SHORTLY AFTER THE CLERK HANDED us the room keys, the maintenance man appeared at the front desk to remind us that the mountain lodge moaned and groaned when the wind picked up and the temperatures fell.
“Sometimes, you’ll hear banging sounds. Don’t worry about it,” he said, cheerfully.
After showing my husband how to light the lobby fireplace, he also explained why the doors on 23 of the 24 rooms in the vacant lodge stood wide open.
Apparently, warm air circulates more efficiently in an open facility.
He and the clerk wished us a good evening and promised us that they would return at 8 a.m. the next day.
Quiet fell on us then like winter’s first snow.
We had found a hidey hole, a place during Thanksgiving week to retreat from big meal preparations, black Friday sale advertisements, and our long “to do” lists.
And we found it at our ground zero, the place where in August 2003 we married on the mountain outside the front doors and celebrated with about 100 friends and family members in the banquet halls inside that face Mt. Meeker.
With David’s parents on duty to watch our three sons at home, we almost didn’t know what to do with so much stillness.
Everything about our overnight mini-vacation at Highlands Presbyterian Camp & Retreat Center in Allenspark felt off season.
When we drove to nearby Estes Park for dinner, most of the tourist town’s motels confirmed it with neon vacancy signs and deserted blacktops.
Totally empty booths and tables surrounded us at the Chinese restaurant, and we drove back to Allenspark in the moonlight as if we owned the mountains and the highway was our driveway.
The slow time helped us to count our blessings during Thanksgiving week and helped me to be on the lookout now for ongoing quiet spaces to focus on people not things.
For me, that includes inviting my kids to share the long version of their stories as we cuddle on the couch underneath an afghan in the dark beside a lit Christmas tree.
It means staying up past midnight rolling about a zillion Russian tea cakes in powdered sugar to serve to the homeless men and women who sleep at our church over the winter.
It means going back to the writing I once enjoyed every December with a ballpoint pen — going back to writing lengthy holiday greeting cards to friends and family.
There are many ways to welcome this season, many ways to find holiday hidey holes in the midst of the Tinsel Town trappings that draw tourists back to Estes Park and make cash registers ring around the world.
As David and I schlepped our luggage down the hall at the lodge, a faint piney fragrance emanated from one of the open doors we passed.
We doubled back in the hallway a few steps to peer into the room at a stockpile of holiday decorations and evergreens to be displayed in the lodge this season.
Let the festivities begin!
But not without a deep breath and a sharper sense of what is sacred stuff and what is just window dressing.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at email@example.com or 303-746-0942.