The empty spaces beckoned to Diann Jewett. She wanted to be alone, and for a long time she was virtually alone.
But that was yesterday.
When Diann, 69, and husband Don purchased their home on the far northern outskirts of Colorado Spring in 1983, the departing owner predicted solitude forevermore.
“You’re never going to ever see people out here,” the seller said. “You’re going so far out, you’re never going to see people.”
“Good,” Diann said.
Back then, Diann rested in her backyard, situated between Black Forest and Elbert, and gazed at empty prairie. No houses blocked the view. At night, she enjoyed a dazzling sky show.
“Yeah, it was great,” she says. “I’m talking dark. No lights. Nothing. And you could see shooting stars. You could see the sky. It was beautiful.”
“It was nice. It was like 'Little House on the Prairie,' only it was a little more modern.”
Wednesday, Diann sits in the shade and examines an altered horizon. Instead of emptiness, she sees 35 homes.
We talk 75 minutes with much laughter. Diann is not trapped in the stillness of yesterday. She admires her gloriously blooming lilacs, which she planted 36 years ago. She still enjoys her home, situated 35 minutes north of downtown Colorado Springs, and savors the relative solitude.
She’s lost a slice of the quiet of 1983, but prefers her retreat to the noise of central Colorado Springs, where she was raised.
“I don’t mind the houses,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about someone shooting at you, like in town. They are good people out here.”'
In many ways, Diann’s altered view summarizes the change in Colorado over 50 years. A combination of surging newcomers and natives refusing to depart transformed a sleepy, vacant state of 2.2 million to an awakened, cramped state of 5.8 million. The change isn’t universal. I get that. Lamar remains mostly, if not entirely, the same. But the Front Range is vastly different.
When standing alone on a brilliant morning at the summit of Mount Herman near Monument or sitting outside on a summer night enjoying dinner in downtown Colorado Springs, it’s obvious life remains good in our state.
But not quite as good — as calm, as pure — as yesterday.
Diann is a Colorado native, the daughter and granddaughter of Colorado natives. I recently asked, in print, if Colorado natives are smug.
The question inspires Diann’s ire.
“We don’t have an ego or an uppitiness,” she says of fellow natives. “It’s a heartbreak because we see things are changing. They are replacing the pastures and plains with houses and driving the wildlife away. I’m heartbroken because they are coming from all over.”
When she arrived at her home, she saw fox, porcupine, wild turkey, raccoon, pronghorn antelope and deer. She remembers a morning when she saw a golden eagle, wings spread, cooling itself on her fence post. Today, only antelope and deer remain.
It’s been a good life. At Halloween, Diann’s daughter Tamme once went out in search of candy, same as other children. The difference? Tamme rode her horse to faraway houses.
“Out here it’s a freedom that you don’t have in town,” Diann says. “It’s a freedom, OK. You’re able to do your own thing, to be you. I’m not one who would fit into town.”
She smiles as she looks at those multiplying homes on the horizon.
“I don’t,” she says, “do book clubs.”