Meredith C. Carroll: The secret to Aspen’s good life

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off

If you were to only read what’s written about Aspen by people who don’t live here — including an article last week on saying A-town “boasts the highest entry threshold for high-end properties across the country,” with the median price of a luxury home here twice as much as Manhattan — you may think there’s no point in even showing up if your net worth is languishing with fewer than eight or nine zeros. Between the shock-jock-style distorted publicity and a Chicken Little-like elected official or two and other assorted gadflies whining about things like development or a modern art museum being the scourge responsible for what they characterize as Aspen’s imminent demise, the incentive to show up is hardly stirring.

Showing up in Aspen, though, is exactly what you need to do, even if your living situation doesn’t resemble a Barbie Dreamhouse.

The temptation was strong to stay home and do nothing when my husband took our daughters camping at Lake Chapman last month. I spent my first several hours of precious alone time cleaning, watering the garden and parked on the couch relishing — and not relinquishing — rare control of the remote. Had I done nothing else, it would have been a fine evening.

But a friend had texted the night before asking if I’d join her in trying to get into the sold-out Lyle Lovett show at Belly Up. Because enough years had passed since attempting a miracle at the last Grateful Dead show I attended (back when Jerry Garcia was still alive), I was game.

As it turns out, the cash we had in hand wasn’t even necessary. A group of Alabamans going into the show minutes before it started had an extra pair of tickets that they gifted us (because they said they always buy more than they need for just that reason). The show was a blast, with the circumstances by which we were able to witness it making the experience that much more joyful. As I crawled into bed just before midnight, I glowed along with the stars blazing outside my window at the great fortune bestowed on me just by virtue of leaving home.

Often all you need to smile in Aspen is to simply step outside. Whether it’s taking the trash to the curb and catching a glimpse of the rising moon or a descending paraglider, there’s no shortage of things worth pausing to admire. Over the past couple of weeks alone, anyone who’s ventured out following one of the brief rain showers at dusk has been compensated with single, double and even a quadruple rainbow, plus cotton candy-colored skies erupting over Red Mountain and Smuggler.

Taking a seat in view of the dancing fountain is a prize unto itself, especially if you manage to time your visit with a preschooler trying to outsmart the water patterns to remain dry (hint: they never do). Can’t afford a season pass? Walk up, ski down. Don’t have a boat? Go wading in Heron Park or splashing in the beach at Stillwater. If a brisk loop on the Hunter Creek Trail isn’t enough to soothe your soul, a blanket and bottle of wine outside the Music Tent ought to do the trick. Maybe the notion of trying to find a parking spot at Carl’s has you seeing red, although a photo posted on Facebook on Monday of a friend with the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg near the toothpaste aisle had others green with envy.

A stroll and some free samples through the Saturday market, people watching on the way down the Ute trail or a wordless exchange of mutual awe with a nearby stranger admiring the same peaks holding your gaze can sometimes be all you need to remember that just showing up can be its own exponential reward.

It’s way too easy to complain about what Aspen doesn’t have, or has too much of, and apparently even easier to do nothing about it. To articulate gratitude for the abundance of kind people, worthy organizations, and the various sights, sounds and experiences contained herein, though, isn’t necessarily a matter of easy or hard so much as it’s being wise enough to be present to witness the tiny, steady wonders happening all around.

Certainly exceptions exist to the “you won’t be sorry if you just show up” rule, especially if what you’re showing up to is a City Council meeting or a checkout line in City Market at 4 o’clock on a weekday afternoon. Yet the good news is that while the cost of living (and sometimes tolerating) in Aspen is no small thing, loving it is free of charge.

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