Bayens: What we value in life
It’s frustrating how often we ignore the important things:
I woke up earlier than usual last Sunday, poured a hot cup and started walking down to the river with the dogs. It was overcast and cool, the grass on the trail wet against my legs after a light overnight rain. When I got to the bank, I knew my plans for the day were shot. The river muddy from runoff upstream, there would be no fishing the Fork today. Disappointing, but there’d be another day.
Here in the mountains, with so many of our favorite activities tied to the weather, we’re used to plans changing as mine did after seeing the river blown out. Despite our 300 days of sunshine, we pivot more than we realize. With so many other options to choose from, like a spring day when one can chose to ski the High Country or take a bike ride mid-valley, the choices are endless doing anything we’d like on any given day.
A week ago last Thursday, we were abruptly reminded there may not be another day, that every experience and adventure is not guaranteed. Life can end in an instant; one breath, one laugh, one experience can be the last without warning or reason. The sudden, tragic death of an Aspen High School student hit home hard, bringing his family and friends to their knees in grief.
No one wants to contemplate their own demise or that of their loved ones. Around here where we tend to live life “full send,” the very idea of “the end” is not just a buzz kill but an annoyance. Live now, don’t think about tomorrow is our mantra. Perhaps we cling to that view, as it’s difficult to imagine an afterlife that beats the mountain paradise we’re living right now.
Every season, we read about the death of a skier or climber, and we morosely keep count. Many of us minimize those incidents by saying “they knew the risks” or “died doing what they loved.” How ironic, the day they would triumph over nature would be their last. What might their futures have been and who did they leave behind? Point is, it’s no less tragic.
For parents like me, it’s nearly impossible to empathize with those who have suffered the loss of a child. The mere possibility is so gut-wrenching and unimaginable. Automatic mental self-protection kicks in. It’s so hard to go there. And, yet, we must if we aim to help those who are suddenly living in a nightmare.
Last Monday in Carbondale, parents panicked after hearing their children’s school was on lockdown after a man with what looked like a gun was seen acting strangely nearly. No shots were fired, and no one hurt; but, after mass shootings in Uvalde and Highland Park this summer, any notion that something like that can’t happen in our valley has been shattered for good. Even so, we push it off.
The pandemic itself taught us life can change in an instant. And, for a few months during lockdown, we may have contemplated that. But, now that we’ve returned to “normal,” no one I know is giving thanks every morning having survived it. In fact, in the past 18 months after emerging from that first fearful year of COVID, there seems to be more dissatisfaction, more grievance, more criticism and more division than before. Admittedly, some of that contention surrounds my business.
In January, local Realtors sued the city over its moratorium on residential development. Longtime homeowners then squared off with part-time owners over the issue of short-term rentals. Next, the sale of an acre of land at the base of Aspen mountain lead to commentary, spray-paint on storefronts, a lawsuit, a muzzle and finally a firing and resignations at a local paper. We continue to argue over new development, traffic and bike lanes in favor of parking spaces.
I understand these issues require discourse and have impacts on people. I admit I have an opinion, have taken sides and succumbed to the negativity. So, when the death of a local teen, or the loss of a climber near the Bells or a gun near innocent children is what it takes to remind me of how insignificant it all is, I’m ashamed.
We spend so much time assigning value to things, especially in real estate. Why it’s so hard to remember it is life and love that is so precious and finite? Homes and cars and clothes are distractions and worse, they can impede our better angels.
As I headed to the service yesterday and awoke this morning, I intend to keep that in mind and do my best to keep it forefront because, most days, we sure don’t act like it could all end in an instant.