One of the people at the newspaper who hired me when I came to Aspen five years ago told me about “the tractor beam effect.”
That’s a poetic way of saying that once people leave Aspen they always come back, inexorably drawn to the mountains, the valley, the rivers, and certain ineffable things that have no name.
True enough: all of that speaks to why we’re so lucky to be here. But it’s also another way of saying people leave—they leave all the time—and that we’ve experienced this directly and personally. At least three key people, great friends, will no longer live here full-time come 2009.
The latest are Matt and Laura Pfohl of Missouri Heights, who are making plans to move to Denver in the near-term, mainly for business reasons connected to their company, Dream Outdoors. Another couple comes from Denver and moved back so he could go to graduate school. Another went back to Washington, D.C., and is here full-time for only a chunk of time in the summer.
I compare this to other places I’ve lived and know for a fact that it’s substantially different. One example: we lived for fifteen years in a small Vermont city and when we go back everybody is still there. I mean everybody. When somebody pulls up stakes in that town it is big news. The community almost literally feels the loss and tries to figure out why it happened.
Look at it this way: most people with any skills can make twice as much with half the cost of living somewhere else. (In some cases, this is not an exaggeration.) They can live palatially compared to Aspen, finding a home that gives them far more for their buck. And they can live a dramatically more normal American life than most people find in Aspen.
What does it mean? For one thing, we can’t help but wonder whether we’re next—they have radio stations in Denver, don’t they?—and we think about what keeps us here (the obvious) and what might make us leave (the equally obvious).
Most of all what I think of is what life is like or will be like without such close friends close by. They haven’t disappeared, and we are certain to see them when we visit or they alight back here because of the aforesaid tractor beam. Still it’s not the same. Maybe it’s just that time marches on much more quickly when you live in such a great place to live.
See you around.