Essay: Boulder 10 Years Later
This essay appeared in a 2017 book published by the University of Colorado at Boulder in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism and benefactor Cindy Scripps.
Ten years ago, when I was in my mid-30s, I was working as freelance journalist on the South Island of New Zealand, living in a rented house on a lonely, windswept stretch of farmland that overlooked the Tasman Sea. I was newly married. My wife and I had just welcomed our great work in life, a son, into the world. Old jobs and routines lay far away back in Washington, D.C.—8,828 miles to be exact. It was then, as it always is, when I couldn’t fathom an existence more new or exciting, that I died and went to heaven. Heaven, or a slice of it, as we all know now, lay in Boulder, Colo. For me, it encompassed the second floor of the old armory building on the UC Boulder campus, a little carriage house on Pine Street, my four Scripps Fellow compatriots, and the chance to learn from the likes of Bruce Barcott, Claire Dederer, and Susan Moran. Presiding over these Flatiron pearly gates were four consummate and generous journalism saints: Len Ackland, with his football-ravaged knees; Tom Yulsman, whom I will forever remember in the act of unclipping a bicycle helmet; Dona Olivieri, the epitome of warmth and kindness; and a rarely glimpsed but ever-present angel named Cindy Scripps. The best part of my trip to heaven was that I got to bring my family. And then, nine months later, we all returned to Earth.