The state I know

Cliff Vancura/Durango Herald Enlarge photo

Cliff Vancura/Durango Herald

If youíre not from Colorado, I ask you to read this. First Columbine High School and now the theater in Aurora. As a fourth generation Coloradan who has lived here almost 50 years, this isnít the state I know.

We obviously are famous for gorgeous vistas, yellow grasslands and more mountain ranges that any of us can keep track of. We have rad skiing, cool biking and rafting, 54 fourteeners, and public lands to check out as far as the eye can see. All of these things are obvious. Everyone knows about them. Beyond these things though, you will find people with hearts of gold, backs of steel and an uncanny exuberance for life.

Need your barn built? Scores of neighbors are there. A wildfire headed your way? Friends and people you donít even know are there to get you, your pets and your belongings to safety.

In the summer, parades and art and music festivals, and farmersí markets, rodeos and street fairs are happening everywhere. Itís a little overwhelming, honestly. Our neighborhoods in mountain towns and cities, if you look closely and get off the interstates, are as diverse and eclectic as any.

We are leaders in solar energy and other renewable technology, recycling, biomass and green technologies Ė and we were doing this before it was cool.

Our colleges and universities are top-notch. Our sports teams have loyal, vocal and demanding fans.

Most people donít know, the state is home to two Native American tribes and a fascinating Hispanic/Latino culture dating back hundreds of years.

Retirees flock here and bring their brains and civic involvement.

We are a scrappy people because itís not easy to make a living. So, a collective tenacity and risk-taking come in very handy as does a willingness to work more than one job. We like to take it easy. You can just as easily find someone biking, gardening or sitting on their porch at 5 p.m. than slaving away at his or her desk.

We do like to have arguments about the future, and engage in many of them. I have always chalked this up to the fact that people care about community, love the land and they rightfully demand a voice. Iíll take these arguments over passivity and cynicism any day.

I fear that the Aurora shooting sears a horrific image in Americansí minds of what Colorado is about. Donít let it. Please. As to why these two unthinkable incidents have happened here, well, Iíll leave that to the pundits and sociologists. I just know what I experience every single day: beauty, usually something a little quirky and many things that point to caring people and communities.

Armed gunmen will never change this.

Marsha Porter-Norton is a fourth generation Coloradan and grew up on a ranch in the southwest corner of the state. She a meeting facilitator, hiker, traveler, cat aficionado and lover of everything Colorado. Reach her at

Porter-Norton Enlarge photo