the snowpack miracle

[Blogger’s Note: This is part of an on-going series I’ve titled “perfect little miracles,” a series of posts about moments that have inspired, reassured, or comforted me.]

When James and I got back together last December, both of our lives were, to a greater or lesser extent, in a state of disarray. We had each weathered a brutal year emotionally and were completely uncertain as to what the future might hold or even which direction in which to steer ourselves. We weren’t lost, just a little war-weary and unsure of how to best move forward toward our individual dreams.

Then we got back together. In the midst of trying to knit our fractured relationship back together, we let the rest of it kind of fall away for a while. We focused on nurturing our fragile union and taking good care of each other. Worries about work, kids, exes were temporarily back-burnered while we decided that whatever our next step would be, we’d be taking it together.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about my life is how, once I surrender control of my destiny, Fate (or Faith, if you prefer) swoops in and begins to sail my ship smoothly to a destination I might not have chosen nor even known that I could reach. And that is precisely what has happened over the last few months. One small, perfect miracle after another… gently, slowly pushing us forward.

I think the first time I was consciously aware of it this time was with the contract on our new house. As I wrote about here, the sellers accepted our offer a mere four hours before I was fired for the first time in my professional life. It was the second house we’d tried to place under contract, and there were multiple offers on the table, including a full-price cash offer. We nearly lost the house in all the wrangling, but a last minute strategic suggestion by our realtor allowed us to close the negotiations and secure the contract. Against all odds and all logic – and, some would say, all reason – we were buying a house together not even 12 weeks after getting back together and within days of my becoming unemployed.

So how in the world did we secure a mortgage, you’re asking yourself? In this post-Mortgage Meltdown world, what lender would be that crazy? Well, my mother stepped in and helped with the asset balance sheet, while our mortgage agent expressed strong confidence in the temporary nature of my unemployment. So ahead it went. It was painful yes, but that’s lending these days – a wild rollercoaster of will-you-or-won’t-you be approved. And we were.

And our house wasn’t just four walls – it was almost 5,000 gorgeous square feet of enough space to house our family of 8 (and 3 dogs) comfortably. We had been prepared to settle for a sad fixer-upper that we’d have to expand or renovate or otherwise fit to our atypical needs, but somehow we were buying a big, beautiful house that required almost no fixing or changing. True, the home is in a city different from the ones in which either of us were living, and the commute to my children’s schools isn’t a short bike-ride anymore, but those seemed like small sacrifices to avoid many years of construction dust and expense. We couldn’t believe our luck.

We were supposed on to move on Tuesday April 9th, but some last minute concessions on the sellers’ part gave us possession on Sunday April 7th, instead. April 7th was sunny, cloudless, and relatively warm. Our move went off smoothly and under beautiful blue skies. April 9th, on the other hand, ushered in the record-breaking series of April snowstorms unlike this part of Colorado has ever seen. The next 15 days saw 47.6 inches of snow fall in our town, annihilating the previous record of 44” from 1957. It was one cloudy, snowy, bitterly cold day after another, broken only by the occasional mild day that didn’t last. But not only had we managed to move before the terrible snows hit, but those snowy, impassable days gave us lots of time in our new home to unpack and get settled. James has a sprinkler and landscaping business that provides most of his income for the spring and summer, and, under normal weather conditions, he would have been very busy and not able to be home with me during that time. But the snows made outdoor work impossible, so he was home, unpacking boxes and doing various handyman jobs around the house. It was my own little slice of heaven.

As the snows turned from one freak storm to a series of freak storms, another path before us was smoothed. You see, in this part of the West, water from melting snow (known as “snowmelt”) provides our water supply to our reservoirs. That snow melts from the many feet of snow accumulated in the Rockies over the winter. That accumulation is known as “snowpack.” Those of us who live here watch the snowpack levels through the winter because low snowpack levels mean spring and summer droughts. And droughts mean bad wildfire seasons, like the one we had last year, culminating in the horrific Waldo Canyon fire outside of Colorado Springs. Wildfires are terrifying, and even if you aren’t near them, the communal anxiety they breed sucks the fun out of summer for grown-ups.

Droughts also mean government-imposed watering restrictions. Sprinkler systems are the only way to have a lawn or healthy trees or shrubs or flowers in this high desert climate. Even if you xeriscape your garden and lawn (meaning you employ plants and materials that are naturally drought-resistant), you still have to provide them with some water. This isn’t cactus country – we walk a fine line between green and brown. During the terrible drought of 2002, a neighboring town prohibited all landscape watering and everyone in town without a well for water lost their lawns. You could drive through that town in August and see one brown, dead lawn after another. It was awful.

For a sprinkler and landscaping business like James’, water restrictions are like a death sentence for the season. Every year, James watches the snowpack numbers and follows the water table and reservoir levels for clues as to what kind of season he’ll have. This year, more than ever, he needs a good season, to make up for the losses inflicted by the embezzling employee of last year. But all through March, the Colorado Rockies got little measurable snow. March is supposed to be our snowiest month, so by the time April dawned, James was getting nervous. Denver and two smaller municipalities in our area issued watering restrictions. It was getting dire.

But something told me it would be okay. Everything else was working out so beautifully, I felt certain that Fate wouldn’t forsake us now. It didn’t seem possible to me that Fate would have delivered us this beautiful home, only to create a financial hardship that would threaten our ability to keep it. Such a turn of events seemed unfathomably cruel.

And then the snows came. And came. And came. And finally stopped. The morning of April 24th dawned warm and sunny with only more of the same in the near future. The next day’s local paper reported that one of the cities with watering restrictions would be repealing those, which will likely prompt the others to reconsider, too. And the phones in James’ office started ringing off the hook.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Life sure is funny. You never really know when your next stroke of luck will come from or what your next perfect little miracle will look like. Sometimes it even comes in the form of cold, white, fluffy snowpack deep in the Colorado Rockies.

Who would’ve thought?

snowy mts


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