Image: Lisa Prior

During the first few months of this pandemic, I likened the experience to an elimination diet I once had to follow as part of an allergy test. For seven days, I subsisted on rice, lettuce, fruit, and a handful of other items, thinking half-jokingly that the diet’s name derived from what would happen to your body from eating so little. At the end of the week, I could start adding back food, one category at a time, to see if it caused an allergic reaction. Doing so required me to be intentional about what I restored to my regular diet.

So it was with the pandemic. Being forced to quit much of my lifestyle “diet” cold turkey last spring also forced me, as it no doubt did many of you, to slow down and take stock of what’s fundamentally important. What do I really want to spend my time and energy on, for me and for my family?

I realize we’re far from through with this Covid debacle. But ever since those early days of total lockdown, I’ve tried to be much more thoughtful about the things I’ve been adding back into my daily routine. That’s where this issue’s feature on “25 Ways to Give Back to Aspen” comes in. If nothing else, the pandemic has shown us how interconnected everyone truly is—we’re all in this together.

Though the idea for the story was inspired by a piece that ran several years ago in Houstonia, one of Aspen Sojourner’s sister magazines, it seems perfectly suited for right now. Highlighting some of the ways in which we can do things for others—volunteering time, donating money, learning how to become a better listener and a more involved citizen—strengthens the community at a time when it’s particularly vulnerable. As writer Catherine Lutz points out, the beauty is, you don’t even have to live here to give back to a place you may have fallen in love with on previous trips—or are falling for right now. 

A lot of people fell in love with Aspen and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley last summer. If you were here, you know how busy town was, as second-home owners took up full-time residence and visitors flocked in from around the country. And you likely know how bonkers the real estate market became, as Covid refugees snapped up just about everything in sight (see “Aspen’s Real-Estate Market Soared Sky-High in 2020”). How crazy was it? Let’s just say you’re as unlikely to find a bargain here anytime soon as you are to meet a scowling golden retriever (and there are many goldens in Aspen).

Still, town wasn’t completely dominated by Covid. In this issue’s architecture feature, writer Sarah Chase Shaw describes how a townhouse near the base of Aspen Mountain was transformed into a light-filled, welcoming space for the homeowner to host family and friends. Sarah was particularly charmed by the dining area, which was inspired by the community table, traditionally a place where anyone can pull up a chair and join the conversation. 

I, too, love those types of gathering places, and it’s one of the pandemic’s many unfortunate side effects that we’re now limited from getting together with large groups in person. But when we get through the present challenges—when the full span of this elimination lifestyle diet has ended—I can’t wait to return to the metaphorical community table, to socialize, to share, and to eat whatever I want.

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