Gustafson: The sky is grounding

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

In today’s technology-driven world, even the word “cloud” is losing meaning. However, for me it still conjures up something wonderfully different than a data-hosting service. When the human-made world seems to be spinning out of control, just focusing on the vastness of the sky and the gentle pace of its ever changing canvas has a way of putting things into perspective.

Behind their ever shifting, dissolving, prismatic effects, I find, within the clouds, a comforting feeling of dynamic stability. They may be the only natural element still visible — for the most part — from everywhere. Just look up to realize how connected we are on this planet.

Nature works hard to wow us with her artistry, designing an ever fluctuating poetic mirror of the goings on below. The spectacular performance taking place overhead is not always just ushering in a storm or carrying rain; the breathtaking scenes that often go unnoticed are a fertile, vacillating landscape that never stops amassing. The cast of floating characters are ever-ready to fuel the imagination or spark one to engage in the ultimate Rorschach inkblot test. Perhaps what you see up there reflects what colors your life is down here on Earth.

With Earth Day coming up, and with the world in our hands, it seems timely to reflect on the fact that this planet is our only home.

The sky, the roof over our heads, the ground, our floors. This vast, diverse planet is real, it’s not some figurative notion that we can debate philosophically, and it offers protection and shelter in a timeless framework of which we may sometimes loose sight. I’ve always been the girl looking up with my head in the clouds, drawn to the billowing waves in the sky. With my feet not so firmly planted on the ground, I wandered barefoot to feel the gravity, mud, grass and the roots as they help prevent me from going adrift. Now I experience a view from down here, of a civilization struggling to stay connected to our planet. We seem to be drifting ever further from that which nurtured us into existence. We seem to be collecting in the cloud where we exist in a virtual sense but have no physical connection.

All the more reason to really celebrate Earth Day every day.

For many of us, it’s easy to disconnect from our Earthly core; we depend on institutions and have no resilience in the face of technological breakdowns. Many have no idea where our food comes from, where our waters are sourced or how to weather a storm. But the clouds will remain overhead even when the cloud network crashes.

In this valley, we are blessed to have organizations that make it their mission to keep our physical planet at the forefront of their educational models, and I’m endlessly grateful to those with the philanthropic desires to support those efforts. This is a unique community and, for those of us who grew up here with an emphasis on outdoor education, Earth Day means more than a blue and green deco adhered to a school calendar. Here, even in elementary school, we were brought out into the vast wilderness of our own backyard and reminded that this great, big planet is teeming with life down to the microcosms of beehives and beaver dens.

As long as I can remember there has been an undertone of eco-consciousness reverberating down from the peaks within which this town is nestled. The offshoots of growing up with strong ties to the natural world are continually coming full circle.

I find myself naturally drawn to locally grown organizations — like the new Farm Collaborative out at Cozy Point, recently renamed and formerly known to the community as Aspen TREE — and it becomes clear that the seeds of environmental awareness that were planted here generations ago are now flourishing. Other organizations with similarities to the Farm Collaborative such as the Roaring Fork Conservancy, Anderson Ranch, ACES, even the Little Red School House and many other like-minded businesses surround our community with environmental awareness, activism opportunities and a general ethos of compassion and empathy for our planet, our home. So it isn’t a surprise that many of us feel compelled to continue to spread the seeds of awareness and nurture those ideas to take root among the next generation. Some even reaching beyond our city lines and connecting with our visitors, allowing these meaningful ideologies to spread.

John Denver gained much notoriety for his poetic and poignant way of articulating the values that were beginning to grow here while Snowmass was taking root. The ideas that he helped plant into our foundation are flowering today.

“The laughter that sings in the heart of a child,

The freedom that flies at the call of the wild,

Celebrate living,

Celebrate evening,

The stars that appear in the loss of the sun,

Whispering winds, we are one, we are one,

Celebrate Earth Day, every day”

Earth Keepers, the children’s program Denver helped to create, has been regenerated out at Cozy Point by the Farm Collaborative founder, Eden Vardy, who grew up in the valley and inherited the program over a decade ago. Robin Sinclair, who once attended the Little Red School House, is now the director of the program. Many of the students who attended Anderson Ranch as children have returned to support the organization, or have now enrolled their own children. Some have even returned to showcase their own art.

“Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, and when we acknowledge that the climate needs our attention, it becomes clear that often where we can have the greatest impact is at a grassroots level.

If you feel inspired to share in a community celebration on Earth Day, join me out at the Aspen TREE FarmPark on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., where we will be planting new roots, figuratively and literally, while we celebrate the unveiling of our new name — Farm Collaborative Aspen — and share our wishes for the future of our Earth.

This Earth Day I urge everyone to get off the cloud, make time to appreciate the clouds in our sky, dig in the dirt and plant the seeds of consciousness for generations to come!

Perhaps occasionally gazing up, mind in the clouds and off of the cloud, we can find more reasons to acknowledge this planet as our home and broaden our horizon.

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