Lum: A letter to the postman

Su Lum

My friend Hilary was outside in the midst of her everlasting yard work — which, this summer, involves poles and trellises almost higher than the house — when my Saturday mailman, Mike, stopped to chat with her.

I have never met Mike, but as the female incarnation of the neighborhood Boo Radley, I attract a certain amount of speculation.

What had been puzzling Mike was why I didn’t just move — sell the old miner’s shack for a king’s ransom and go down to sea level, where the oxygen is heavier and I wouldn’t have to get my throat cut to breathe (too late) but could bask in the sun with a bunch of leis around my neck and my toes in the sand.

On the face of it, it sounded quite enticing, and I found myself answering Mike’s question in my head — why not get the hell out of Fat City?

I certainly wasn’t staying around because of the skiing. Back in the ’70s, I spent some time toodling around on short skis until I realized that what I liked best about skiing was taking my boots off at the end of the day.

I can barely hobble, much less hike, so it isn’t the attraction of the great outdoors that thrills me — distant memories of the Ute Trail linger in misery rather than nostalgia.

But here is the thing of it, Mike: Aspen is as much a part of me as my rattling lungs and hobbling gait. I’ve lived here for 52 years — I can’t believe it myself! — through the wild and idyllic times and these scary times.

I love this scrappy little town that has enough energy to support two daily newspapers and three radio stations. If I “moved down,” it would have to be out of the state to get low enough to matter. Where would I go? Whom would I talk to?

I’ve lived in what I call my shack for 44 years. It is perfect for me. It has a little front yard and a bigger back one, there are no stairs to trip me up, and I can go from one end to the other in total darkness, as familiar as a second skin. In a new condo on a beach, I’d probably fall and break my hip my first day out.

And my dachshunds would never stand for relocation. They have their dog door and the fence to keep dangerous pedestrians at bay. The weather is just right — not too long, not too hot — and no fleas and other vermin. Thank you very much; we will just stay here in paradise.

Aspen has been very, very good to and for me. I can’t imagine where I might have ended up if I hadn’t accidentally landed in Aspen. I had never heard of Aspen, but like so many others, I came over the pass (and what a pass it was then) and found my planet. I couldn’t leave it now. Hell, where would I begin?

My roots here run so long and deep. My family is close by, the grocery store three minutes away, maybe seven minutes to the hospital with all its amenities like physical therapy when I’m up and the pain clinic when I’m down. Someone called it “the errand factor,” a place where you can run four errands in 20 minutes instead of an hour to run one.

I love that while we don’t all like one another, we all know one another and take care of one another. I love that I am not a number to Carl’s Pharmacy and that I planted the spruce tree my daughter brought home that is so big now it’s a liability (“You paid $10 for that thing?”). I love memories of horses owned, The Aspen Times, summer orchestra rehearsals, rolling down the hills at the meadows.

And can I even begin to tell you how much I would miss writing my column?

Hey Mikey — I’m staying.

Su Lum is a longtime local who gets another pain procedure today and who has heard no more about the parking. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at