Keep gratitude above expectations
November 29, 2013
I have been watching a new money pit go up on Owl Creek Road. I'm sure the owner would refer to it as a house, but with my habit of haphazardly firing off nouns while believing the chambers are loaded with adjectives, I could never understate it that much. It's gigantic. The architecture is something else. The construction site is an orchestration of synchronized complexity in the mud. My, how things have changed. I am referring to my perspective.
Seven or eight years ago, I envision myself enraged over a colossal project in a bucolic setting such as this. Today, while I can't quite say that I am appreciative of building a life estate out in God's country, some mornings, on my way past, it almost feels like I am. It's going to be spectacular.
These days I'm not so much worried about how something like this is going to affect me, the implication being negatively, of course. It took awhile, but I realize it won't. It doesn't take anything more complicated than an old favorite song beamed down from a satellite to distract me from even noticing the construction site as I pass, even when I intended to look.
When I stopped thinking of Aspen as my town and started to think of it as ours, I became a happier man. I can't tell you exactly when this happened because I only noticed it recently.
Aspen has so much to offer that it can make a guy greedy. Nobody can come close to consuming a noticeable portion of it, but laid out in its entirety like it always naturally is, you want to try. Sometimes you believe that if you don't get it all right away, somebody else is going to steal it. You never stop to realize what vast renewable energy it has. Even if somebody could wreck Aspen, which they probably could, it's not going to happen because, honestly, nobody wants to, not even the greediest. I know this because they've been mixed up about how best to enjoy it for 60 years and both the town and they are still standing.
I'm happier now that I realize I only need the slimmest sliver of Aspen pie. As long as I can find the little from the plenty that I need, this is the place for me. I've looked. I've listened. There are places out there that I could like to live, but this is as good as any of them by quantifiable measures, and my heart has broken-in comfortably around that place where it fit so nicely from the start, and why risk the complications that could come from trying to extract it from there?
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We lived through the hard times. The first decade of this millennium was arguably the worst Aspen has ever seen. My relatives talk about how tough the Quiet Years were, but I see the bubble years as less tolerable in the opposite direction. From the late '90s through 2008, Aspen was gross — grossly showy, grossly ostentatious, grossly conspicuous and arrogant beyond its reputation. Even people who have lived here for years borrowed because they could and ratcheted up to living the kind of lifestyles they had been repulsed by since the times they first claimed their stakes. There's no need to rehash the details.
As for me, I got poor in a different way — I got bitter. I got angry. I wasn't sad the year the music tortuously died with the daily tolling of the closing bells on the world's stock exchanges. I hope God and my neighbor forgive me even if the latter didn't notice.
Anyway, I am sorry for my attitude then. I see looking back that I still got everything I needed. Lessons like that don't come around too often; that's a blessing and a shame. I'm glad it happened but don't want to go through it again. My impression is that Aspen is a better place for it. I know that I am a better person. I haven't had the urge to flip the bird in a long time.
There's a country rocker by the name of Ray Wiley Hubbard who has spent a long career being the width of an E string away from famous and whom I like a lot because of the interesting songs he writes, the wise things he says and because I watched him perform live one time in a small joint in Austin, Texas. He wrote, "The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, those are really good days." Here's to having really good days in our hometown for as long as the good Lord allows.
Roger Marolt expects to wake up tomorrow. From there he'll be grateful the rest of the day. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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