Meredith C. Carroll: Lying flat in Aspen

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off

Last Thursday I got knocked off my feet during a game of catch in the backyard at dusk. My younger daughter’s curveball admittedly showed some promise, although it turns out I was also standing in the path of the neighborhood dogs during their thrice-daily running-of-the-bulls workout when the blast came from behind and I crash-landed on my left ankle.

Good news: All bones are intact (I’m pretty sure). Better news: A mild sprain didn’t cramp my style. I spent Friday working from home with my swollen ankle iced and elevated all while grinning nonsensically out the window and playing connect the dots with the colorful wildflowers sprinkled artfully in the late summer tall grass. As I admired the triumphant return of the high definition Colorado blue skies that had been obscured for weeks by thick smoke from wildfires raging further west, I marked the day in the win column for getting to revel in the outdoors, even if it was mostly from inside.

I didn’t know then that what I was doing was lying flat — particularly since I was sitting upright at a desk. A New York Times guest essay late last month, “Work is a False Idol,” summed up the concept of lying flat by way of a Chinese millennial who earlier this year mounted a compelling defense for leaving a factory job in pursuit of oversimplifying his priorities — reading, exercising and doing odd jobs — or the “right to choose a slow lifestyle.”

“Lying flat is my sophistic movement,” Luo Huazhong declared in reference to Diogenese the Cynic, the Greek philosopher who flexed his poverty and abiding snark like a gold star. It dawned on me at that moment that I am basically a founding member of the lying-flat movement. (Not the “i do not want to have a career” part that someone named @hollabekgirl announced in a tweet that was liked over 400,000 times, presumably by allies in the burgeoning slacker revolution — especially since I gleefully opted into pressing play on my career this summer for the first time since my daughters were babies. No, the tweet won me over in the “i want to sit on the porch” part.)

It’s not a knock against ambition, of which I am in possession of an abundance. Rather, lying flat is a salute to “jobs as sustenance,” rather than careers as “altars upon which all else is sacrificed,” according to the Times piece.

No one’s painting our little silver mining town on the Western Slope as the sequel to the classic 1976 New Yorker magazine cover illustration that designated Manhattan as the center of the world. Aspen is not and does not have it all, and to be sure, it has way too much of a lot (I’m not naming names here but the Floridians must know there are other places besides Colorado where they can escape their governor’s poor choices, yes?). Yet since moving here 18 years ago, Aspen has provided me with almost everything I’ve ever wanted (except, unfortunately, for a 24-hour diner), despite the fact that, after all this time, I don’t have much to show for it and even less space to store it.

My gratitude bucket overflows if the sun worms its way west while I pass an afternoon under the shade of the leafy spring snow crabapple tree that curtains my back deck. Regardless if I’m on the hill, making plans to explore it, or it’s in the background while I contend with something less tangible yet more pressing, keeping it in focus provides me with a north star that had been fundamentally missing from the sky in my world before I decided that the landscape can be as much a purpose as a perspective.

I even take pleasure in simply living adjacent to people who are also here for (and on) the mountains because as it turns out, you can fill a whole (very small) city to capacity with people for whom an eyeful of scenic vistas is the entire universe, which is to say: enough. If I never have anywhere to go, at least I’m always here.

More at and on Twitter @MCCarroll.