Letter: Just another summer playground
Calling all true Aspenites:
I have not lived in Aspen for years, but last evening after a fantastic Fourth filled with meaningful activities and everything I cherish about Aspen, I decided to pay homage to one of my personal sacred places in this valley — now known as the North Star Preserve – long ago a simple dirt path, open shallows and a purple-tinged field across (complete with tepee). I recall a snowshoe hike there, contemplating the birth of my son, trying to feel his name and the change in that valley as a goshawk swept through.
One year, nearly 100 locals worked tirelessly and happily together to plant young willow shoots along those banks; you’ll remember that. The next year, the path was closed and replanted, and soon, the tepee vanished. Before long, and with colossal effort, this sacred place became the North Star Preserve. Thank you, oh forest gods! Now this ground would be protected with tenderness and care. I think a collective sigh of relief was heard in the Alpine Galaxy.
But on July 4, in the pink hue of early evening, when the elk love to graze and slip down to those very same shallows, I saw 136 inner tubers, paddlers, dogs on paddle boards and rafts and more float past in a span of 10 minutes. I saw happy vacationers slipping by along an Aspen solemn “lazy river” and slogging along the banks with their pups, who had jumped joyfully from their floats. And I saw a young elk, all strength and soft velvet, emerge from those now-grown willows, completely perplexed. He’d graze a bit and then look toward the water. Couldn’t go there. People. Dogs. Graze. Glance toward the flanking highway. Can’t go there. Danger. Cars. Trapped between water parties and a busy road right there in the center of the North Star. Shakespeare would appreciate, sadly, the texture and richness of this profound and ironic twist of fate.
It isn’t like the Aspen I knew (know?) to work so mightily, for so long, to then give its efforts away to tourism and another summer playground, is it? The North Star was a noble, fine accomplishment, wasn’t it? I cheered for it, even though I lost my little path and my tepee, where the elk thundered past and the goshawk flew and where I named my son. As night fell on July 4, I thought I might write a letter. A letter to all true Aspenites, since I don’t really know the address of the forest gods. To them, however, I said a galactic alpine prayer.
Winter Park, Florida
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