Sunday, March 27, 2022

Ken Caryl Ranch's Historic Barn

The suburban community I live in, which is located in the foothills of Colorado west of Denver, was once a cattle ranch with its first owner, John C. Schaffer, purchasing the land in 1914.  In 1921 he hired Littleton builder William F. Sorensen to build a barn to house his purebred, award-winning, Hereford cattle.  The barn survives and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Information from the History Colorado website:
"The barn is an excellent example of the gambrel-roof variant of the Transverse Frame Barn type as executed in the western United States. Character-defining features include the barn’s rectangular plan; gambrel roof with cupola ridge ventilators; second-story hayloft; hay hood and hayloft doors at the gable end; symmetrical interior organization with two interior aisles flanked by stalls running the length of the barn; and large sliding barn doors on the front and rear walls at the ends of the aisles. The unusual choice to use structural clay tile as a wall material adds to the barn’s significance."

You can read more about the barn by clicking on the photo above to enlarge the photo.

You can also see an interesting YouTube video about John C. Shaffer and his beautiful ranch on this link.

Our community's historic society had an open house this past fall to allow visitors to tour the barn and learn its history.  It now houses horses and is part of the Ken Caryl Ranch Equestrian and Training Center, which also contains two fully groomed outdoor arenas and a large indoor arena.

The enormous hayloft construction in the barn was amazing to view!

It has strong construction that has withstood much weather and time.

Our community has over 4,800 acres of native Colorado open space and many miles of trails that Ken-Caryl Ranch resident hikers, bicycle riders, and horse riders can access.  

It really is a wonderful place to live! 

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

A Snowy Springtime In Colorado

Happy Spring!  Springtime in Colorado means we get our best snowfall. March and April are traditionally our snowiest months. Since moving here in 2013 I've even seen some snowfall in early June.  These photos of myself as a child growing up in Brooklyn, New York, prove that I've always loved winter and snow. I would be out playing in it for hours, sledding, building snowmen, building snow forts. I know I'd miss snow if I lived in a warm climate, so living in Colorado suits me well. This winter we have had some snowfall almost every week since late December, and hopefully, the snowpack has been enough to counteract the severe drought we experienced in the summer and fall of 2021. Many rivers depend on Colorado snowpack melt. The Colorado River supplies 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming as well as a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry. So, as they say: "Let It Snow!"

Photo albums of a vacation we took in Ireland

Recently, my husband and I have had an ongoing project of scanning all our family photographs up into personal cloud storage. It had been on our mind to do this when we moved to Colorado from New York and had to go through many photo albums and boxes of family photos to pack them for our move.  After we settled in, and a few years had passed, the photo albums and boxes sadly remained hidden away in drawers and cabinets and we procrastinated on the project. The devastating Marshall Wildfire that took place in December 2021 reminded us that we must finally make an effort to preserve these memories. We would not be able to pack all these photos into our car if we had to evacuate our home in an emergency and we knew we would be sad to lose all the memories our photos evoked. So now album by album we are scanning them all. It feels good to finally get it done!

A photo of our area last week. 

More snow is predicted this week!

The nice thing about spring snow is that the weather soon warms up and the snow melts quickly. In fact, last week we actually saw the snow evaporating like fog up into clouds above our area after the sun began to shine. It looked like heaven! The streets were steaming with water vapor and everything glistened.  Photos just can't cover the beauty of it all!

A deer smiling for her photo.

The deer curled herself up like this in the snow to take a nap. I was impressed that she was able to twist her neck back so far.  She slept for about a half-hour and then moved on to nibble more of my shrubs.

We celebrated St Joseph's Feast Day On March 19th, which is Father's Day in Italy, and we always purchase sweet zeppole pastries. We were happy to find a small Italian bakery in Wheat Ridge called Dolce Sicilia. So good!
For Saint Patrick's Day, March 17th, I make my favorite Irish soda bread for my family, along with the traditional corn beef dinner. The photo on the lower left is St Patrick's grave in Downpatrick Catherdral Cemetery in Northern Ireland. 

"Surely as cometh the Winter, I know 
There are Spring violets under the snow." 
~ R.H. Newell

So this is early springtime in Colorado! 

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Shining Opera at Opera Colorado

The Denver Performing Arts Center Complex

One of my many favorite books is Stephen King's The Shining. The novel, published in 1977, remains one of the scariest psychological thrillers I have ever read and made me an avid Stephen King fan, eager to read all of his novels afterward.   I still can remember turning the pages of The Shining holding my breath and my heart racing, almost fearful to continue reading, yet anxious to know what the outcome would be. 

This is a synopsis of the novel from the publisher, Doubleday, for those who never read it:

"Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their young son Danny move into the Overlook Hotel, where Jack has been hired as the winter caretaker. Cut off from civilization for months, Jack hopes to battle alcoholism and uncontrolled rage while writing a play. Evil forces residing in the Overlook – which has a long and violent history – covet young Danny for his precognitive powers and exploit Jack’s weaknesses to try to claim the boy."

I was very excited to hear that Opera Colorado was going to present the opera The Shining, this year! The opera version first came to operatic life at the suggestion of stage director Eric Simonson and the Minnesota Opera. Composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell agreed to partner on the project, but they had to first acquire Stephen King's approval, promising that they would stay true to the novel.  It seems King was not happy with the interpretation of his novel by the 1980 film The Shining, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson.  

Happily, King did approve of Campbell's libretto, and the opera made its premiere audience May 7, 2016, at Minnesota Opera. 

To read more about the making of the opera, and see some photos from the Opera Colorado February/March 2022 production read these links at the Opera Colorado website--here and here

Scenes from Ellie Caulkins Opera House

My husband and I have enjoyed attending operas our entire marraige, first at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City when we lived in Brooklyn and now at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, at the Denver Performing Arts Center, since we moved to Denver in 2013.  In my husband's upbringing, opera was always playing at his family home, as his father was an avid fan of Italian operas.  I was introduced to opera in high school by a very enthusiastic music teacher who had her classes learn and watch Verdi's opera La Traviata--her favorite opera--as part of our curriculum. 
To see a new and very contemporary themed opera was going to be unusual for us but I was very excited to see how one of my favorite novels would come to life on the stage.

We usually dine out on the evening of an opera. Although we were happy that the Ellie Caulkin Opera House was still taking covid precautions by requiring full vaccination and wearing of masks, we felt comfortable enough with the low covid infection rates in Denver that we could risk eating indoors at a restaurant. The performance we saw was on a Tuesday evening, and not many local restaurants were open in Downtown Denver, so we decided to dine at Kevin Taylor's at the Opera Housewhere we enjoyed a delicious three-course dinner.

The Shining Opera Program

The opera certainly made King's characters come uniquely alive! The animation and projections of 59 Productions enhanced the interesting rolling rooms set design of The Overlook Hotel on stage, along with its madding wallpaper pattern illumination moving between scenes. The basement furnace room was also as eerie and forebodding as my imagination imagined it when I read the novel. The conductor Ari Pelto lead the orchestra as it played the dramatic music by Paul Moravec.

Baritone Edward Parks sang the role of Jack Torrence and did a wonderful job portraying the emotions of a man possessed by inner demons and slowly going mad. Unlike the movie character, this Jack Torrence made you feel sorry for him as the ghosts from his past childhood abuse appeared, tormenting him and leading him away from his strong intentions to correct the mistakes he made in his life.
Bass-baritone Kevin Deas performed as Dick Hallorann and sang the most stirring arias in the opera, both welcoming the family to the hotel and recognizing Danny's gift of precognitive powers which he calls "the shining," and also his reconnection with them at the end. You can watch a synopsis and a rehearsal performance of Kevin Deas at this link.
Soprano Kelly Kaduce performs as Wendy Torrence--you can hear her sing a touching aria from the opera, "I Never Stopped Loving You," at this link. As King implied, she does more than "scream" as she did in the movie.
Micah VonFeldt played the role of Danny. His part was spoken,not sung and was appropriately childlike, and very believable as someone fighting demonic possession.

The final curtain call bow of The Shining Opera performers

We really enjoyed the opera and would not hesitate to see it again in the future! The music, words, performances and set were all impressive and rekindled the feelings I had at the genius of Stephen King's imagination when I first read his novel.

Just as an aside--did you know that The Shining was actually inspired by an overnight stay Stephen King had at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado? Supposedly, in 1974, Stephen King and his wife, Tabby, spent a night at The Stanley Hotel, and that night, King had a nightmare about his 3-year-old son running and screaming through the hotel's corridors being chased by a fire hose. It was so real and disturbing to King that the idea of a haunted hotel in a remote location was the inspiration for his novel.  

The beautiful and historic Stanley Hotel has a reputation for the paranormal, although most guests have a wonderfully preaceful and luxurious experience there.  

I actually experienced an unusual occurrence when we stayed at the hotel for an anniversary--you can read about it on this post.  I still get chills thinking about it!  Thankfully, we have been back many times, and never had a supernatural experience ever again, so perhaps it was only my overactive imagination at the time? I like to think I encountered a friendly ghost. 

Have you ever encountered a ghost? What was the scariest book you ever read and could you imagine it presented as an opera?

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Sunday, March 6, 2022

March Reflections

I have seen many photos on social media from warmer climates of spring-like conditions with flowers and trees in bloom, but in Colorado winter will persist quite a while longer, teasing us with some warm days followed by days of cold and snow. In fact, March is Colorado's snowiest month! Denver averages 11.3 inches of snowfall in March, which is more than any other month. Here are some photos and quotes reflections on the month of March which heralds the end of winter and the beginning of spring:

"In March winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside each of us too."  

~ Jean Hersey

"Snow was falling so much like stars, filling the dark trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness." 

~ Mary Oliver

"There is no winter without snow, no spring without sunshine, and no happiness without companions." 

~ Korean proverb

"I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful--an endless prospect of magic and wonder." 

~ Ansel Adams

It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it." 
~ John Burroughs

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful for beauty is God's handwriting." 

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My heart aches for Ukraine.  It was the birthplace of my maternal grandparents, who immigrated at separate times to the USA in the early 1900s.  We have donated to the International Red Cross, The World Central Kitchen, and Unicef, and if you would like to help they are a few of the charities that are helping the many innocent people fleeing into Poland and other counties for their safety.  Please keep praying for a miracle, for peace and freedom in Ukraine!

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