Michael Obar: Forever a (local) gaper, that’s me.
April 2, 2009
The dictionary definition of a gaper is “one who gapes.” And what does it mean to gape? “To stare with open mouth, as in wonder.”
Consider the time any of us saw the mountains for the first time. How beautiful! How awesome! I imagine most, if not all of us had even stopped somewhere along the way to get a picture of “me in the mountains.” There was that sense in our hearts that, “This is incredible,” and “I am here!”
However, somewhere along the way, we who have lived here for more than one winter season have lost that sense of awe. We’ve even succumbed to mocking those who stop on the side of the highway and take the very same pictures we ourselves had taken years ago.
Or maybe it’s that we have taken ownership ” not “taking ownership” in the sense of taking care of the mountains, but ownership as in, “Yeah, the mountains are awesome. I’m a local. You’re not. Go away!” In fact, not long ago some friends and I were standing in line at a local restaurant, and a guy pushed his way through the line saying, “Let me through! I’m a local!” Just as bad, a close friend of mine stood at the entrance of one of our hangouts, angry because the place was full of “tourists!” Frustratingly, I pointed out the fact that we wouldn’t have that hangout if there weren’t tourists to pay the bills. He didn’t like my answer.
I personally find it appalling that some time in history, we have unofficially made April 1 “Gaper Day” ” mocking those who “don’t belong here.” Year after year, we make fun of those who make it possible for many of us to work and live up here. Mostly, we make fun of them because “they don’t belong here.” To that, I must point out that this year many Summit County residents got their wish: The tourists stayed away. The result is we have witnessed layoff after layoff after layoff throughout the season. Yes, it’s because the economy is bad, but as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for!
All that brings me back to my original point. Here in Summit County, so many of us have such a privilege of living in such a beautiful place ” a place of wonder. Every day, I am thankful for that privilege, and I decided when I moved to Colorado back in 1998 that I would purpose to never lose that sense of wonder ” to always be a gaper. I’d like to challenge the rest of Summit County residents to do the same: Be a gaper, never lose that sense of wonder, and be thankful for every tourist, every guest, who comes in awe of what we have.