Wild places have a sound. It is like a loud silence, like listening to the heartbeat of creation in progress. Here we are again enveloped in the sound, the rustling song of the changing leaves of fall in Aspen. We live in a valley of natural wonder. Visitors come here seeking a playground inside and out: to ski, climb, fish, explore, think, play. Generally speaking, locals never lose sight of the wildness and rawness we experience here, but visitors feel it differently, and at times perhaps, more intensely. Over years of living here, we may become accustomed to our outdoor lifestyle as we explore the vastness of our backyard, or get used to the wild scenes of a ski town. It is when we explore outside of what becomes our “day to day”, that we sense our smallness. Our mountainous vistas may become friendly views of a sunset, but deep down we know the forces of nature they truly are. It is just home, yes, and also a symbiotic love affair with the outdoors and wild places within and without.
WeRiseUp the Film
Aspen hits its man-made milestones yearly: Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day music festival- this year topping its track record by serving up Weezer, John Mayer and Sting, headlining 3 nights of music under perfect skies, AREDAY – bringing together the best and brightest on climate and a new hydrogen economy, including AREDAY Lifetime Achievement Award winner Paul Watson (founder of the international, ocean conservation movement, Sea Shepherd), and National Geographic explorer DJ Spooky, speaking on creative solutions to global problems to a packed audience. The goal is how to make an impact in time to avoid extinction, which seems like a “no-brainer” effort to begin no matter which party line you tow or climate philosophy you trade, no? Aspen Filmfest – where this past week creators Kate Maloney, Michael Shaun Conoway, Alex Melnyk and Paul Miller screened WeRiseUp – a movie born in Colorado with a movement redefining the definition of success, begging us each to question our own gifts we can offer and use to take personal responsibility for the future of our world.
Living with Nature in Aspen
As lucky Aspenites, we live in nature, so perhaps we know better the accountability we hold right now to honor our next generation’s exploration and enjoyment of these wild spaces. I just returned from a life-changing trip to Patagonia, and then one to New York, two very different landscapes, both equally beautiful and treacherous; both rife with warning signs that we are truly small in this big picture of the EVERYONE and EVERY BEING. We are mere specks on a planet, a species that roams from islands sinking into rising water, to taking quiet footsteps in mountain refugios, or fast-paced pounding on city pavement. We exist alongside desert sands, oceans and glaciers begging to continue to do their job of oxygenating, cooling and feeding us. People and planet are doing what they can to reverse damages done. Each environment shines light on the vital, life material and moments that connect us.
Some people have taken on the role of mentors in this quest to join forces with, and champion this magical world of faces and habitats. Justin Lozier, Founder Patagonia Heli Ski, and his wife Catalina Lalor, General Manager, have birthed and are trail-blazing with Patagonia Heli Ski, taking lucky snow seekers into raw terrain, not to besmirch and tamper with nature by touristic overuse and exploitation, but to educate us, to make us earn our adventure, to give people a taste of these WILD PLACES we need so badly for our existence, both body and soul. Justin’s message is that Patagonia is, “not just a puffy coat…it is a place…it is so much more than a ski trip. It is a chance to be part of something new, exploring a region for the first time in history, to be a modern day explorer.” Others call him “a seeker after a deeper meaning.” He knows, “There is something more to life than what it seems.” Global Powder Stoke owner and guide Mark Rikkers recently kept us all engaged and alert on this previously unexplored terrain in Patagonia. He extols “traveling the world and skiing remote, wild and untapped terrain.” He is another leader, his own curiosity sparking ours. Mark brings together people, curating groups that will jive like the Shilling family and Bill Oliver, travelers on this recent journey, who will handle the terrain and each other in global, exotic destinations to exceed their personal goals of doing things in ways few get to experience, ”places a bit more experimental.” The experience I had with Patagonia Heli Ski, Justin, Catalina and Mark was downright life-changing. Wonder is not a big enough word for the juxtaposition moving us from emerald lodge, lawn grasses and chewy temperate rainforest to the most massive glaciated terrain imaginable. As Mark said, “guiding game on!” From this remoteness, I flew scrapes and bruises to NY for the UN Climate week where Bill McKibben gave a closing speech at The National Geographic Explorers Club, basically making me feel stomach-tightening guilt for not kayaking in front of an ocean oil rig. He knows his stuff and he knows there is no time to waste. Moments on such adventures can motivate. I saw a bird so parrot green in Patagonia contrasted against the slate blue ocean, such perfect camouflage for its own habitat of lush, entangled rainforest. What are humans doing with our brains to camouflage, to evolve in our climate, to survive our changing world? Will we shift and work together, perhaps each join a cause that has some steam and numbers behind it and use these evolved brains of ours to put the solutions into practice, make saving the planet as attractive and lucrative as populating the next one. I am excited about space exploration too, but can my 11 year old son please get the chance to drink from a mountain lake in Chile when he is 49? America has become a culture of all things disposable and we know it.
Humans need wild places, the wildness within ourselves. Get in touch with your timeless, the things you hold dear, the places you cannot live without and the children you lead and PROTECT THEM WITH ALL YOU’VE GOT! If that means building your mansion with green materials, investing more than you are comfortable with into a conservation movement, eating lower on the food chain or painting a wall with earth friendly paint from companies like RAW – do it now. Change out the darn light bulb you have been staring at since we got these warnings years ago, ride your bike more versus drive, and get your politician of choice or your big bank you use to stand behind the methods to reduce carbon in their business and take advantage of the new materials we have that can keep us here for the long run. We do not all need to picket or sabotage the big fish, we just need to help some of the influencers continue to make absurd wealth from doing things in a new way. As a culture we are shifting into the realization that true wealth has much more to do with being of service than accumulation of attention and things. No one is the bad guy here and let’s stop pointing fingers. Please. We are all a part of this and America often sets the standard for other countries. Let us set this trend of cooperation and action and give ourselves and our fellows the gift we take for granted of fresh water, air and the WILD we all are lucky enough to live in every day. These wild places are in our hearts. They are of us and for us. Like the root system of the Aspen trees, as we change and make a move, we pack far more punch when we do so as a connected being than when we divide to conquer. Stop chopping off limbs and felling our own trees (they are our vital organs) and start living as smartly as we can. We are a nation of trendsetters. I believe that both technological and spiritual advances can contribute to keeping us here. Many species such as butterflies and whales have a form of large group, connected communication. We humans have music shared together, arts and the World Wide Web. We are living in a beautiful phase. If we even just give the planet so much as a breather, it is a survivor and will stop seeing us as a threat and respond tenfold. Please pardon the naive cheering, but here is my reasoning: No harm can be done by erring on the side of change, but harm can be done by erring on the side of doing nothing. Quiet or loud, we are connected and together we are powerful.