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Britta Gustafson: Falling in love with Earth

From a love for this land, many great things can still grow

Britta Gustafson
Then Again
Britta Gustafson for the Snowmass Sun

I love nature’s curveballs. A snow day in April keeps us on our toes, a humble reminder of who is really in charge. I think I officially fell in love with the Earth some time around the age of 10; it was easy while growing up in this valley. It was hard not to feel awestruck, filled by some inner passion, a genuine longing to spend time outside in these mountains. Even while growing more in need of deeper human connections as time went on, loving nature felt like a universally sought convention.

Connecting with our natural environment was deeply nurtured here by a culture of outdoor enthusiasts. Skiing, hiking, camping — those were the ways we connected, relaxed, socialized. We learned in school how to appreciate our environment and value our outdoor experiences.

Our trails led us on adventures, not to human-impacted locations. Backpacking trips encouraged a minimalist mentality; canoeing, rafting, kayaking fostered an appreciation for the power and unpredictable presence of our natural world. Celebrations, weddings, parties, even funerals seemed to be held outdoors whenever possible, carrying on that harmonious tradition.



The potentially naive assumption that this passion was shared by all was fed by growing up in a tourist community where visitors seemed equally drawn to this place for its immediate and extreme opportunities to celebrate nature’s glory.

And when traveling, the lure to find a glorious beach, desert landscape or jungle trail less urbane and overpopulated seems to be the objective. So it made sense to me that here, skiing was the absolute influencer. A way to engage with nature at her peak, to find yourself on top of a mountain with breathtaking vistas and at times foreboding chutes that kept the balance of human-versus-nature in check.




A shift has seemed gradual, perhaps occurring around the time that the phrase “luxury” entered the industry’s common vernacular. And now more than ever we find ourselves almost inseparably surrounded by human-made material objects, those we need and, even more pervasive, those we simply think we want. Our ever-creeping impact on the environment may be met with some resistance, but the appetite for expansion seems even more insatiable.

After water, concrete is the most widely-consumed substance on Earth, and we can see it here gradually paving the planet — one sidewalk, expanded road, roundabout and slopeside mega-home at a time.

And although it feels at times hopeless to be resisting what seems inevitable, I can’t let go of the memories of a time when I believed we all just wanted to gaze upon a mountain sunrise far from human impact, hearing only the wind and birds.

Maybe that’s what Earth Day can be, a time to make a pledge to continue to love nature in the raw. To resist the urge to stake claim, alter or expand.

To foster a sense of passion and love for our planet, like we were taught growing up here, is a wish I have for everyone. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have had access to nature, and for those who have just landed here, deciding to leave the city lifestyle for a chance to connect more closely to a wild world. And for children in particular, who will grow up with ecological literacy if the soil they are raised in is filled with experience, love and good examples.

As spring sprouts forth new life and germinates our souls, from somewhere beneath this fresh fallen snow, now may be the perfect time to make an effort to scatter some seeds of hope, and enhance our connections with our environment. Perhaps attempt to remove the idea of luxury from our human connections with nature.

“Celebrate morning. … Celebrate living. … Celebrate evening. … Celebrate Earth Day every day,” John Denver once sang. The synergy he felt and radiated while living in this valley expanded beyond his own lifetime, and from a love like his for this land, many great things can still grow.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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