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This picture is worth at least these 1,016 words

Open SpaceDerek FranzGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I learned three things on my first day of work here at the Post Independent, almost exactly three years ago.One: G. Sean Kelly is the man (a former PI news editor, he is one of the coolest guys I will ever meet).Two: Pretty much the entire male population of Glenwood has a crush on the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Kara K.P. – one of our photographers at the time – and I was no exception.It was the first day of my first real job after finishing my classes at CU-Boulder. I had just wrapped up one of the very best summers of my then-22-year-old life with an internship at a Carbondale-based magazine. I was living with my mom in Glenwood, had $14.93 left in my checking account, and I already had a crush on a co-worker. … I was a little nervous.A few months into the job I got a chance to write some “practice” columns for the occasional empty spots on the “Outdoors” page.Being shy and ripe with a college boy’s immaturity, I never paid that much attention to the other photog, Kelley Cox, a mom from New Castle who quietly came in and out of the office, submitting endless shots of babies and small children. So of course it was Kara I asked to help me illustrate one of my stories (a stupid piece filled with self-pity about kayaking Shoshone on New Year’s), without ever considering the possibility that I might want Kelley to do it.My friendship with Kara grew, especially after sharing a wintery adventure to get a front-page photo of me ice climbing the Redstone Pillar one January morning in 2006. And always Kelley remained in the background of the office for me.Since I started writing installments of this (my first “official”) column, however, I’ve come to know Kelley for the inspiring person she is – a good heart quietly kicking ass in its little corner of the world.Not to make my fellow PI affiliates feel any less loved, but Kelley is one of the few unexpected people who deserve part credit for the fact that I’m still writing this column.The thing about submitting a bit of writing for publication on a regular basis is that the author will eventually be forced to publish something he or she would rather not.Once I choked on deadline and refused to submit anything (running the risk of disappointing some readers), and another time I bit the bark and allowed a “highly experimental” draft to go to print.I avoided looking at the newspaper until I came into the office that Tuesday. In my e-mail was a note from Kelley, in a pink cursive font, praising my work with all the most generous words that I needed to hear right then. (I’ve had a few other e-mails from kind strangers that have also helped me stick with it these past months.)It’s like she knows what I need exactly when I need it. … I feel lucky that chance would have her in my corner.A few weeks ago I came into work and a large, artsy photo was rolled out next to my keyboard. It was a going-away gift from Kelley (my last day as a Post Independent copy editor is Friday). A short note in marker graced the pic: “To D-rock; – Happy Trails! – Happy life!”I have never been so flattered. My 12th column was about how all our relationships are intertwined in an infinite braid. The intention of my opening lines was to create such a visual; I basically wrote a two-paragraph poem describing my experience of walking across a specific parking lot in Glenwood:”The cracked, flat concrete is beautiful. Lined with perfect, fat strips of tar, stretching out underfoot for thousands of square feet, I am taken away by this serene, urban spectacle’s visual power to wash me away in thought.”One, evenly applied black strip leads so aesthetically into the next and the next, I can’t see where the oceanic web of black lines begins or ends, and all I can do is look out across it all from my drifting position.”Kelley had gone out, found this parking lot and captured it with her camera exactly as my mind’s eye remembers it. I almost laugh to imagine what she must’ve looked like – an adult woman squatting down to take a serious photo of an empty back-door parking lot. And she made the thing truly look beautiful, somehow, too.I hadn’t felt too good about that column when I sent it to print, either, thinking it was too jumbled and pretentious for anyone to ever connect with it. Apparently there are some who did, however, and that’s why I find it hard to feel alone in this world when other people out there obviously share in my experiences as one of so many human beings.So, Kelley (and the rest of my beloved Roaring Fork Valley), yes, life really is “all about relationships – how you are with each thing around you and inside you,” as I wrote.I guess this all brings me to the third thing I learned on my first day at the Post Independent, which I’ve realized only near the end of this third year: Every person is a potential chest of gold waiting to be opened, and we all have a thread to contribute toward weaving the world we want to make.I hope I continue to learn how to do my part, because there are a good number of you “Kelleys” out there who set a fine example.Derek Franz is going to miss the Roaring Fork Valley while he travels, especially his newspaper cohorts who make this a tough job to leave. If Derek has failed to contact you to say farewell, please forgive him and send him an e-mail at dfranz@postindependent.com. His column will continue to appear in the Post Independent.


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