Princess: Living in the wild
Yesterday I walked the dogs to the top of Castle Lane where a herd of at least 20 deer were grazing on the open plain. They stared at us curiously as we approached, tall ears twitching, but otherwise didn’t budge. The animals around here never startle. They always look at you with this somewhat confused posture, as if they’re thinking, “What are you doing here?”
This has become my immediate world: the wild, remote and almost haunting beauty of the lower Fryingpan Valley. Red-rock spires rise in my backyard at such a startling pitch that it sometimes feels as if they might topple over. Eagles sore down the river, following its contours like they’re cruising down the road. Big-horn sheep congregate on the side of the road, so unfazed by humans, so unaware of how powerful and imposing they look with their stocky bodies, giant horns and the yellow eyes with the odd-shaped pupils.
There’s a ranch across the street where goats whine and sound identical to a human baby. The river is a constant bubbling noise, like one of those nature sound machines, only real. There is a road between our house and the river, but there is little in the way of traffic this time of year. Sometimes the silence is so loud it’s deafening.
Last night the wind blew wildly, knocking things down and startling me awake. Other nights the moon will come into view from the skylight in our bedroom and shine on me like a spotlight that’s bright enough to wake me out of a deep sleep, too.
Sometimes all that energy, that wild, can be almost unsettling. But mostly, it’s magical.
There is a certain pinched feel to this part of our valley where it gets very narrow between the tall ridgeline in front of our house and the steep cliffs behind. That’s why we have no cell reception, no access to cable television or regular Internet. Instead we have satellite dishes affixed to the side of our house that cost a lot and don’t always work so well. When people rent out our guest apartment and tell me the Internet’s not working, I always say, ”That’s kind of the trade-off for living in the mountains.” And they buy that, even though there are plenty of other places in the mountains where you can have perfectly good Internet connection, even in Alaska.
Every time I drive to go somewhere, there is a point between mile markers one and two (mile markers are another cornerstone to rural living) when Sopris comes into view. That’s the point when you exit one world and come into another, quite literally.
I’ve finally figured out how to strike a balance between living downvalley and still having a life in Aspen. At first, it felt like I was being kicked out of some exclusive club, the whole, “I don’t ever have to drive” club, and the “I don’t go past the roundabout” club and the “I ski for an hour at lunch” club. There’s also the “I get pissed drunk any day of the week and can walk home” club.
There also was this sense like, once you’re out, you’re out. I know that’s not true, but it sort of felt that way.
After two years (everyone says it takes that long to get used to downvalley living), I’ve finally struck a balance that feels not only good, but better. You truly do get the best of both worlds.
I also see change coming, both in Aspen and Basalt. Change that makes me feel like I made the right decision by acquiring a decent-sized piece of land in a spot where no one can ever take it away or create any permanent change that’s going to forever damage my landscape. And if the big block party at the new burger place Sure Thing in Willits last Saturday was any indication, I do see a midvalley community that’s growing.
That’s really comforting when I see what’s going on in Aspen.
The completion of a few simultaneous projects resulted in a startling landscape shift in downtown that made me wish I might have been more involved back when it could have made a difference.
I will never understand how such a monstrosity of a building could have been created in the name of “art” when the beauty that surrounds us — the aesthetic that shapes and inspires us — has been forever scarred by a structure that sort of looks like a fish tank in a basket. It doesn’t make sense. Everyone keeps talking about this awesome “public rooftop,” which is insane to me considering the public rooftop we’ve had since the beginning of time — i.e. the summit of Aspen Mountain — is all we ever needed. So now we have a space to throw parties? How is being touted as free and public when we as a community have paid such a price?
The building on Galena, across from Peach’s: not horrible, but having The Gap there, especially so close to The Thrift Shop of Aspen and the movie theatre and the fire station, provided a pedestrian anchor that, at least to me, felt like it kept this pompous designer ship from sinking.
Then I wonder if this is just a sign of age, of time passing, of change I’m unwilling to embrace because I liked it “back when.” It’s not like Aspen didn’t have a slew of designer boutiques when I got here, or ugly development happening in downtown. It’s not like I lived here when there were dirt streets.
So I guess that’s why I take comfort in actually living on a dirt road, one that’s steep and rugged and not maintained by the city in the winter. Maybe that will buy me more time in my little chosen corner of the world — a chance to preserve that sameness that defines the comfort of home.
The Princess is feeling very poetic today. Email your love to email@example.com.
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