Hector Salas-Gallegos

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”Jonathan Safran Foer

There used to be a time when I was ashamed of being from the Roaring Fork Valley.

It seemed to me that everyone growing up resented owning that moniker. During middle school and high school, no one mentioned how much they hated this place. It was as if I came to school one day and every kid was itching to leave. At least that’s how the kids talked. It could have been spurred on by the lofty expectations that sprang up on us all of a sudden.

Late high school was when we realized that not everyone had a certain plan for the future. Some kids liked to pose and talk college all day long. Scholarships out east. Moving to this or that city. Talking about big dreams to leave the valley and really start living. Others didn’t say a single word on the matter which said just as much. Regarding our future, some of us were certain and some of us were not. We hated the valley because we couldn’t wait to leave or we hated it because we couldn’t. Either way, it was the valley that was everyone’s ire.

We see the possibilities of what could be. Everyone else’s circumstances are gems that glitter a little more than the humble rock we were given.

I’d like to report that people that aren’t from our valley like to make fun of it. I say I’m from Rifle and there’s a moment where they laugh and expect me to curse it.

One of the questions that always stumps me is, “where are you from?I like to say Phoenix because I was born there while also distancing myself from Rifle, where I grew up. As if it were my misfortune to end up there.

I used to be split. I know the roads here. The best places to eat. Where my friends used to live. The time this happened. The time that… In Phoenix, I know… it’s hot.

It wasn’t until a job or two after college that I began to embrace where I’m from. For work, I’d show up to community events. Build relationships with the people that have been here far longer than I have. I used to get the ick feeling like I was getting more and more rooted in the region. Like I’d never escape.

But over time, my apprehension to fully commit thawed. I encountered resiliency. Tenacity and spunk. Grief and exhaustion. Honesty. Adaptability. Hurt. Fortitude.

It’s a beautiful thing to become an adult in the same place you were a child. I saw the complexion of my valley for the first time last summer. It was beautiful and flawed. I met people and heard stories. Learned about the breath of our valley. Helped out here and there. To improve. To build.

I often drive into Rifle and see the gorgeous mountains surrounding it. I think to myself how lucky I must have been to be raised in their cradle. The Roaring Fork will always be a part of who I am. Not because I was unable to escape but because I was able to embrace its spirit.

From time to time, I bump into someone from high school. We look at each other in amazement, or at least I do at them. Glad to know I’m not the only one that stayed to breathe life into this amazing place.