The Desert

The Desert
Luke Mehall - 05/02/2019

Sometimes you have to step back and take a look at it all. Near the beginning of this decade, I moved to Durango with a dollar and a dream. The economy was crap, I’d just broken up with someone I thought could have been “the one,” and I’d lost the only decent-paying job I ever had.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about this in the Telegraph, but the opportunity to freelance for this paper was the only real prospect I had when I moved here. I’ve always enjoyed risk taking and following whims, but as anyone knows about those sort of things, sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. Most people don’t follow their dreams, and I never wanted to be one of those people who lived with regret.

I moved here with the intention of trying to get back to the same lifestyle that I had when I lived in Gunnison and worked a public relations and marketing gig. I vigorously applied and interviewed for jobs in that realm and didn’t get offered a single one. Being broke and jobless can really chip away at one’s self esteem. I was determined to fight for my right to write though. I took the opportunity every morning to write, and eventually started my own publishing company.

And, of course, I learned the Durango Tango. I house sat and farm sat for a place to stay. The first way I made money here was mucking horse shit. Then dishwashing, prep cooking, and eventually becoming a manager at a local restaurant, Durango’s beloved Zia Taqueria. Tim Turner, the owner, coached me on forming a business plan in his spare time. I met many, many awesome locals while working there. Customers can be rude and high maintenance in the service industry, and I’m more than grateful for those who sent forth positive energy and good vibes during my days there.

Sometime after I completed 10,000 hours of writing, my publishing business finally took off enough that I could stop dancing that Durango Tango and settle into my life’s work. I met “the one” around that time period, too. I was happy that I had I chased my dreams and happy that fate intervened and made me suffer for a while. For we should have to suffer for our dreams.

Also around that time, we elected the president that I consider unfit to represent our country. I can’t recall being so angry in my adult life. After the anger subsided, I began to reflect – on the history of our country; the fact that the Democrats didn’t put up a good candidate; and what I could do to be a positive force of change, to do my part to say, “this is not OK, this is not who we are, nor whom we should become.”

I searched high and low. I spoke with every leader I could. The answer was resounding. The power that I had was the power of the pen. I had a unique power; the power to inspire; the power to encourage those younger than me, as well as those that are my senior. I’ve directed most of my energy to the Bears Ears National Monument issue. It was wrong to rescind that designation.

Recently, I released a book and a short film on the topic. I had the kick-off for my book tour for The Desert just last week. I also showed the film, “Just a Climber, for Bears Ears.” Just after the book tour kicked off, the film also showed at the 5 Point Film Festival in Carbondale. The book presentation was the type I’ve dreamed about for the last seven years, since I started writing books. There was an energetic crowd of young and old, a line while I signed books, and a sense that I had done something pure and right and was inspiring others (while I made a buck or two.)

In two weeks, the book tour will stop in Durango, and that event is the one I am the most excited about. I’ve teamed up with Maria’s Bookshop and Pine Needle and there will be a free presentation at 6:30 p.m. Thurs., May 16, at Pine Needle Dry Goods (aka the Patagonia store) 858 Main Ave. We’ll be showing “Just a Climber,” and shortly after we’ll release that film online along with a fundraiser for the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and Friends of Cedar Mesa – two groups that have sued the federal government over the rescinding of Bears Ears National Monument.

I’m grateful that I can report that I’ve followed by dreams and achieved some of them. As a writer, my work will never be done, and the things about dreams is the more you achieve, the more dreams you want to seek out. My writing torch will eventually be passed, perhaps to one of you reading this.

Now that I’m settling down in Durango with the one I love, we’re doing what couples do: looking for a house. As everyone knows, it’s expensive here in Durango, and even as two hard-working middle-class people we’ll barely be able to afford something. I’m not complaining – we live where people vacation – but it has me wondering what things are going to be like for people

like us in 10 to 20 years. I’ve watched Telluride and Crested Butte get super expensive, and the whole thing makes me a little sick to my stomach. The rich do not bring culture to the mountains; and the culture of the rich is lame.

Let me let that one marinate for a bit. I suppose my train of thought is going into this place we call Durango that we love so much. I wonder what we can do to ensure that it is a place for many people, not just the wealthy. I wonder if we could slow down our downtown drag a bit. I wonder if the powers that be will ever announce the entity that started the 416 Fire. I wonder how we can create a diverse community in every way. I wonder how we can further develop our artistic community and also cross paths with the amazing trails and athletes we have here. I wonder how fast this next decade is going to fly by, and I wonder if I have the heart to continue to put energy into the change I want to see. Thanks for reading Durango, and I hope to see you on May 16 and Pine Needle Dry Goods.

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