So long, Paonia
Earlier this week, I drove through a stretch of barren landscape about 50 miles from our Paonia home, as I've done many times before. It's an unremarkable part of western Colorado. The sparsely vegetated hills contain radioactive waste, an old bombing range, an experimental chicken farm and a lot of shot-up appliances. Soon, hundreds of drilling rigs will probe it for subterranean riches. Most people have learned not to notice the place.
But on that blisteringly hot evening, one could not ignore the hills. The ghost of a thunderstorm loomed overhead, turning the sky solid cobalt, and the spartan hills were lit up as if from within, imposing themselves on every driver's consciousness. Notice me, they cried. And I did. More poignant than their intense, almost terrifying beauty, though, was the realization it brought: As editor-in-chief, this has been one of my main goals here at High Country News, to illuminate the otherwise unnoticed, sacrificed, ignored portions of this remarkable region we call "The West" -- the place I've always called home.
Now, I'm leaving. Not just HCN, but also the West, headed off for a zany family adventure in Europe. I'll miss this place, this publication, this constant searching for the definition of this region. I'll miss my colleagues, a group of intelligent, creative people who love what they do. And I'll miss our readers, who must be the smartest, most cantankerous, passionate readership of any publication. But from afar, I'll be watching to see what great things Jodi, Ray and Sarah do with HCN. Maybe I'll even write a few curmudgeonly letters to the editor. Postmarked: Berlin.