I used to think that when I had “arrived” it would mean that I had National Geographic showing up on my doorstep every month; that I had the Denver Post spread out luxuriously on the big farm table; that I was curled up on a chaise with a pencil, marking up my crossword.

But these days I’m all about rocks.

Yes, rocks. An unlikely thing to signify I have arrived.

The back of the truck is perpetually coated in a light film of vibrant pink rock – the kind that glows on moonlit Denver nights and warms up in Colorado sunshine. When I open the tailgate, tiny pieces of red pebble scatter on the asphalt, reminding me and those who park near me that yes, we do actually use our pickup truck. To haul stuff. Mostly rocks.

When I arrive at the rockyard (http://www.santafesand.com), that’s when I really know I have arrived. Even in a short sundress and flip flops – the epitome of what not to wear when landscaping – I pull it off. I maneuver Black Beauty expertly onto the large scale. I pull up to my bin – whether it is Wyoming ½ or Sedona 3/8; red breeze or grey base, and wait patiently for the rugged, handsome men to swing by with their earthmovers. I request a cool half-ton. I smile and wave as they rumble off. Some days I go out with gloves to hand-pick gorgeous river-smoothed cobblestones or rusty-bright flagstone.

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I know to pull back on the scale and wait for the thumbs-up. I know to chat up the folks who ring me up. I know their names. They know our projects. They laugh at my outfits.

And every once in awhile, when I arrive at the rockyard on a Saturday or Sunday; a busy Friday or a holiday Monday, that’s when I really know I’ve arrived. Because all the people who have no idea what they are doing at the rockyard are there.

And they are in the way.

And they are jamming up the works.

And they are asking rookie questions.

And they look bewildered and scared – like the way I felt the first time I found myself in that dusty lot.

And some of them are there in small Subarus, or – worse – sedans.

And I pull up in Black Beauty, and just laugh. I laugh all the way home with my 1,000-pound load. I laugh as I shovel every single one of the 1,000 pounds off the back of the truck. I laugh when grown men walk by and tease me about my task in the midday heat.

“Oh that looks fun,” they exclaim.

“It sure is rewarding,” I respond. And I keep shoveling.

And on a cool summer night when the crickets are singing and the cicadas are thrumming, we have something better than National Geographic or crossword puzzles. We have beautiful little places. My mom calls them forts. Little spots to hide from the heat, the bustle, the noise of the city. Little places to take shelter. Smile at each other. Make shadow puppets on the brick wall.

Our carefully crafted places remind us what a home really is.

What being a grown-up is all about (why it’s important to have forts. why it’s crucial to build your own forts).

And best of all, why playing in the dirt (or in my case, rocks) is really so fun.

Red stones. River stones. Cobble stones. Flag stones. Big pieces of Colorado Blonde. Tons of pink breeze. 3/8-inch Sedona Red. 1/2-inch Wyoming Red. Stripstone.

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Small stones that are smooth and round or long and oval – perfect for edging a meandering path.

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Rocks that are surreptitiously carried down from Mosquito Pass, covered in lichen and moss. Sacred Grandpa’s Rock rocks.

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And my latest favorite: Mexican Beach pebbles. The ones that smell like wet clay and turn glossy grey-black in the rain. That massage your bare feet. That can be laid on edge to emulate the currents of an otherworldly river – and feel lovely in the palm of your hand.

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Yes. Rocks sure do rock.

And this girl can rock a rockyard.

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