Chaos Order

Last Thursday I made one of my semi-annual trips to the parking lot of the grocery in Crested Butte, where my dentist’s office is located. This parking lot may be the most haphazard in the entire universe, with people parking higgedly-piggedly.

But now – now there are lines painted on the asphalt, and arrows, directing people up one row and down the next. People are actually, sort of, following the directions, and while we can’t say order has been restored, since there was very little in the first place, order has been stored. Sort of: upon leaving, I went down the up row, or up the down row, since my sense of direction in Crested Butte is always suspect.

This structured parking, while easier and much more clearly stated, there in yellow paint we mostly feel obliged to mind, is emblematic of a Crested Butte that is gentrifying. In lots of places that might mean “becoming more white,” but since we’re already pretty pale around here, the color we’re turning is green. Big money is finally in Crested Butte, and it’s no longer the place it was.

My dentist’s office felt frantic, despite the quietude of a large office housing only two of us, the hygienist and me. Usually the office bustles with four or five employees and multiple patients in the three rooms, and this time it was just Kelli and me. The dentist was out of the office, there have been no assistants since spring, and the new front desk person had been shown the door on Monday after rearranging all the existing filing and billing systems.

This left a stressed Kelli to clean teeth, invoice patients and schedule appointments. This would have been an occasion where I was due for x-rays, but Kelli didn’t offer and it seemed ill-advised to ask.

My teeth cleaned, I suggested to Kelli she lock the door and not answer the phone while she ate lunch and I returned to the less-rarified air of Gunnison, where we’ve always had lines painted on our parking lots but where it can feel just as discombobulating.

A high school classmate of mine killed herself last week. I don’t have any details – it appears she was at home here in Gunnison – and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. For whatever reason or reasons, she must have felt this was her best option. Unfortunately, it’s never a good option for those left behind, especially her large family.

I would say I was friendly more than friends with Vivian, whom I last saw over a year ago at her mother’s memorial. Viv had moved back to town to take care of her mom, and eldercare was her avocation. She was, before her final act, taking care of her ex-husband.

I find myself mostly remembering how very bright her eyes always were as she sought the humor in every situation. Was that always masking a terrible pain, or was that new?

A small group of Gunnison High School’s Class of 1980 met Friday at a downtown restaurant to toast Viv and start counting how many classmates we have lost. Vehicles have not been kind to our class of 100: we’ve lost at least four, plus a crash put another in a wheelchair. Viv may have been the third suicide.

Classmate Cecilia, from both high school and college, just happened to be in town Friday, checking in on an elderly family friend who has no close relatives. We decided we hadn’t seen each other in over 30 years, but it felt very comfortable to sit across from her and catch up. She had spoken to Viv only about a week prior, and the conversation had seemed very forward-looking, with no indication of stress or strain.

Cecilia and her husband, pointing toward retirement, are having a house built on 40 acres west of Colorado Springs where she has had her own legal practice since graduating. Their first choice was the Gunnison Valley, but while they can purchase 40 acres and a custom home in the Wet Mountain Valley, they couldn’t afford anything here.

We may think money can solve problems, but around here it seems to be creating more than it’s helping.

Yesterday was that day – maybe you don’t do this, but I always do – where I run around in a panic, trying to get the entire outside winterized before the snow, which has already started in small fashion this morning. I bought yet another shelving unit three weeks ago to try to organize the garage, and I got it set up and did manage to find homes in either the garage or shed for chairs and hoses and other items hanging around outside.

I decided, while compressing items, that we don’t really need every large pot to be a repository of ancient potting soil, so I was spreading the dirt around our questionable yard when I dumped out a pot that held a large number of clay beads that I use for drainage.

While I recognize that most people would just write this off and move on, this sort of minutiae sometimes speaks to me on a very visceral level. I retrieved an empty bag I had just placed on one of my new shelves and sat on the ground to pick up little clay beads.

In my head I could hear many people I know, wondering why I was wasting my time when if I would just coordinate my schedule I could go to the hydroponics store and buy more. But I don’t coordinate my schedule and the last time I got clay beads there they were irregular and the ones on the ground were from my original bag, with round beads.

I like round, I always have. Globes, balls, marbles, clay beads – I tried using a trowel to scoop them up, but it was just easier to pluck them one by one and put them in the gallon-sized bag, which I eventually filled quarter-full.

The wind was blowing, setting up the snow that may have already stopped (we’re in the one little belt on a north-south basis not expected to get 6-12 inches today), but the zephyr wasn’t reaching the ground, so I sat in the sun with Bear at my back, picking up little clay beads, scraping away a layer of dirt to find ever more each time I thought I had them all, thinking in very aimless fashion about Vivian and this place we’ve both lived for much of our lives, hers now ended.

There are lines directing traffic on the world’s most disordered parking lot and I have stuff stored more or less neatly on new shelves. Big money is rendering this a difficult place to work or retire, and Vivian is gone in that saddest of all fashions. We all, Friday night, wished out loud that we’d known she was struggling, but she kept us at bay with those bright eyes and talk of the future.

Changes are inevitable, I suppose, but sometimes they’re less welcome than others. Please take care of yourselves.

You can call 988 for mental health crises at any time, just like 911.

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