The small Colorado town I reside in is getting busy, quickly! We are a tourism based economy, where we rely on visitors to survive and thrive. The town is made up of 9 blocks, no franchise businesses, no stop-lights, one very small grocery store, two gas stations, no hospital (nearest is 28 miles away), and roughly 1,400 residents. The number of residents has doubled since I first moved here in 2008 when we had an astounding 600-700 community members. We have two off seasons meaning two times per year it’s what most people would think of as a ghost town but us locals really enjoy the quiet, slow time – a time to catch our breath. Our off seasons are becoming shorter and shorter as even the tourists are wanting to visit before the town is literally to its max capacity.
As the guests start to arrive I can’t help but notice how foreign it is for most people to navigate what is basically a self-governed town. We live in a place that encourages us to think for ourselves. We use our common sense to get around town using only stop signs as direction and the basic courtesy of stopping for pedestrians to cross. We don’t have so many distractions that take us away from the moment. Being present to make decisions, our attention seems more accessible to focus on what were doing, instead of being buried under the dusty piles of the past, and un-inked papers of the future. I watch in awe as folks panic at the stop signs, no light telling them to go ahead and make their next move. They have to look both ways and consider who came first. They actually have to think about it instead of the normal conditioned way of being -where the day is mapped out, they just follow the dots. They aren’t always sure how to respond to kindness a ‘hello, hows it going today’ seems to shake the cobwebs that took over their humanity. Engaging in conversation makes many feel unsure teetering on the edge of distrust, but I love when they show you that flicker of light, the light of re-awakening that speaks louder than their own words. They realize how lovely it is to be at ease and to share a moment of kindness, to cross the bridge from stranger to friend.
I hear often from long time locals how drastically this town has changed over the years. Even in my 8 years of being around it has undergone many shifts. I like to think we will keep our authenticity and true communal nature. I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I over hear visitors speak of the freedom children have here, a place where people still largely look out for one another, where doors are left unlocked, and keys are left in vehicles without fear of ill intent.
The greatest souvenir one can take away is the soul soothing simplistic way of being.