Saturday, March 28, 2020

Energy and excitement, the virus and powder

Energy and excitement come in several forms.

There is what we saw Monday with the distinct excitement of a ski town on a surprise powder day. I love that energy. I don’t like the line that formed at the Silver Queen and still wasn’t moving at 9:30 but I love that energy and the fact the Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski patrol got the goods open relatively quickly, given the storm that caught everyone off guard. There was more than one “best day of the season” comment floating around town that afternoon.

There is the too often dark energy of the fringe followers of political candidates at a political rally or on the local social media feed. The zealots work themselves into a frenzy and go all-in for their leader, whether it is far right or far left. Too many drink the Kool-Aid and pledge to follow their anointed one no matter the consequences. That blind energy from either side of the political aisle can be way too divisive. Not a fan.

There is the earned excitement of getting a good deal done that benefits us all. That was exemplified this week with the conclusion of the Long Lake land swap deal. The three-year effort was officially signed last Thursday and it does several good things for our community. It cleans up some public land issues with various owners of property like the Forest Service and Crested Butte Land Trust throughout the county. It guarantees that the gem of Long Lake will continue to be a place for local residents to go to when they need a breath of lake air in the high mountains. It puts a couple million dollars into a bank account that will be used to help local workers find housing for years to come.

There is the simmering good energy of another deal that is starting to percolate with the North Village proposal in Mt. Crested Butte. While everyone involved is emphasizing that the project is in the very early stages and there is a ton of work to do to end up with a good project, there is optimistic energy in the opportunity. The stakeholders are reaching out now to gather ideas from the broader community to see if those ideas are feasible, both practically and financially. But there is growing momentum toward a good project that could include solutions to local problems like housing for our workers, ball fields for our kids and places for our dogs to run for free. Of course that all could come with some detriments like possible traffic jams and future budget issues for maintaining the new amenities so now is the time to dig deep into the details. While some appear uncomfortable that there isn’t a solid plan to react to, they should perhaps embrace this method of out-of-the-box community planning.

There is the weird sort of energy generated by the Crested Butte Town Council Monday that I still don’t get. At the meeting two weeks ago council members pointedly raised concerns about the management style of the housing authority that handles renters in the deed-restricted units up here. When the actual housing authority manager responsible for that management style was before them Monday to give a report on the organization, the council said nothing on that topic—until she left. Ninety minutes after the executive director departed, some council members again raised concerns and pounded council representatives to the housing authority board to press the housing authority for a lighter touch in management style. How about pressing yourselves to have the balls to say something directly to the person you have an issue with, no matter how awkward it feels, when you have a chance?

There is the soul-filling energy that comes with spring. Longer days, warm sun on the face, people willing to relax and chill a bit to reconnect after the cold winds of winter. And how can you not love hearing the birds chirping. Leaving behind hibernation mode is a great seasonal change at 9,000 feet—but remember it can change again at any time.

There is the panic energy being seen around the world over the coronavirus. Scientists are still sorting out exactly what this thing could do but it has already infected people’s minds as they cancel trips and sell their stocks. One of the most popular articles shared in the valley last weekend was a story in The Guardian about Gunnison County’s extreme measures taken to avoid the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Forced quarantines and basically a barrier that protected those already here actually worked to keep the deadly flu out of this county.

That probably can’t happen easily anymore and this coronavirus panic thing seems a tad overblown for where it is at the moment anyway. While I wouldn’t book a cruise to Wuhan right now it seems awareness energy is more appropriate as the virus remains a mystery. Panic could start a chain reaction that impacts your quality of life without having anything to do with the actual virus. As the idea of this virus infects your brain, could it really result in everyone staying inside their homes and refusing to go anywhere where other people are? Will we become a society that only interacts through our computers and phones (more than we do now) so as to eliminate the risk of getting sneezed on? Will we all stop meeting people face-to-face because of the possible danger and instead communicate solely through FaceTime while wearing weird masks? Sounds great! There is nothing good about that energy.

While there is prudence in having the intelligent energy to stay aware and take common sense measures to not catch this thing—wash your hands and don’t touch your face—perhaps the best use of energy is to keep getting out there and doing things that make you happy and healthy.

Don’t stop engaging with others in this small mountain town. Energize yourself by doing the hard work and engaging in productive partnerships that benefit this unique community. Don’t get swallowed up in the whirlwind that one man has all the answers to all the problems in the world and can make everything right if you just do what he says and damn everyone else. Maybe best of all: ski powder—even if you have to stand in line next to someone who might have the coronavirus. From what I’ve read, unless you are really old and pretty sick already (and you probably wouldn’t then be skiing) the risk seems relatively minimal at the moment.

Take off the mask and talk to your friends and neighbors. Sit on a sunny bench. Stand in line at the post office or the bank and catch up with your acquaintances. Basically stay excited that you are part of a unique, weird, loving community that tries. Yeah, we don’t all agree on everything all the time but that actually results in good community energy since we all have to live together at the end of the road. Relish partnerships and have the courage to speak your truth with one another. Find the positive excitement instead of the dark energy. Embrace the opportunity of being connected to a small town community where you can make a difference—in a real paradise. Not everyone has that chance and that is pretty exciting.

—Mark Reaman

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