Gustafson: Reverse migration | AspenTimes.com

Gustafson: Reverse migration

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

“Preee-curser, preee-curser” I heard the spring bird sing this morning, that early morning chirp that seems to start up when the weather warms. The chickadee lyrics reminding me that it is time to shift gears in that unique way that this community must as we cycle with the seasons.

Yes, it feels a little too early this year, like waking before the alarm, but the sound excites my spirit of adventure, and relaxes my soul nonetheless.

It’s a funny thing, possibly an instinctual reaction to seasonal shifts, but I feel that draw to go somewhere, anywhere, just to … go. And I’m not alone, the time is approaching for the great reverse migration, our local reaction to spring hovering on the horizon.

Perhaps we are all just ready to thaw out or prepared to accept the looming end to the ski season, relaxing as the tourist term begins to wane. A gaggle of geese ready to take flight, we start fluttering about planning trips, wrapping up winter activities and organizing summer schedules.

Maybe there is more to the desire for vacationing than just an expectation in a privileged culture. For many mountain communities much further north, the need is biological. Feeling SAD has a different meaning where seasonal affective disorder, a chemical reaction to lack of sunlight and shifts in barometric pressure, truly takes a toll. To survive bouts of depression, some Scandinavian towns even offer prescription group vacations to the sunny south of France.

Here, we are so fortunate to have 300 days of sunshine, but despite the blue skies, an internal siren still calls out, beckoning us south, or further west. Luring the spontaneous to make a Mecca to Moab, and the lucky to retreat to a beach resort or island paradise contrasting our cool muddy mountain-scapes.

Spring can offer a fresh start, a chance to spring-clean our minds, bodies and souls and an opportunity for some to leave and return revived, and for others to take in some downtime at home. And spring break adventures can change our frame of mind, alleviate any winter blues and reconnect us with family and friends. And often, our short journeys and even staycays help remind us just how lucky we are to live in a vacation resort in the first place.

However you choose to recharge your batteries, it seems unlikely that you might choose to spend hard earned leisure time sitting in a small confined space with nothing to do for 6 to 8 hours, but that’s how I fondly recall my childhood springtime vacations.

Growing up, each spring my family would drive as far south or west as we could stand each other. Without DVD players or iPads to distract us from our staring-contests and telephone-pole counting, we were often forced to talk.

We had a mattress in the back of the old green van, coolers full of squeezits and spray cheese, and in lieu of air conditioning we had light yellow curtains adorned with brown-eyed daisies.

My sisters and I would pinball around trying not to fall off the back seat mattress while arguing about whose turn it was to have the walkman until a hand would reach back and swat at whichever limb it came in contact with.

For a while we would chatter or bicker while our parents sang along to Simon and Garfunkel. But then a funny thing would happen: We would start to talk, to share our real lives with each other. Our concerns and memories would spill out as if enduring our long trek had the effect of an interrogation. Or we would retreat inward and explore our own thoughts.

It didn’t, and still doesn’t, have to be glamorous. I never really expected that. We would park at rest stops and picnic with the biker gangs and truck drivers, learning how to use facilities without touching anything before automated everything.

Many of my most treasured possessions were keepsakes from roadside trading posts, and desert rocks I found along the way.

It was hot, and we drove each other crazy. It was the best.

I remember the destinations, but the journey was the part that has stuck with me most vividly. Time to watch the world go by and think about who I was, leaving behind all social pressures and work troubles, drifting along as the landscape unfolded through the window frame. We didn’t have cellphones or email, so life stayed at home on the answering machine or in the unchecked mailbox and no one expected a response until we returned.

After all, escaping should allow us to break away from all of the background noise.

The great reverse migration feels at times necessary. It can put things into perspective before the earth comes alive and work cycles begin again. It can remind us how nice it is here, force us to break out of habitual funks, and if we are lucky, it can reinvigorate before another busy season takes off.

And upon returning, driving up Brush Creek Road feels like taking in a cool breath of fresh air, batteries recharged. There’s no place like home; a sentiment easier to appreciate if you do have the chance to escape on occasion.

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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