country Living logo before she realized how impractical it would be. Then the recession hit and she had to dump the lease on her Escalade. With the Jimmy her only ride she more appreciated how it turned heads, signifying upmarket western Americana to prosperous retirees and letting crusty ranchers know the fancy girl realtor could drive a stick. Now a Buick served as her client-hauling workhorse. She saved the truck for puttering around town on errands like this one.
Real estate was three-quarters routine interrupted by urgent personal crises that actually could be eased away with a little timely effort. Redelivering this misdirected packet of fliers could be seen as a waste of her time or an opportunity to bank goodwill with the printer who had screwed up. Everyone bought or sold eventually, and when the printer needed a realtor, Meg Mogrin expected her name to occur to him like a favorite tune.
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