Once upon a time, in 1859 to be exact, two surveyors were wandering through the countryside not terribly far from the newly minted city of Denver. They were headed south, with plans to create a new city – Colorado City.
On their way, they stumbled across an extraordinary formation of rocks. Red sandstone jutted up out of the dry earth like shattered glass, dusty red against the black slopes and white peaks of the front range of the Rockies. Enormous slabs of rock, hundreds of feet high, soared towards the sky. Their knife-edge peaks leaned towards each other creating spectacular silhouettes against the bright blue western sky.
The two surveyors set down their packs and looked at the grandeur around them. “This,” one said to the other, “would be a capital place for a beer garden.”
Of course there’s more to the story. The other one said something prudish and sufficiently awestruck about how this landscape is not for drinking beer but rather for a gathering of the Gods, and they called it Garden of the Gods, and Colorado City became Colorado Springs.
But I like it best left off before all that.
Colorado Springs still sits on that knife edge, teetering dangerously between the surveyor who saw it as an ideal place to get drunk with friends, and his pious colleague who fell to his knees in prayer. It is known as the home of Brady Boyd’s New Life Church (congregation: 8,900), the Air Force Academy, and that state’s right wing politics.
But then, I was there to see an interfaith ceremony in a Unitarian chapel, followed by a reception featuring finger puppets, stick on mustaches and a giant statue of a rooster.
On Saturday afternoon, two of my favorite people stood up and told each other that they’d stick it out side by side for the rest of their lives. And everyone else cried. The whole time. Just absolute floods of tears. Really silly, overwhelming amounts of tears. I was told on two separate occasions that this not being, after all, my own wedding, I really had to hold it together.
I didn’t hold it together.
I cried twice more during the toasts, once during a dance, and a little just because the sunset was pretty.
I can’t say I saw a lot of the megachurch side of Colorado Springs. My family’s history is in Denver, and with a natural Denver chip on my shoulder I expected to be overrun with street preachers the second I arrived. Somehow I thought they’d be in the hotel lobby, handing me bibles with my breakfast burrito. (I hope that Colorado Springs takes no offence. I just really believe what movies tell me about places. When I was 12 I told my mother how surprised I was there weren’t potholes on the runway at JFK.)
But watching these two wonderful families toast their son and daughter, sing, dance, and make s’mores, I did feel, at least a little bit, that we were at a gathering of the Gods. Also, without a doubt, at a damned fine beer garden.