Kaya Williams: ‘Late Winter, Early Spring (When Everybody Goes to Mexico)’ | AspenTimes.com

Kaya Williams: ‘Late Winter, Early Spring (When Everybody Goes to Mexico)’

As the seasons change, we celebrate and mourn at the same time

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

Monday’s forecast predicts a 50% chance of rain and snow. Tuesday, another chance of showers; Wednesday too. The airport is closed for the next two weeks; “offseason hours” are back; you can find a free parking spot downtown, on a Saturday, in part because half the population is on vacation in Cabo.

It’s the time of year John Denver would almost certainly cue up “Season Suite: Late Winter, Early Spring (When Everybody Goes to Mexico),” a gentle, acoustic instrumental that feels like damp socks drying on the radiator and a cup of herbal tea on a rainy morning.

I first listened to the song in January, when a dear friend sent me his “Cabin Chords” playlist: a collection of pensive acoustics from the 1960s and 70s he had assembled during the COVID spring of 2020.

“It’s ideal for late-spring snows in Aspen,” and for “the time after the fun of winter has melted away, but you’re stuck in town while it’s quiet,” he wrote.

“Late Winter, Early Spring” was there, along with a spread of softies from Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Petty and The Beatles. Also, crucially, not one but two iterations of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” — the best two, by Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary.

The playlist was, according to its curator, “a little sad, but very tender” at a time when I was very much feeling both of those things, and it carried me through a low point when everyone else was still cruising on a midwinter high. Though it would still be a few months before the silence of absence settled into Aspen like the smell of wet wool, the sounds of seasonal malaise were tuned to the frequency of my bones.

But now that “Late Winter, Early Spring” has arrived, I haven’t found the playlist as resonant as I thought I might when this time rolled around. Lately, I’ve been itching for something more spirited and joyful on my Spotify rotation — more King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” than Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

I think I know why, based on the results of a very informal straw poll of some naturalist friends from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

During end-of-season uphills and lunch laps, I had asked a few of them how they felt about this time of transition. They’re more in tune with the outdoors than almost anyone else I know; because their position is seasonal, I hoped they might have insight on the feelings that come with life changes, too, as I sought to recalibrate my internal compass.

All of them gave some variation of the same answer: Even though we mourn the loss of each season, we celebrate the arrival of the next, too. Especially so in the Roaring Fork Valley, where each season is so very much its own. (We even celebrate endings, in a way; think of that cascading series of Closing Day parties every April.)

Because this process is cyclical — we know that summer will follow spring, and that fall and winter come after — those feelings of loss and gain don’t seem to me like dueling experiences so much as complementary ones. Reminiscing becomes an act of anticipation; remembering how short each season felt before just makes me want to relish the next one that arrives.

Absent the ennui of my midwinter slump, I haven’t been listening to “Cabin Chords” much lately. I figured it was time I lean into the giddy excitement for what’s to come instead, with my own seasonal playlist: “Lazy Hazy Crazy,” as in those days of summer, of soda and pretzels and beer.

First song in the cue? “Margaritaville.”

Kaya Williams is a reporter for The Aspen Times and The Snowmass Sun who is ready to embrace what one friend has declared “the spring of good things.” Email her at kwiliams@aspentimes.com.