Aspen Princess: Finding light in the darkness |

Aspen Princess: Finding light in the darkness

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

The magic of fall has officially arrived, the low angle light and cool air filling my spirit with an energy that lies dormant in the hotter summer months, when thigh chafe and sunburn are too distracting to really be able to channel any real inspiration. But when the Aspen leaves start to glitter in gold and the crispness of fall awakens my senses, I find myself pausing to take in the beauty of my surroundings and am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for this incredible life in the mountains.

I’ve always said the thing I love most about fall is that it’s so fleeting, and that feeling is now accentuated by the experience of raising a small child who grows and changes every day.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling spooked by the fragile state of the world. I find myself taking in my surroundings the way you might breathe in the scent of a lover’s hair before they set off on a long trip. For the first time in my life, I worry that the world as I know it could one day come to an end.

I was trying to explain this to my brother-in-law, who is about as political as he is religious — which is to say his favorite holiday is the Minnesota State Fair where he can worship everything and anything fried on a stick with reckless abandon. I should have known he was probably just trying to get a rise out of me, what, trying to teach the babe how to say “Trump” and starting a debate over whether Hillary Clinton is any more trustworthy than our current Reality Star in Chief.

“This is the first time in my life that I’m afraid for my safety,” I told him. “Conducting diplomacy on Twitter does not seem like the way to go when you’re talking about the threat of nuclear war.”

He didn’t try to stop me, so I continued. “Why do we think we are immune to war? Do you think the Jews in Germany, who were working professionals like us, ever expected they’d be dragged out of their homes and sent to concentration camps?”

I’m pretty sure that’s when someone else swooped into the kitchen and rescued us with a subject change, probably something run-of-the-mill like, “Did you remember to buy mayo?”

I’m just grateful that our two families are on the same page politically. I can’t even imagine the challenges couples face when they’re not. The point is, I’m really worried about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea, and I have zero confidence in the current administration’s ability to navigate the delicate diplomacy required to handle the situation.

I know you guys don’t love it when I get political because we are already so inundated with a constant barrage of information and news, none of which is good. But this isn’t about Trump; it’s about us and our world and how we feel about it. I can’t be the only one who has been having nightmares about war and climate change, right?

I don’t mean to sound hysterical or paranoid or fatalistic, but I find myself thinking about things like buying a generator and stockpiling three-gallon jugs of water and canned goods in our basement. But then I remember we don’t have a basement because our house was originally built on stilts, and so all we have is a crawl space where the mice would be more likely to wreak havoc on my emergency stash than a nuclear bomb.

But I mean, come on: Tell me you’re not rattled by all these hurricanes, floods and earthquakes that have come one after the other as if God herself is trying to send a message to rethink that decision to back out of the Paris Accord. It all does feel a little Armageddon-ish.

“There is nothing you can do about it, so you should try not to worry about it,” my dad said, trying to talk me off the ledge. Which reminds me of another item on my doomsday checklist: Ask Dad to prescribe something strong just in case the missiles are one day headed our way.

Look, I grew up during the Cold War and remember being really scared of the Soviet Union as a kid, and we’re still here. But here’s the thing: My generation has never seen war in our lifetime, at least not one that required a draft. While 9/11 was a significant and traumatic event, we have never known suffering the way generations before us experienced in Vietnam and the World Wars, when uniformed officials would ring the doorbell with life-changing devastation. Human beings are capable of profound cruelty and destruction. How long will these weapons sit before someone decides to go ahead and use them? Maybe the end isn’t near, but it’s a little too close for comfort.

I know, right? What’s with the dark thoughts, Princess?

There was an article in the New Yorker recently entitled “I went all the way to the Alaska Wilderness to escape Trump,” and I can so relate.

I guess the good that comes out of this is the sheer appreciation for how good we have it now, for how beautiful and pristine the wilderness that surrounds us truly is and for the health and wellbeing of the people we love the most. It lets me stop and pause and breathe in the smell of my baby’s skin or marvel at his platinum hair. It makes me hug my husband extra-tight and stroke the velvet of my pug’s ears when she’s curled in my lap. It makes me sigh at the sight of the sun reflecting off the Fryingpan River as it meanders through the red rock canyon, sunflowers standing tall and proud along its banks.

Life is so precious and fleeting. I just hope the future is long.

The Princess needs you tell her if she’s gone off the deep end. Email your love to


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