Paradise paved

In response to Stephen Capra’s guest column (“We’re creating a world with just us humans,” April 6, The Aspen Times), it started in the ’80s with pigeons. I don’t remember a single pigeon until Reagan was elected. Pigeons on the mall. Pigeons above the Elks Club.

I live in a place that faces Aspen Mountain and used to be the “top of the hill” right at the 8,000-foot line where nothing was ever going to be built. It’s where the meadow and forest reclaimed its rightful place back from slides of slag miners left behind.

“Freddy,” the first owner of No. 106, planted a pine tree at her back door. In 48 years I watched that tree grow — kissing my balcony and climbing past the roof. Hadid’s development came with the pigeons and smashed the old boat-tow shack, leaving the 8,000-foot rule in the dust. Up went 15,000-square-foot homes between me and the mountain — unoccupied homes with pigeon spike rows on perfectly oiled log pediments. I still had the tree between me and the “dream homes.”

I watched generations of Steller’s jays, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos and hummingbirds build their nests and raise families in that tree. Once there were seven baby Steller’s in a row on my balcony rail. Over time the songbirds left. By the time Barack Obama was in office there was only a magpie nest in the tree. By the time Trump was in office the tree had been cut down and my view of aspens, lodgepole pine, blue spruce and Queen Anne’s lace was replaced with an homage to Joni Mitchell — a parking lot.

Now ravens sit in the trees on either side of main street waiting for road kill. Magpies chatter at West End diving after what the dogs leave behind. Sparrows flock to Peach’s and Paradise feasting on flakes of pastry. Gone are the pine siskins, the finches, the towhees — even the camp robbers stay far above us at the Sundeck or Maroon Bells. The last time I saw a Steller’s jay it was halfway up Buckskin Pass.

People ask me what’s changed in 49 years. We used to be a town of humans living in a forest full of birdsong where bears stayed in the berry patches and watched us from a distance. Foxes were rarely seen and coyotes never. Now we are a town where the scavengers come to dine.

Ziska Childs