A long drive down through the mountains today: almost three hundred miles, through the passes, across the plains, down towards Denver. In modern cars, you’re insulated: isolated. Detached. But still some sense of the pioneers. Cruise control engaged, all i need do is steer and daydream.
When you fly, you lose perspective: you walk on, you walk off. You watch a film. There is no sense of distance, except the humidity in the air when you land and may be some exotic smells. You are here: you are there, but the distance in between is abstract. Driving though, even in this sealed cabin, retains some sense of miles being eaten up, some sense of distance, i think through the vistas.
The vista evolves: opening up, closing in, shifting as the road winds. It is the ultimate emergent reason: journey without end. I travelled to the North Cape once, the northernmost point of Europe, just a few hundred miles from the North Pole. But the vista didn’t end: windswept and desolate, it swooped over the cliffs and onwards, on out to sea, into the blue.
I am returning from Crested Butte, a pioneer town that retains much of it’s raw charm and a degree of my heart. A community both old and new: artisan coffee shops and modern ski gear, but frontier buildings and an independent spirit. I was lucky enough to be there to work: not because my work was located there, but rather because paths crossed and opportunity arose. So i seized it.
Rocky lives up there, in the mountains, within that community, so my entry was as a guest. People were introduced both by name and by story: this is who they are, this is where they came from. Ironically, I was there to work on community, working to develop an online community for a global organisation, but my experience was embedded within this real community, these people linked by place.
It was interesting that many people shared stories of immigration: not born there, but rather a place discovered, a place that felt right. I guess that’s what community is: a home, a space that feels right.
Later on, after my long drive down, i spoke to Todd about this: the notion of a biological need to be found, a sense of place. We seem to be born knowing not to be lost. We pepper our language with geographical analogy and metaphor: lost in the data, exploring the topic, walking it through. We lose meaning and go in search of ourselves, hoping to find out what it’s all about.
But sometimes it’s the loss that counts: getting lost. I spoke to my nephew about this once: to walk out in the dark, to get lost, to just stand and listen. Because what is the familiar except that which we have learnt? That which we are conditioned to call home? Everywhere is new the first time we see it, the first time we walk into the mountains.
I feel lucky: a guest as i move between communities. The recipient of wisdom: go here for coffee, go there for dinner, talk to this person. My path crosses communities, which is the peril and joy of travel: you leave your own community and share in others. But always transient, always moving.
Today i was up early for the drive: Monday morning and i walked into the corrugated coffee shed. Expecting to be the first, but instead at the back of a queue. Workers starting out, as they will tomorrow and the day after and every day after i’m gone. I felt my sense of connection break: a guest, but a transient one. Lucky to have been welcomed, but only a passing shadow through the season.
Community is complex: here in Downtown Denver we talked about architecture. The spaces we inhabit, but how it’s not the spaces that make community. Community is people: be it facilitated by technology or location, it’s always about the people, the familiar, the shared stories.
Nice post Julian – and photos. The mountains look beautiful, serene, a different sort of ‘community’. I love it when mountains have space to breathe!
Thank you 🙂
Good post mate, liked it. Back in the 90’s I lived and worked in the south west US and was always fascinated by the small, out of the way places – communities – seemingly in the middle of nowhere. This piece got me thinking about it again especially people being introduced by name and story.
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