Have you ever fallen in love with a place, and seen it change before your eyes? That’s the question local writers were asked for the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE’s, month-long storytelling workshop in August, in partnership with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) and Lead with Love. Local storyteller Alya Howe worked with writers to develop their own tales for the workshop’s theme, “Climate of Love,” which explores climate change in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Gwen Garcelon is a local writer who took part in the workshop, and spoke to Aspen Public Radio about her love story with the valley and interest in climate action ahead of the event. Audiences can livestream the Rock Bottom Ranch presentation by registering on ACES’s website.
I wanted to hear how your background fits into this. You spent a decade working for NGOs aimed at stopping world hunger before you started the Roaring Fork Food Alliance in 2012. When did you become aware of climate change as an issue and when did it start having meaning for you?
During the time that I was working on hunger and poverty issues. Those were the years that the Al Gore movie (“An Inconvenient Truth”) came out and that whole effort started, and we had volunteers who were wanting to put their advocacy efforts toward climate change, and it really started to hit home that this is a big kahuna issue that we are going to have to take on.
The theme for CORE’s storytelling workshop is “Climate of Love,” what drew you to that topic?
Well, I had a love story already that I’d been kind of grappling with, and I’d been wanting to tell a story, wanting to do some spoken word, and this opportunity came up and I was like, “Okay! Well, this is the story that wants to be told.”
Storytellers taking part in the workshop were asked “have you ever fallen in love with a place and seen it change before your eyes?” You moved here in 1993—what made you fall in love, and what’s changed?
There were many pieces that kind of opened me to even the possibility of having a deeper relationship with a place, and understanding and seeing our winters changing so much since then has certainly sparked an even deeper grieving process. So, I think it was all of that.
And for the workshop you wrote a story about Aspen Highlands. Can you read a section of that for us?
In the summer of 2013 when I was visiting the East Coast with my kids, I picked up a publication in a coffee shop, and there was an article by a local psychologist called “Gratitude For Beauty Lost.” In the article, he talked about grief being a big “yes” to the people and places we’ve loved deeply. He said feeling the sadness of grief is the ultimate act of vulnerability and connection. And there was this quote, “In those moments when we are awed by the beauty we encounter, we experience magnificence because the illusion of division between the human and and the non-human world dissolves, and we stand blessed in remembrance of our true nature. Interconnected and one with all.” That was it. That was the feeling I was having in my love of this singular mountain.
That was beautiful. Had you ever taken a writing workshop before? Was the writing process easy for you?
I’ve been a writer for a long time, so the writing wasn’t hard, but, trying to articulate sort of a complex love story that’s not traditional, that was definitely, you know, has taken some time to let that emerge.
What do you hope people take away from stories like yours, and how does that specifically relate to climate action?
Having supported all kinds of activism, I know that it needs to be sourced from love. It needs to be sourced from our deep connection to that which we value so deeply, and I think when it’s sourced from there it exerts an evolutionary force in the world. And that’s what we know we need to have happen now. We need to evolve our consciousness to where we have a deeper relationship to the land, which is based on love and reverence.
The series culminates in a live storytelling workshop at Rock Bottom Ranch on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 6:15 p.m. that puts climate action and creative arts centerstage.