I've lived in Denver for most of my adult life. I was drawn to the Mountain West intuitively and emotionally after my first childhood visit and settled in the Mile High City with my then-girlfriend (now wife) when we were very young. We did not have "real" jobs and had not yet discovered the professional track of our lives. Our decision to move west from Houston, where we were raised, was influenced by profound experiences in the formative years of young adulthood. For Carol, it was undergraduate studies at St. John's College in Santa Fe, that jewel of a town in the high desert of northern New Mexico. For me, it was summer trips out to Colorado to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Later, as a college student in Portland, Oregon, I knew without a doubt that the intersection of land and home and art and wilderness had to be connected in some fundamental way.
That is not to say it was easy. Carol and I struggled to find meaningful work in those first years, but we kept with it. And what kept us grounded was the place itself: the high prairie of the Great Plains rising up to meet the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the granite peaks of the Front Range always visible on the horizon. The geographical intersection alone was, and continues to be, a magical confluence of horizontal and vertical views that can leave one speechless on any given day.
Our eventual graduate work directed us both to careers that we loved, work that could sustain us. And with that came, perhaps, the most intimate expression of personal place: buying a home. A 1916 classic Denver bungalow, with a basement large enough for a studio and library and a main level just big enough to raise a small family, we fell in love with the house and live in it still.
The result of growing up in 1970s suburban developments might have led us instinctively to an older home; so we followed our desire for a sense of history and story and place as expressed in the idiosyncratic quirks of an old house.
Some of my most vivid and impactful dreams over the years have been about old houses. I've woken from them with a sense of rich possibility: a place almost magically well suited to making art, to discovery. And often that sense of discovery was expressed within the dream as a hidden staircase, an undiscovered room, or a passage that revealed a profoundly important part of my own understanding of self. Of course, this revelation was lost upon waking, but the impression stayed, and so old homes have always been, both at the conscious and unconscious level, a profound part of my sense of place.
Carol has a passion for gardening, and our large double-lot has been an ongoing project, a reflection of our values, hopes, and dreams. Our values: to grow and harvest as much of our own produce as possible, without the use of chemicals. Our hopes: to see a weed-filled lot slowly be transformed into a sanctuary for us and for the diversity of wildlife that a city garden can accommodate. Our dreams are still unfolding, as our son, Alden, grows up in a space we have built for and with him.
From our home outward, Denver is a place of profound intersection. We live near the confluence of two rivers, the Platte and Cherry Creek, which intersect one another near the heart of the city. As the cultural vibrancy of Denver has grown, this confluence seems an apt metaphor for the city and the geography it occupies. Here, the arts—visual and performing and literary and culinary—have all grown up together amidst the confluence of water and land, prairie and mountain, earth and sky.
Copyright © 2013. Andrew Beckham. All rights reserved.