By Dawne Belloise
It’s the first week of spring and the sky unleashed the copious amounts of snow that it stingily withheld from us all winter. As I stare numbly out the window, I catch an unrecognizable reflection of a disheveled elderly woman vacantly gazing past me. It is as much of a surreal moment as is the entire world being on lockdown and it snaps me back into self realization – what day is this? How long have I been in this house? When did I comb my hair last and how long have I been living in these fuzzy blue onesie Eeyore pajamas? I count back the days; I’ve been in a self-imposed quarantine since March 5 with no physical contact with any other living creatures other than my two cats and a tank full of goldfish. In my community of Crested Butte, we greet each other with ongoing hugs daily on the street, at the post office, wherever we meet – it’s our high-five, so this mandated isolation is most difficult for Crested Buttians.
As a tourist resort, we are a hotspot for the relentless, opportunistic coronavirus-19 as it works its way through our population. It was actually rather sweet that the Crested Butte town council took on the role of mom and grounded all its senior citizens over the age of sixty. It makes a statement that the community values its elders and moves to protect them. In this mountain town, many of our sexagenarians and older are in far better shape than most Americans in their forties but the CV-19 virus that has ravaged the world can wreck havoc with the healthiest seniors, and just as importantly, strain our limited medical resources – hence the reason to sequester yourself, OK, Boomer? March is the busiest month of ski season, the month we all financially bolster ourselves for the approaching two and a half month offseason, but everything has closed a month early, from the ski area and downtown restaurants to the smallest mom and pop shop. It’s an eerie “Twilight Zone” scenario on the empty streets now that everyone is essentially quarantined but as things get weirder, Crested Butte rises to greet the strange.
Initiating a self-imposed isolation or quarantine doesn’t mean solitary confinement with today’s social media, internet streaming and live conferencing technology. Crested Butte is a social community with a flair for costuming up at any given moment. The call went out to get out the get-up and post the virtual parade to social media. There were spring bunnies, unicorns and fairies, tutus, psychedelically bright wigs and Hawaiian shirts with fur hats and, of course, surgical masks promenading the interwebs. Since its mining days, bars have played an integral part in the social fabric of this town, like an extended living room. It’s where we gather after long shifts of multiple jobs. Missing the connectivity, several locals decided to hold a virtual happy hour using one of the group chat apps, because it’s way more fun to drink with your buddies. Musician friends are still doing their regular picking circles, but on Zoom, and they’re giving live streaming concerts with a virtual tip jar to somewhat offset all the cancelled gigs.
Online, you can learn a new language, learn to play an instrument, or get heady into academics and take the now free online classes offered by the Ivy League colleges. Read all those books and New Yorker magazines that have piled up on your coffee table all winter. Binge watch those Netflix series you fell behind on. Tour museums across the globe. Take a cooking class or learn how to sew and even become a silversmith. You can go virtually anywhere in the world.
We are fortunate to live in an outdoor paradise with wide open spaces where we can freely hike, bike, fish and although the lifts aren’t spinning, we can still nordic ski and all without running into snifflers and contaminants or spreading those germs ourselves. On muddy dirt roads on the edge of town, we are still out running, walking the dogs and getting our fresh air. At home, we’re waving to each other out our windows, giving support and mimed hugs from afar. We’re doing early spring cleaning and house projects, waiting for the snow to melt and cooking up a storm with the boxes of food and produce that the local restaurants gave away to townsfolk when they were forced to close. My refrigerator and freezer are filled to capacity with enough food dropped off by friends and neighbors to last me through the next apocalypse. I’ve made cookies and care baskets to drop off at older friends’ homes, and community members are messaging and texting each other to make sure everyone has what they need to ride out this pandemic.
In times of crisis, Crested Butte, like so many other mountain communities, has always come together. We have each other’s backs. We are each other’s keepers. We will get through this on every level. For now, my daily focus is to make someone smile, help wherever I can, keep my spirits up, get outside for walks and remember to brush my hair and get out of my pajamas.
Dawne Belloise lives on a back alley in Crested Butte with her two cats, Team Destructo. She’s a musician, freelance journalist, and weekly feature writer for the Crested Butte News whose work has been published in various mags and rags nationally. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram @dawnebelloise and Twitter.