Life elevated … even momentarily
Golden. The light. The aspens. The quiet. When you are this high in Park City, everything seems a little clearer.
I have spent the better part of this week staying in upper Deer Valley as part of a national conference I will write about later. What matters for now is that I don’t stay in a hotel in Deer Valley as a matter of course. I don’t live in that rarified air. And this year I don’t even see aspens in my ‘hood turning anything but fungus blackish. Up here, high above the tops of those trees and amid groves of evergreens, the bright yellow aspens are popping out in a riot of color. No reds, or oranges, even. Just forest greens setting off the polished golden colors. Lunch, on an outdoor deck for 200, results in conversations meant to linger and jackets thrown on chair backs. It is the fullness of autumn in Park City, which can often be grim and dreary and gray, but this moment all is golden.
When I arrived earlier in the week after a full regular workday, I was surprised to see the tiny white lights already adorning the evergreens. But I hadn’t seen them for nearly nine months in my neighborhood in the lower, lowest part of Park Meadows. And like the visitor I was to this land, they were welcoming, enchanting even. I rushed to the dinner and the speeches and later walked from one hotel back to another to sleep. The night was warm enough and still and quiet. Very, very, very quiet. Back in my room I considered there could have been creatures wandering at night amid the pines. Reported moose and bear sightings made it all seem rather exotic.
The attendees have been all aflutter about the weather and scenery and the air you don’t see in layered grays, and I realize that rising above the floor of our town to the ceiling can sometimes be what is needed for a change of perspective. My room had a tiny deck but large enough for a few conference friends to gather for conversation as the sun set one night. The conversation covered the big ideas we had been exposed to for days and some pressing projects about environmental problem-solving states away.
As the sun disappeared, a pink thread of a cloud held out for the longest time against the now-indigo sky. And the trees disappeared as three-dimensional living organisms and became, instead, one-dimensional silhouettes. A kind of softness took over.
An early morning meeting back in my real world had me up before the moon had left the sky. A fingernail moon with a star stuck right next to it (which I realize might actually have been a planet). The reverse indigo was becoming lighter and, as I drove down the mountain and through my town all the way until I was in the county, the sky continued its slow dance to dawn.
And just to acclimate myself back to the world I was about to converse in, I turned on the radio. The core of news hadn’t changed in a couple of days — it is still election season here. The school-bond election was being debated by well-meaning people with passion and candidates for city council were queuing up for their debates.
I listened at first with interest and then with annoyance. We are a small town with relatively small problems. As we grow, we desire school facilities to match our students’ needs. We need politicians with some real-world experience who can guide us into the next chapter of not just good governance but great vision. We need to focus on passing the school bond and electing worthy candidates. I turned off the news.
After my in-town meeting I climbed back to the other side of this valley and one more night of life quite elevated. Folks at the conference from Australia and Great Britain and Canada and even New York asked if I ever tired of living here. It gave me pause. On that big deck again, in brilliant but not-too-hot noonday sun, I looked out at what was a dirt road for most of my years in Park City. It is paved now and the pathway to five-star properties. The road this day is lined with golden aspen trees. The sky is cloudless. The mountains majestic. And I answered honestly, "I never tire of this."
Which is the truth. The beauty here and the quiet and the ability to feel small while surrounded by nature is something that can take my breath away still. The challenge is to find/make the time to crawl out of the main part of town, where the fungus has been maiming aspens and the noise, noise, noise, noise of politics can sound like the chatter of so many squirrels. I need to remember that by climbing higher, in just a matter of minutes, all the beauty and clarity is there for the asking.
I might forget all that from time to time, but this week was great reminder that our guests right now see us in a golden light and, from time to time, we should try to do the same. Any day, even this very Sunday in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.