Aspen Princess: Falling for fall |

Aspen Princess: Falling for fall

“Oh my god, that smells like weed!” I said, grabbing the small container of hippie healing balm from my mother-in-law so I could look at the ingredients list. “No way, it has cannabis in it.”

“The lady told me it would help the irritation on the baby’s face,” Mimi replied, snatching it back from me. She used the same tone she used when she insisted I “bundle up” to go out when it was 20-below-zero during one of our Christmas trips to Minnesota.

I have to admit, it was hard not to get swept up into the mood at the Harvest Festival in Paonia last weekend. After having a local handcraft brew on an empty stomach, I myself dropped $40 on lavender products and then bought a tie-dyed onesie with a peace sign on it. Yikes.

I watched a local modern dance troupe perform, or maybe it was interpretive or something because they kind of rolled around in what I’m pretty sure was hay. But I still got all emotional watching them, which always happens to me whenever I watch anyone perform anything. I’ll watch those cheesy, overproduced shows on TV like “The Voice” or “America’s Got Talent”, and I get all swept up in the contestant’s personal stories. And I’m like, “Oh my god, his dog died last week and he is heartbroken! He totally deserves the win!” or “She was born with 11 toes and never felt accepted until she found singing! It’s so beautiful!”

I have no idea what that’s all about.

Anyhoo, our main prerogative was to go see some foliage, even if it’s pretty much everywhere you look all the time and you don’t really need to go anywhere. I drive up and down the Frying Pan every single day and marvel about how I ended up in what has to be the most beautiful place on earth. As if to punctuate my thoughts, a deer will prance through an open meadow or a double rainbow will magically appear after an afternoon storm, as if for my benefit, when the sky is still totally black but the sun comes out for an encore and everything is illuminated.

Lately, I’ve been so happy and my life is so beautiful that I walk around feeling terrified something bad is going to happen. I imagine having that very thought split seconds before I get hit by a bus or find out I have some terminal disease.

And then I shake my head like I have water in my ears and go, “What the hell is wrong with me?”

Part of that, I think, has to do with being a new mother. Nothing teaches you about the preciousness of life like growing a life inside your body and then releasing it into the world where it lives and smiles and giggles and grows and evolves every single day into a little human being. I recently heard someone say, “It’s like having your heart on the outside of your body,” and I totally plagiarized that line and used it as a caption on one of my photos on Facebook; the close up of the babe where his eyes look so big and blue, as pure and clear as the river that flows by my house.

I think the essence of love is having that much to lose, that your life and this other life are so intertwined that it’s no different than your heart and your lungs — one could not exist without the other.

Meanwhile, back at the hippie festival, I found myself dancing a little bit to the bluegrass band on stage, which is so not my favorite. I’m more of a hip-hop girl. But I like it for atmosphere, that sort of mountain-country old-timey vibe, which is perfect for Paonia. You only get one bar of cellphone reception there, which I totally love since it’s harder and harder to find places where you can truly disconnect these days.

I think that’s why we find ourselves driving up the Crystal River valley so often. There’s just something about it, the way the open flanks of the lower valley fold into a tight canyon with sheer rock walls and funnel into a tiny basin surrounded by mountains that are big by Colorado standards. I love the way McClure Pass has no switchbacks, so when you drive up it you feel like you’re in an airplane, slowly gaining altitude until you’re thousands of feet up, looking down on the valley floor. I love how Marble exists onto itself without any basic amenities — no gas, no grocery — yet it has a charter school, a marble quarry and one of the best BBQ joints west of Texas. I love how you can go on almost any hike and within the first five minutes are awarded with views so beautiful they seem too good to be true. And I love how because there is no cellphone reception you are able to share the time with the people you’re with and forced to savor the moment for yourself rather than share it with your 400 friends on Facebook, most of whom (let’s face it) aren’t really your friends anyway. I mean, I haven’t actually talked to Todd Bluestien since sixth grade.

There’s no doubt Paonia in the fall is an idyllic place, a place where you can pick apples right off the tree and eat grapes from the vine that taste like grape jelly and drink hard cider and eat organic garden fresh veggies. It’s a place where bluegrass music sounds better and tie-dyes seem cool again and a young dance troupe can make you choke up.

I’ve always loved fall for the very reason that it’s so fleeting, like the grand finale in a fireworks show; a last explosion of color before everything fades to black.

The Aspen Princess woke up way too early today and is obviously still in some kind of weird dream state. Email your love to

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