Britta Gustafson: You’re not alone, we all are | AspenTimes.com
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Britta Gustafson: You’re not alone, we all are

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

At first it felt unnerving, the sound of sirens and honking horns heading toward us off of Faraway Road on Sunday. My kids hovered cautiously close, peering around me yet drawn toward the sounds of human activity as the raucous noises drew near. We quickly realized it was a community effort to reach out, enliven and perhaps even console on a lonely Easter Sunday in Snowmass.

Our dog-walk became filled with energy, curiosity and a kindred desire to smile and wave at those familiar faces we haven’t seen in nearly a month. The dreary weather that had added to the loneliness I feel settling in all around us was temporarily cast in sunlight.

My kids were caught up in the connectivity, so they sat on the snowy hill behind our house overlooking Anderson Ranch, smiling and waving at drivers who in turn honked and waved back. They did it for hours and it felt like something. Something different from what we have accepted as a loss for now. Unplanned, social, human contact, appropriately distanced of course.

Those sirens and waving neighbors also filled me with emotions. Perhaps it was an overwhelming longing for a world my kids might not get to know. And though it was far from the gregarious and climactic spring celebrations we have come to anticipate, it had what seemed its intended temporary remedial effect.

Last year, on that same day, we were running with friends around the garden beds celebrating Earth Day at the Farm Collaborative’s FarmPark. Leaves unfurling at our feet, the sounds of newly hatched chicks, laughing children and live acoustic music filling the air. We shared that spring day with hundreds of families, future farmers, volunteers and visitors before heading up to the village with family and friends for one last apres cheers to the Snowmass ski season. Later that week, I found myself showered in champagne, ski boot and costume clad, feeling the bounce and vitality on the deck at Highlands Closing Day. The next day brought an Aspen Elementary School play with hundreds of second graders sharing the spotlight while parents and grandparents sat shoulder to shoulder applauding.That week closed with a birthday dinner filling our home and hearts with friends from near and far.

Wow, what we are capable of taking for granted.

It feels like we need collective release to help us shift gears. Right now, it’s hard to tell what time of year, or for that matter what day it is. And there is still some form of instinctual magnetic pull attracting us toward each other that feels amplified at the moment by being shamefully taboo.

My 11-year-old saw a friend out walking today, and while they seemed instantly drawn to one another, thrilled to be seeing each other in person, they suddenly withdrew as if repelled by caution and confusion.

Our masks prevent us from expressing kindness, rendering us incapable of conveying any emotions. And we can’t, in good consciousness, offer simple acts of kindness that go back to the basics of our species, like sharing food, offering a helping hand and hugging. This is a new lonely.

I miss our Snowmass, even the offseason version. My kids are at the point where they just miss, crave even regular interaction with other people. The abrupt end to life as we knew it left many of us shell-shocked. Sure, we are not being asked to storm the beaches of Normandy or transmigrate the continent in search of work and food. We are not marching amid tear gas or through foreign jungles. And the fact that our moment requires us to simply stay at home and maybe reread “Grapes of Wrath” or binge watch “Band of Brothers” means I can’t really complain. I’m down with this sacrifice. In our bubble, we just have to curtail the urge to congregate because fresh air and nature are within our daily grasp. Yes, many of us are navigating what income looks like without tourists and what happens if the supply chains fail. I do not downplay the fear that this leaves hovering over my every thought. But it’s this loneliness that might be something even the most resilient human mind finds ambiguously threatening.

We are social beings and physical loneliness might have an entirely unpredictable side effect.

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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