My piece on the Aspen Ideas Festival has just been published on Huffington Post. Click ‘here‘ to read. I wrote a great many drafts before finally submitting the post that has been published. It was a long night of writing and rewriting until finally I knew I couldn’t write about the Ideas Festival without writing about my grandfather, but that too, made me uneasy.
The truth is I have a great many feelings about my grandparents and the various institutions they created and left behind here in Aspen. Mostly I am awed by Grandfather’s vision and determination to see his vision through, while also aware that my feelings have little to do with anything. I never knew my grandfather, he died the year I was born. However I did know my grandmother, Elizabeth Paepcke. As a child I thought all grandparents were like mine. I assumed my experience was everyone’s. I don’t remember when it dawned on me that this assumption was incorrect, but it was around that time that I also learned having famous grandparents came with other assumptions about me and my family that had nothing to do with our actual lives.
“Friends” became tricky. People wanted to be “friends” because of an idea they had and not because they actually wanted and liked who I was. “I” was often inconsequential in such interactions, it was the idea of being close to someone else they were after. That makes for some odd interactions and can be disconcerting, a kind of objectification of another human being, but something we, in a culture of celebrity adoration, often do.
When I began social “networking” I felt horrified by the things others suggested I do to help my business. It felt false to me. I found myself going home at night incredibly depressed. I would lie awake and wonder where was I in all of this? My desire to get my business off the ground could be seen as self promoting in a way that other people were not accused of. So began my process of trying to untangle myself from two people who created organizations and institutions that have had a longstanding impact on a great many people and following my own passions and interests. I don’t always get it right, I still get caught up in trying to sort out what it is I need and want to do and what I believe others want from me. It’s a balance, but like everything, its progress and not perfection.
Last night Emma came to me with the keys to the 4-wheeler in her hand. When we got outside and turned on the ignition, it began to rain. Not a light sprinkling, but a downpour. “Em, are you sure you want to go for a ride? We’re going to get soaked,” I told her.
“Yes! Drive on the 4-wheeler with Mommy!” Emma said, without hesitation.
I remembered a time when I was very young, standing at our front door and looking out at the rain. I told my mother I wanted to go swimming. I remember she laughed and said I couldn’t go swimming because it was raining, which made no sense to me. As I remembered this, I zipped up my hoodie, took my glasses off and said, “Okay Em, hang on!” and put the 4-wheeler in reverse, before roaring off down the ranch road. Emma clasped her arms around my waist and lay her head on my back as the rain pounded down on us. It was bliss. As we headed back to the house, completely soaked, I thought Em is going to be okay. And then I amended that thought and said to myself, Emma IS okay. I felt such a surge of relief, I began to cry.
I’m bombing down the road, with Emma clinging to my back and humming, in a torrential downpour, crying, soaking wet, and feeling euphoric.
These moments of pure joy shared with another human being, that’s what is important, everything else pales.
Happy Fourth of July!
View of the Rockies taken from the ranch while on the 4-wheeler