The Writers’ Circle: A gift that is mine forever


By Dan Englund
PREVIEW Columnist

Dennis and I looked across this massive ranch as he pointed out something he wanted me to see and recognize. Something that made this spot where we stood so special.

Beyond this huge valley on a mountainside at least 20 miles away, you don’t need binoculars to see it. An anomaly that stands in the forest, made of snow chutes and tree stands. Something that you can see from only this spot.

An enormous geometrical figure made of snow — a shield with an S snaking through it, an identical copy of Superman’s logo.

Behind us lie the remains of another cabin from long ago. Could they have also noticed it? Is that why they built on this particular spot of land?

My life as a carpenter here in southwestern Colorado has taken me to some beautiful places. But this one takes the cake.

Creek after creek, drainage after drainage, waterfalls that take your breath away. The headwaters of a great river that flows through this enormous bowl that’s filled with giant meadows. All surrounded by massive mountains reaching up to the Continental Divide.

Sixty-thousand acres with a gold mining and logging history that still lingers. Yet most of it sits untouched and wild. 

Herds of elk and deer, flocks of turkeys, and bears and mountain lions are only some of the game that claim this their home.

The two of us standing on a brand-new porch, enjoying our moments of male humor, all the while, knowing that we only had so much time left to memorize all of this.

Dennis was going to retire soon and give up managing this place. And I was almost done building things here. Our moments at the Superman Cabin were coming to an end.

This place I call home, this beautiful valley I live in, is a diamond that has somehow escaped the development that has changed Pagosa Springs over the years.

My own home is tucked away on the side of a mountain surrounded by national forest and has the feel of something so much larger — A place that I selfishly protect.

A quiet home where I live alone. My decision to not have television, radio or landline. There is no Internet or Wi-Fi to fog up my mind. My solitude that has become my crutch, while I heal.

My first baby steps to try and mend a shattered heart have led to a long three-year journey — to understand my soul and find out who I really am.

A simple realization that the only thing I have any control over in this world are my own thoughts, emotions and actions.

I can create my own place in this world and choose to be happy or sad, angry and full of hate, or full of love and gratefulness for all this life has given me. It’s my choice and nobody else gets a say.

Out on my porch sits a cot with a pad and a good sleeping bag. It’s late November and the nights are freezing. There’s a warm bed behind me in the house, but this is where I choose to spend my nights.

It’s my choice to sleep outside and let my soul wander to search in the forest while I rest for another day.

My favorites are the clear nights with stars bombarding me and sometimes a moon so pleasing, when she lets me see her. Often, I have to walk around the house and find her to say goodnight before I let myself sleep.

Yes, the mornings arrive, and I wake just before the coldest moment. 

This morning, I open my eyes to greet the first snow of the season. I steel myself as I step my bare feet into 4 inches of white powder that has covered me like a blanket. I shake the snow off my bedroll, turn around to accept the cold and look out at all the gifts that God has given me today.

Gazing across a canyon and a valley, I notice it for the first time. On the side of a distant mountain, a figure made of snow.

Not as massive as Superman, but clear as a bell and big enough that I can’t miss it. 

A heart with an arrow passing through it.

I stand in awe taking in how perfect it is. How the pine and brush stands have arranged themselves with snowy draws to create something so beautiful.

The arrow has big fletchings and a slightly bent broad head as though it had taken a beating as it pierced through a pulsing heart.

Regretting that I have to get ready and go to work, I step inside to grab my camera. My photograph doesn’t do it justice, but it’s there and you can see it. 

Most of all, deep inside me is my knowledge of a gift that is mine forever — to know that I belong here and remind me every morning to do my best.

We all show our hearts to everyone around us all the time. Sometimes it’s good and beautiful, but lately it seems most of the time it’s bad.

I’ll show my heart to anyone interested in looking. Some see it right away. For others, I have to coax them to look harder into the snow. And others yet, I have to trace it out for them to see it.

Two questions that I ask myself every morning: How can I make a difference in somebody else’s life today? How can I make a difference in my life today?

It’s mid-April and my heart is still out there every morning, sitting on a northern face that a burning winter sun can’t reach.

This morning as I bring my sleeping bag inside to dry out for another night, I think about a cabin with a message, a reminder that we are supermen and capable of so much.

And my home with another, this place that I built with all my love: I have to I take it with me everywhere I go.

And give it away.

This column includes both fiction and non-fiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to