Su Lum: Slumming
July 15, 2009
A lot of Aspenites don’t even know where Aspen Grove Cemetery is, and I urge everyone to check it out before “rehabilitation” and “beautification” take place. Take Cooper Avenue/Highway 82 to McSkimming Road. Go past two houses up (if you get to the big curve to the right you’ve gone too far), turn right onto Aspen Grove Road (dirt, small sign) and check it out for yourself. You can’t drive in, but there’s a little gate for walkers.
Aspen Grove Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, tranquil, unspoiled spots in town, wherein lies a community of almost 1,000 citizens, dating from the late 1800s to Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, the Benedicts, Katharine Thalberg, the Fisher sisters – the list goes on.
A large grant has been acquired to stabilize the gravestones, document the incumbents and whack away the “weeds.” Stabilizing the stones and documenting the graves are both great ideas, worthy of our support, but manicuring its wildness – chopping the grasses, improving the paths that wind through the area – should be rejected. It is what it is and it is perfect just as it is. People chose this as their resting place because of the wildness, not despite it.
In an article in the July 6, 2009, issue of The Aspen Times, Aspen Grove Cemetery was described as being “in a state of disrepair,” an “advanced state of deterioration,” “overrun with weeds,” as if it were a graveyard cesspool of rampant neglect needing immediate attention. It is not.
If you want manicured, go to Red Butte Cemetery, a lovely place in its own right, but if you want wild, a place where those so inclined might have to part the grasses to find your marker, Aspen Grove is right for you.
I have no personal investment in the issue. I used to say I wanted my body to be used to (partially) fill one of our infamous potholes, some of which were capable of swallowing a Volkswagen bus. Alas, those potholes have disappeared during Aspen’s heydays – if they return during these Hard Times, stuff me in one.
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Architect Robin Molny (the Hearthstone House – barely saved by historic preservation, the Mall, the Aspen Athletic Club) used to say he wanted to be dried into jerky so his friends, starving on desert trips, would finally appreciate him.
If I can’t be useful, incinerate me, toss the ashes into the Roaring Fork, but be sure to open the plastic bag first. I didn’t know that when I threw the ashes of my dachshund Rufus into the river. Instead of a flurry of ash, a brick wrapped in plastic flew out and bounded down the Roaring Fork, probably intercepted by someone downstream who thought they had scored a kilo of cocaine.
I was somewhat heartened by the letter to the editor from Jim Markalunas, who tends the cemetery. It stated that there would be no big renovation, no slashing of the flora. But when you have big grants to fix something, the money is likely to be spent on fixing it, even if it ain’t broke.
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