Valentine’s day essay BY DAWNE BELLOISE

A Little Love Song: An unorthodox sonnet for Crested Butte

Lately, I’ve been amused, if not alarmed, by my sudden indulgence in chick flick love stories. Steamy romance movies were never my thing. I prefer sci-fi and fantasy, my favorite being the movie Contact even though the movie put much more emphasis on the romance between a scientist and a man of faith, which the book by revered astronomer Carl Sagan did not.

The fascination with romance may have started during the COVID isolation when Bridgerton was a mindless, easy escape from the loneliness we all experienced. Additionally, those bosom popping dresses and elegant threads would lure the best of Buttian costumers. The lurid passions and ability to simply distract us from the weirdness of life coming to a halt in quarantine was just what the doctor ordered. It worked so well and was so popular that similar series of courtship and duplicitous affairs of imagined, ethereal eras popped up across all the streaming platforms on our TVs. 

But we’ve since moved on from the loneliness of those COVID days and still, I find myself binging series like Outlander and The Buccaneers, and watching movies like Pride and Prejudice. Yes, it’s true, the girl who snarls at love songs is in Italy eating handmade pasta every day, drinking the best Abruzzese wines and entrenched in silly love stories. But then, where better to watch real-life love stories unfold than in Italy, the unchallenged capital of romance where lovers coo and kiss openly in cafes, or under the yellow glow of midnight street lights, or stare longingly at each other next to a sparkling blue coast.

Living in a small mountain town at the end of the road with deep, frigid winters, having a snuggle buddy in arctic temps is practically required and definitely preferable, at least seasonally. Having driven both the late-night tipsy taxi as well as Mountain Express routes for many years, I’ve had the honor of shuttling many a local homeward to their walk of shame which, here in the Shire, is no shame at all and is more like a parade. And of course, what happens in The Shire, stays in The Shire. 

I’ve certainly crooned my share of love songs in practically every bar and venue in town and had an admirable quota of mountain town love, but the reality is, now that I’ve inexplicably entered the world of septuagenarians, I find that my ideals have changed, evolved beyond the concept of coupled romance but with the same fervor. I love my mountains. I love my community and friends, real companionship and conversation, and not least of all, my cats, and in total, it is a far greater love. 

They used to say that here in the valley, “You don’t lose your girlfriend, you lose your turn,” decades back when the men outnumbered the women and the number of locals were far less than the houses available. But now, in a sense, many of us have lost our turn, our turn here to live in the town we love, whose ambiance we created and in turn, it lent itself to our collective wildness and camaraderie. It’s very much like experiencing a lost love, only not to duplicity, but to unfortunate, sad circumstances, so that the love remains. 

We are the estranged, but forever bound spiritually and emotionally to this place, to what we once were. The deep affection and an overwhelming sense of place remains with us across the vast distances of miles or even time. Those of us fortunate enough to have been here through Crested Butte’s funky, dusty, poorer but wilder times when we all wove ourselves into the very fabric of this place at the end of the road will always see it as such, no matter how much it changes. It will always be the home we’ve made it.

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